The 2020 MHS World Cup of Literature

Each year as part of the World Literature elective I teach at my high school I run a ‘World Cup of Literature’: a tournament format that gets students to read stories from a range of different countries around the world and decide on a ‘winner’. I find that it’s a really good way to expand their literary horizons and travel the world discovering other cultures from their own homes. After all, most of the literature they encounter at school is from a narrowly conceived ‘canon’ of predominantly English language writers from either the UK, the US or Australia. This year’s instalment was the third competition. The 2018 edition was won by Malaysia’s Dipika Mukherjee with her story ‘Doppelgänger’. I didn’t manage to write a post about the 2019 edition, but that was won by South Africa’s Nick Mulgrew with his unusually titled story ‘FOR SALE: Set of secondhand IMPORTED Momo mags for TOYOTA COROLLA (mint condition), bargain’.

Why read world literature?

Before we embarked on the tournament, which this year was conducted entirely via remote learning, I wanted my students to consider why we should read literature from around the world in the first place. I asked them to have a look at this rather wonderful TED Talk titled ‘The danger of a single story’ by the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

I also asked them to read these articles:

‘A World of Literature: David Damrosch’s literary global reach’ by Spencer Lee Lenfield | Harvard Magazine

‘Bringing the world into the classroom through world literature’ by Rita S Nezami | Dhaka Tribune

‘Readers of the world unite’ by Martin Puchner | Aeon

The course I teach is tied into the ‘Intercultural Capability’ of the Victorian Curriculum and I asked the students how reading literature from around the world might help fulfil aims like “reflect on how intercultural experiences influence attitudes, values and beliefs”. One student, Yu-chan, responded in part as follows:

When exploring how World Literature can allow us to “reflect on how intercultural experiences influence attitudes, values and beliefs”, we can look no further than how this ideology is evoked through the humanity and compassion that emerges in Rita S Nezami’s students. When her students were exposed to world literature, there was no longer an abstract and single-minded understanding of global issues that had seemingly no value or importance to them. What instead emerged were students who experienced the joys and sufferings of others as though it was their own. The novels they read featured characters from cultures who they previously never fully understood but now felt like individuals from places that were tangible, authentic and beautiful in their extraordinary ways. The writers of these global literary texts offered “a vision of a common humanity, of a common pain, of a common oppression, and, so often, of a common poverty”.

Another student, Ashen, commented:

As an ‘Intercultural Capability’, one of World Literature’s aims is to enable students to “reflect on how intercultural experiences influence attitudes, values and beliefs”. I believe that World Literature would be able to do this much better than most other electives. Why? Because a story written in one part of the globe, where the writer has his/her own culture, language, ideas, beliefs and religion, may be completely different to a story of the same topic but with a different writer, with his/her own background. It is these backgrounds that ultimately are absorbed by the audience of the story and may influence their perception of the world, which in some cases may be for the worse. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie mentions in an anecdote during her TED Talk, she had a roommate who only read one story on Africa — “a single story of catastrophe” — and yet this was what that roommate believed Africa to be, a continent of catastrophe. Ms. Adichie continues and later says that “A single story creates stereotypes…They make one story become the only story”. And so, it is imperative that we immerse ourselves in stories all over the world, written in different contexts, if we are to ever gain a true understanding of a culture.

The students at my school are a pretty multicultural bunch themselves, coming from a range of different backgrounds, with many of them speaking two or more languages at home, but it’s still possible to find yourself confined to a limited range of cultural inputs. How many of us can say that we’ve read a story from Cabo Verde, say, or Bulgaria? Well, the World Cup of Literature gave my students the opportunity. This is how it worked:

The tournament

36 teams made the Finals this year. Most stories are taken from the pages of World Literature Today and Words Without Borders (with a couple of exceptions) and were published in the past decade (some of them this year), so this is current literature, not established ‘classics’. This was the line-up:

