World Literature

Group Coordinator : David Hunter


Do you have great classics of world literature – Dante, Stendhal, Dickens, Tolstoy – 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, our conveners will delve into a range 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

Structure of the Group

The overall group has some forty members and operates on a three-term basis during the year. Each term, we offer a range of book choices, so that individual sub-groups can be limited to ten participants. We discuss each book over a series of meetings

❑ The maximum number of participants per sub-group meeting is ten
When and where
Each sub-group meets on approximately a 4-weekly basis on a Friday
🕝2.30 p.m.
Group members’ homes
Accessibility varies with location
Status
🟥The group is currently full
🟨The waiting list is open

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    A selection of books read by the Group
    The African Trilogy (Achebe) – Nigerian
    Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) – Russian
    Buddenbrooks (Mann) German
    The Dream of the Red Chamber Volume 1 (Cao Xueqin) – Chinese
    Homeland (Aramburu) – Spanish
    House of Mirth (Wharton) – American
    The Inferno (Dante) – Italian
    Life and Fate (Grossman) – Ukrainian/Russian
    Light in August (Faulkner) – American
    The Makioka Sisters (Tanizaki) – Japanese
    Middlemarch (Eliot) – English
    Odyssey (Homer) – Greek
    One Hundred Years of Solitude plus 2 novellas (Marquez) – Colombian
    Palace Walk (Mahfouz) – Egyptian
    Paradise Lost (Milton) – English
    Phineas Finn (Trollope) – English
    The Red and the Black (Stendhal) – French
    Selected Stories (Munro) – Canadian
    ❑ 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

    Updated October 2023

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