There is an entire world of amazing literature out there that people seldom know about. Often, we are only exposed to works originally written in English. You have probably heard of A Tale of Two Cities, Moby Dick, and Pride and Prejudice, but you may not know about these other great reads from around the world.
Journey to the West
Journey to the West was written by Wu Cheng’ en in 16th century China. It chronicles the adventures of a monk on a quest and his colorful cast of companions (a monkey, a pig, and a fish spirit) as they battle past obstacles on their way to find a sacred text. Journey to the West remains one of the most popular books in East Asia but is often overlooked in the English-speaking world. The story may be five-hundred years old, but the characters are vivid, and their struggles, humorous encounters, and constant banter are timeless. A must-read for any world literature lover.
The Doll is a novel written by Polish author Boleslaw Prus in the late 1800’s. It tells the tale of Stanislaw Wokulski, a man with new money and big dreams, as he is torn between his fruitless love for the haughty socialite, Izabela, and his dreams for the future. The novel stands out for its realism and incredible attention to detail. The city of Warsaw comes alive in the pages of The Doll. Prus used real locations, down to buildings, when he wrote his city. The Doll is considered one of the greatest Polish novels, and the melancholy work captures an era perfectly; that alone is reason enough to pick it up.
The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca
In 1527, Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was stranded in what is now the Southwest United States. He spent eight years traveling across the land and mingling with the natives. His autobiographical narrative recounts his adventures and portrays a subtle and gradual change of heart as he connects with the people of the land over the span of long years. The objective narrative style and the richly detailed world that Cabeza de Vaca portrays influenced later nonfiction works and the field of anthropology as a whole. Today, the story is a fascinating adventure and a peek into the all too human aspects of a conflict fraught history.
The Tale of Genji
Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese Courtesan over a thousand years ago. She wrote The Tale of Genji, which is usually cited as the world’s first novel. The story follows the life of its title character, Genji, as he grows up in the Japanese court. It is full of romance and life-like descriptions of ceremonies, detailed scenery, and, most intriguing, the day-to-day life of a highborn Japanese citizen in the Heian period. The story is a sweeping epic that has had a profound impact on literary tradition, spreading far past Asia, but most of all, it is a ridiculously fun read.
The Story of an African Farm
The Story of an African Farm was written by South African author Olive Schreiner under a male pseudonym because the content was considered outside the realm appropriate for a woman in 1883. The novel is known as a pillar in feminist literature, and it follows the story of Lyndall, Waldo, and Em, three children living on a small farm in South Africa. Lyndall rejects feminine stereotypes and wants to stand on her own throughout the novel. Her stubborn struggle to shed traditions makes her a memorable character and makes the book worth adding to any collection.
Reading world literature can expand your horizons and give you a broader view of history and literary tradition. Give these great books a shot, and you won’t be disappointed!