  1. Albania: ‘The Testament of Gjon Muzaka’ by Moikom Zeqo
  2. Argentina: ‘Saint Lionel’ by Hernán Vanoli
  3. Armenia: ‘Before Sunrise’ by Lilit Karapetyan
  4. Australia: ‘Ostrich’ by Robert Johnson
  5. Bolivia: ‘Long Distance’ by Rodrigo Hasbún
  6. Brazil: ‘I Found Out I Was Dead’ by João Paulo Cuenca
  7. Bulgaria: ‘Old Proud Mountain’ by Georgi Tenev
  8. Cabo Verde: ‘The Last Judgment’ by Fátima Bettencourt
  9. Chile: ‘Ferns’ by Catalina Infante Beovic
  10. Estonia: ‘Death among the Icebergs’ by Mehis Heinsaar
  11. Ethiopia: ‘The Neighborhood Phone’ by Gabriella Ghermandi
  12. Germany: ‘Aladdin’ by Isabelle Lehn
  13. Hungary: ‘Haul’ by György Dragomán
  14. India: ‘Two Minutes’ by Ashokamitran
  15. Indonesia: ‘The Crow’ by Zen Hae
  16. Iran: ‘Flamingo #13 of the Caspian Sea’ by Rasool Yunan
  17. Israel: ‘A Woman in Workspace’ by Tehila Hakimi
  18. Japan: ‘The Memory’ by Mitsuyo Kakuta
  19. Kuwait: ‘Zoo Syndrome’ by Sadaa al-Daas
  20. Lebanon: ‘Vienna’ by Sahar Mandour
  21. Libya: ‘Run, George!’ by Najwa Bin Shatwan
  22. Madagascar: ‘The Conspiracists’ by Naivo
  23. Mexico: ‘By the Power Vested in Me’ by Yuri Herrera
  24. Montenegro: ‘Mrs. Black (an excerpt)’ by Olja Knežević
  25. Morocco: ‘The Public Scribe’ by Tahar Ben Jelloun
  26. New Zealand: ‘Home Front’ by Linda Burgess
  27. Norway: ‘Journey toward the Island’ by Laila Stien
  28. Pakistan: ‘Enemy’ by Khalida Hussain
  29. Peru: ‘An Archangel Named Gabriel’ by Alonso Cueto
  30. Phillipines: ‘The Pregnant Woman from Zamboanga’ by Elizabeth Joy Serrano-Quijano
  31. Romania: ‘The Agent’ by Tatiana Niculescu Bran
  32. Russia: ‘Six Musical Moments by Schubert’ by Natalia Rubanova
  33. Singapore: ‘There Was a Bridge in Tekka’ by Latha
  34. Switzerland: ‘Fish Television’ by Peter Weber
  35. Thailand: ‘Ei Ploang’ by Prabda Yoon
  36. Wales: ‘The Root’ by Caryl Lewis

First round:
Each student (there are 18 in the class) read two stories that I drew randomly, and decided which one was better and why.

Second round:
That left 18 countries still in play. There were two groups of three and six groups of two. Each student had to read the other stories in their group and the group had to reach consensus on who went through to the quarter finals.

Quarter finals:
With eight countries still remaining, the whole class read each of those stories they hadn’t yet read. The eight countries were drawn against each other, and the entire class voted for which country/story won the four match-ups.

Semi finals:
The remaining four countries were drawn against each other and the entire class again voted in each of the two match-ups.

Final:
Just two stories remained and the class chose the winner of the 2020 World Cup of Literature!

This is how it played out (with commentary from selected student judges):

Round One

These were the results for the first round (students allocated a soccer score to each match up when they delivered their verdicts):

Japan 2 v Russia 0
Brazil 1 v Iran 2
Albania 0 v Armenia 1
Ethiopia 2 v Thailand 4
Cabo Verde 1 v Lebanon 3
Hungary 2 v Pakistan 3
Estonia 2 v Norway 1
Chile 2 v Switzerland 1
India 1 v Kuwait 0
Argentina 1 v Wales 3
Madagascar 6 v Mexico 1
Indonesia 5 v Phillipines 2
Bolivia 1 v Libya 2
New Zealand (forfeit) v Peru
Australia 0 v Israel 1
Montenegro 1 v Romania 2
Bulgaria 1 v Germany 0
Morocco 2 v Singapore 3

