World Literature


Do you have great classics of world literature – Milton, Dostoyevsky, Cao Xueqin, Dante – sitting quietly on your bookshelves, classics you’ve never quite got around to reading? Or perhaps you read them many years ago and would love the chance to explore and discuss them again. If so, this group is for you.
 
Over a period of typically 3 to 4 get-togethers, we’ll delve into one of these masterpieces of prose or poetry, focusing not just on the text but also on the historical and literary context. It will give us a chance to really get under the skin of each work. All books are in English or English translation.
 
From late September through to December 2019, we’ll be discussing 4 different books in parallel groups:
 
◻︎ Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
◻︎ Fernando Aramburu’s Homeland
◻︎ *Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South
◻︎ **Junochiro Tanizaki’s The Makioka Sisters
 
The Tolstoy and Aramburu groups are already full, but there are still a few places available in the Gaskell and Tanizaki groups.
 
And if the current options aren’t quite right for you, don’t despair! We can put you on the waiting list and you will have a chance to get involved in the next cycle of books, which we will start in January 2020.
 

 
Group Convener: David Hunter, a published author with a keen interest in world literature.

The Group meets in members’ homes on Friday of every month, from 2.30 p.m. The number of places available per meeting is 12.

*The Gaskell group will meet 4 October, 8 November, 6 December.
The **The Tanizaki group will meet 27 September, 25 October, 29 November.

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This form may also be used to contact the Convener on any other matter relating to the Group’s activities.


One of the World Literature groups read the first volume of the great 18th century Chinese novel The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin. The novel charts the decline into decadence and ruin of a once glorious family.
 
At one of our meetings, we were treated to a reading (in Mandarin) of one of the poems in the book by Zhao Yanling, a mature Chinese student taking an MA in Comparative Literature in London.
 
The Chinese text reads:
 
世人都晓神仙好,惟有功名忘不了!
古今将相在何方?荒冢一堆草没了.
世人都晓神仙好,只有金银忘不了!
终朝只恨聚无多,及到多时眼闭了.
世人都晓神仙好,只有姣妻忘不了!
君生日日说恩情,君死又随人去了.
世人都晓神仙好,只有儿孙忘不了
痴心父母古来多,孝顺儿孙谁见了。
 

David Hawkes’s version in English in his translation of the novel reads:
 
Men all know that salvation should be won,
But with ambition won’t have done, have done.
Where are the famous ones of days gone by?
In grassy graves they lie now, every one.
 
Men all know that salvation should be won,
But with their riches won’t have done, have done.
Every day they grumble they’ve not made enough.
When they’ve enough, it’s goodnight everyone!
 
Men all know that salvation should be won,
But with their loving wives they won’t have done.
The darlings every day protest their love:
But once you’re dead, they’re off with another one.
 
Men all know that salvation should be won,
But with their children won’t have done, have done.
Yet though of parents fond there is no lack,
Of grateful children saw I ne’er a one.
 
▪︎ Listen to the reading