As you can see, there is a good spread of countries from around the world that progressed, but Latin American countries, who traditionally perform strongly in the football world cup that this is modelled on, did not do well. Chile was the only Latin American country to progress, with heavy hitters Brazil and Argentina knocked out, along with Mexico, Bolivia and Peru (a controversial decision as the student allocated that match up failed to complete the work so I had to step in and selected my country of origin, New Zealand, to progress — expect an appeal and potential legal action down the line). Australia didn’t get any hometown advantage from the student allocated their story, with Israel progressing instead. The smallest country in the tournament, Cabo Verde (pop. 543,767), failed to get through to the second round, while the largest, India (pop. 1,352,642,280), did make it.

But beyond the demographic details, what did the students think about the literary qualities of the stories and did they learn anything about other countries? Here is a sample student verdict:

In the match up between ‘I Found Out I Was Dead’ by João Paulo Cuenca from Brazil and ‘Flamingo #13 of the Caspian Sea’ by Rasool Yunan from Iran, Izek came to the following conclusion:

Brazil’s I Found Out I Was Dead had been close, with its beautiful insights on its country’s lifestyle, in both the aesthetic and appeal, and power and possibly corruption cities face. However, the pure creativity and fantasy Iran’s Flamingo #13 of the Caspian Sea had enticed me into had just been too overwhelming. A short story that seemed to have not only given me small insights of Iranian culture and view, but also provided a clear contention and lesson to learn from. Through my eyes, Iran had enticingly taught me the importance of letting go, cleansing myself from obsession and addiction, whereas Brazil had monotonously educated me about both the beauty and corruption cities or individuals may have. Tell me, which one would you have enjoyed more?

Round Two

This round required students to negotiate and reach consensus rather than just making an individual assessment. We needed to get from 18 stories down to 8, which meant some slightly unequal match ups where three stories were pitted against each other in some cases and just two in others, but again we’ll let the legal team deal with any complaints. This is how it panned out:

Bulgaria 2 v Madagascar 1
India 0 v Indonesia 2
Iran 3
v Chile 2
Singapore 2 v Armenia 2 (5–4 pens)
Libya 3 v Wales 2 v Israel 1
Lebanon 2 v Estonia 1
Romania 1 v Thailand 3 v New Zealand 4
Pakistan 2
v Japan 1

This round saw the final Latin Amercian country get eliminated and with Armenia (narrowly), Wales, Estonia and Romania all getting kicked out, Bulgaria was the last remaining European country. New Zealand made it through to the quarterfinals, which I feel vindicated my choice of them to progress to this round.

(I actually once had lunch with the author of the New Zealand story, Linda Burgess, although I doubt she remembers the event of more than twenty years ago, when she was Writer in Residence at Massey University. I remember she was talking about a novel that she had just completed — I think it was Safe Sex: An Email Romanceand a plot point that involved someone driving a Mitsubishi Pajero and in a particularly World Literature moment I pointed out to her that the Spanish translation of Pajero is amusingly vulgar and could actually describe the character who was driving it.)

Here’s a sample student verdict from the second round:

In the three country match between ‘Run, George!’ by Najwa Bin Shatwan from Libya, ‘The Root’ by Caryl Lewis from Wales and ‘A Woman in Workspace’ by Tehila Hakimi from Israel, this is what Ashen had to say about his favourite story and his overall verdict:

Finally, “Run, George!”, by Libyan author Najwa bin Shatwad, is an interesting and surprisingly deep tale of a life between death. The story starts off with a bit of backstory about the life of dead, and how the quality of their life after death depends on the cemetery they are buried in. The story then focuses on George, an inhabitant of the Christian cemetery which is destroyed by Daesh forces. He is forced to move to the less dignified Muslim cemetery and finds life unbearably different. He is stolen from, teased, emotionally hurt until finally and does not find solace in anything. However, after seeing the joy in a wedding, even though the future did not seem bright, he stops running away and accepts his second death happily.

What I really like about this story is its reference to cultural beliefs. There are many views on what happens after we die, and all of these views have cultural backgrounds. In this story, it introduces the belief of having a life after death, a view that may be shared among other Libyans. I fell that it this link to culture is lacking in the other stories. Furthermore, this story focuses on the issue of terrorist attacks that occur in Libya and surrounding countries. The story emphasises the extent of the damage caused by these attacks, how they destroy everything and distress everyone, even those who dead. This serves as the story’s message which I feel is a strong one.

Overall, I believe that Libya should move on to the next round. It’s link to culture, its message and the unique perspective from which the story is told, makes this an amazing read, with an amazing plot. Though the other stories were definitely worth contenders with strong messages and unique plots, however, it was Libya’s link to culture that separated it from the other stories.

Magnus agreed:

Set on the crossroad of life and death, “Run George,” by Najwa Bin Shatwan, explores the deeply religious notion of afterlife and reincarnation. Throughout this wonderfully composed text, Shatwan constrasts themes of war and death against life and religion. He explores the rich religious diversity of Libya and the subsequent discrimination and segregation that can often arise from such variety. As the narrative unfolds, the audience follows protagonist George across war-stricken land in search of a suitable resting place after his original cemetery is destroyed by an attack. This message both reflects the prominence of war in Libyan culture and the notion that war is so destructive it has the sheer power to even impact the dead. Run George explores the rich culture that can arise from a religiously diverse nation and furthermore provides a stark depiction of the impact of war. This text most definitely ranks highly in my eyes.

And Ali also went along with the ranking of the three stories in a comprehensive victory for Libya as well as for magical realism.

Quarterfinals

This is what happened when we got to the final eight. At this stage all students had to read all eight stories and vote in each of the match ups. No ‘scores’ here, as the votes of the students don’t necessarily reflect the closeness of the contests:

  1. Bulgaria lost to Singapore
  2. Indonesia lost to Libya
  3. Iran defeated New Zealand
  4. Lebanon lost to Pakistan

Interestingly, three out of the four winning countries in this round are predominantly Muslim countries. What does that tell us in a time and place when Muslims have been frequently demonised in the press and by various politicians? Maybe there’s a desire to get beyond the stereotypes and develop deeper intercultural understanding? The other thing that I found interesting is that three of the four semifinalists are women. This round was judged in August, which was ‘Women in Translation Month,’ so the students were all doing their bit by reading these stories. The novel I was reading at the time was chosen with this in mind as well; I read Hurricane Season by Mexican writer Fernanda Melchor (translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes), which was on the shortlist for this year’s International Booker Prize (but didn’t manage to win).

This was Sai’s verdict on why ‘Enemy’ by Khalida Hussain from Pakistan should go through to the semifinals ahead of ‘Vienna’ by Sahar Mandour from Lebanon:

One of these stories made me break down, with such a personal connection and exploration of themes.

The other…was an attempt to make me sympathise with a lying cheater.

I’ll elaborate.

Lebanon’s text, Sahar Mandour’s Vienna was a fun read. It was colourful, with multiple references to Lebanese pop culture and its landscape. Mandour characterised Yussef as toxic, and I loved the way she talked about manipulation:

He used this syrupy voice that made it sound like he was about to cry. A grown man. God, I hated that voice.

Also, let’s take some time to appreciate this burn.

His swimmers were weak, lazy, and slow, not to mention dead on arrival. (Which also pretty much sums up our sex life.)

Unfortunately, this is where my praise for Lebanon ends. They had us in the first half, what with Vienna’s escape from Yussef and her climb to superstardom. Then…Lebanon completely wrecks itself. Breaks its boots. Red card. But then she gets caught up in relationship after relationship, seeming to be in it for the thrill. From a strong, independent woman to a destructive cheater. It was impossible for me to sympathise with her as she carelessly broke Danny’s heart.

Foul.

Pakistan’s text, Khalida Hussain’s Enemy, hit me way too hard. It was such a deep exploration of mental illness and intrusive thoughts — at least, that’s how I interpreted it. One paragraph in, and my chest is tight and I’m welling up.

“Am I right or wrong? Should I exist or not?” And this decision, this great, mighty question, came and installed itself in front of her. She started speaking to escape the silence, the absolute quiet. She spoke quickly and loudly. She shrieked. But the shriek asked the same question, over and over again, like the reliable, ticking hands of a clock: Right or wrong? Speak, think, tell. And so when the place became unsafe, she set off again, searching for a new place.

As someone who’s had many of these kinds of thoughts before (I’m fine, don’t worry), these lines, and the rest of the narrative scratched and dug at a sense of my humanity. Every sentence was a punch to the gut, and I had to take a break because of how intense it got.

Pakistan wins, easily.

Semifinals

Just four teams remained and again the students delivered their votes on stories with which they were becoming increasingly familiar. I loved how passionate they were getting with their verdicts. This is what happened:

  1. Libya lost to Singapore
  2. Iran defeated Pakistan

While the students were judging this one, I was reading another book with Women in Translation Month in mind: Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky. I’ve read a few novels by Erpenbeck and really liked them and last year I went and saw her talk when she visited Melbourne, back when people could travel and go out to events and sit next to people.

Here’s a student verdict from each of the semifinals:

This is what Hashendra had to say about the match between ‘Run, George!’ by Najwa Bin Shatwan from Libya and ‘There Was a Bridge in Tekka’ by Latha from Singapore:

As we close in on the final, we are left with one more match after Iran’s spectacular victory over Pakistan. There are two nations but only one more place. Our first contender is Singapore’s ‘’There Was a Bridge in Tekka’’ by Latha which so far has been a crowd-pleaser and a real favourite to take out the title. The question is whether Libya’s ‘’Run, George!’’ by Najwa Bin Shatwan will cut their run short.

We begin with Libya who have produced a wonderful essay entailing an aspect of Libyan culture that we don’t particularly think about when we hear the word ‘’culture’’. We follow the story of George as he seeks to find a place to rest that finally satisfies his requirements. ‘’Run, George!’’ displays the tension and friction between Christianity and Islam in the nation and its effect on the people of Libya. Najwa Bin Shatwan’s depiction of war shows it to be something that seems to remain with them even after death, sometimes leading to them dying ‘’a second time’’. One thing that stood out for me after reading was the hostile replies that George received as he ran for his life, I thought it was quite an interesting addition to the idea of a ‘’second death’’ where people rise out of the grave to once again walk the world.

Swinging over to the opposite side, we are met with Singapore’s ‘’There Was a Bridge in Tekka’’ which was a beautiful story that encapsulates the return of a woman to her childhood home in Singapore as she brings readers back to the 1943 as the Indian community of Japanese-occupied Singapore attempt to fight for the right to return home. Latha’s portrayal of Akka shows her to have a strong-willed and intrepid character that is willing to give up her possessions as well as her life for the greater good. The author mirrors Akka’s intentions in all members of the army, showing the collective intentions of the community and highlighting just how important the cause was to each of them. This story’s narrator expresses gratitude to her Akka and the many other people who made these sacrifices in order for herself and others to return to their country of origin.

All in all, this was quite a tough battle. Both stories had incredible messages. Libya’s cultural aspect gave them quite a few bonus points yet in my opinion Singapore’s was still to strong for them. Latha stresses the importance of fighting for a cause and prioritising and deciding whether a person’s life or a more long-lasting and rewarding result for the whole community is better. I connected more with this story.

And this is what Qing had to say about the match between ‘Flamingo #13 of the Caspian Sea’ by Rasool Yunan from Iran and ‘Enemy’ by Khalida Hussain from Pakistan:

“My story is of such marvel that if it were written with a needle on the corner of an eye, it would yet serve as a lesson to those who seek wisdom.”- Tales from 1001 Nights

Written with a similar flair and structure to those found within Tales from 1001 Nights, Flamingo #13 follows the journey of a man devoured by his longing to acquire the elusive and glorified flamingo. The story also primarily encompasses and harnesses two main central ideas:

Be conscious, aware and grateful of the present, and don’t abandon what you have when faced with thoughts of greed and desire.

Pertaining to various religious backgrounds, limitless obsession will ultimately lead to deep, harsh consequences.

The life of Solomon had been relatively tranquil, he had a family and went about his daily life just like any other normal human. However, this took a wrong turn after the Flamingo had appeared, as it seemed to completely consume Solomon as a whole. He fought with himself to forget it, his behaviour changed and not even his family proved to be of any importance to him. The kindle of fire had been lit, and it was growing ever more wild, until one day Solomon picked up his rifle and set out to capture the flamingo for good. Ultimately, in blind pursuit of the Flamingo, Solomon leaps into the ocean and seemingly acquires hold of it, but ends up perishing by drowning into the vast sea.

This dramatic representation of the Flamingo #13 as a divine creature can be interpreted in ways our society is currently run as well. During our journey through life, we’ll undoubtedly encounter situations of lure and attraction — whether that’d be in terms of money or other forms of personal desire. Those in the world who recklessly gamble is a prime example, where their inner greed for more and more wealth hinders their ability to look and think clearly. They dispose their wealth, family, friends and even their job, simply for the gains they see in the short future. Here, Flamingo #13 serves as a warning to the reader that greed is a dangerous ingredient for people, and even though Solomon did not ‘die’ and was offered a second chance in the form of a Flamingo, he’s inability to return to a normal human being will remain eternal.

The ‘Enemy’ is a gripping and enthralling story which is surrounded with ambiguity and mysteries, and we come to learn that an intruder is lurking in the house, hiding in the corners and crevices of the house. There is a mystifying sense of foreboding throughout the story, and the narrator seems to be constantly bombarded with the moral dilemma as to whether the death of the intruder is ethically acceptable or not. With every step and movement, this restlessness and uneasiness begins to slowly consumer her, up until she finally realizes the true nature of her enemy. Right from the beginning, Hussein presents a story of intensity, and that ominous tense sensation is elevated throughout every consequential scene. Interestingly, the characterization of the ‘enemy’ is extremely vague here, and rhetorical questions such as ‘Should I exist or not?’ truly makes the reader contemplate at who is the enemy. The discreet manner in which the enemy is described also further contributes to this cloud of mystery. Although we largely follow the hesitant conscientious of the narrator who weighs up between both sides on the ethical spectrum, we hold onto the story of what is described as a creature with “shining black eyes” — seemingly an animal of some sort. A truly mystifying and thought-evoking text, we are forced follow Hussain’s ideas and themes of ethics and rational choices in life.

On a personal note, both stories excelled in their delivery and brought various cultures and ideologies into light. However, the nature of Flamingo #13, in conjunction with its myriad literary techniques and its underlying, righteous moral message prevails in this match-up.

The Final

Before the verdict, here are the brief bios of our two finalists:

‘There Was a Bridge in Tekka’ by Latha from Singapore:

Latha has published two collections of poetry in Tamil: Theeveli (Firespace, 2003) and Paampuk Kaattil Oru Thaazhai (A Screwpin in Snakeforest, 2004). Her short-story collection Nan kolai Seyium penkkal (Women I Murder, 2007) won the biennial Singapore Literature Prize in 2008. Her poems and short stories have been published in Words, Home and Nation, a multilingual anthology (The Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore, 1995), Rhythms, a Singaporean Millennial Anthology of Poetry (National Arts Council, 2000), Fifty on 50 and Tumasik (National Arts Council, 2009), and various Tamil literary journals in India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and France. Her work has been translated into English, French, and German. Her bilingual poems Still Human were featured in the MRT: Poems on the Move series on the MRT trains, and Karanguni was displayed in the MOVING WORDS 2011, which showcased Singaporean literature on the MRT network. She is currently the Sunday editor of Tamil Murasu, Singapore’s Tamil daily newspaper.

‘Flamingo #13 of the Caspian Sea’ by Rasool Yunan from Iran:

Rasool Yunan is an Iranian poet, novelist, playwright, and short-story writer. Born in Urmia, Iran, in 1969, Yunan rose to fame for his poetry collections, but he has turned toward microfiction in his latest collections: You Were Late So We Ate Dinner, Careful, Don’t Hit Your Head on the Chandelier, and A Cottage in a Snow-Covered Field. His most recent publication is a 2018 best-selling novel entitled The Journey Was Long So We Spoke of Love.

When it came to the student verdicts, Kai Henn thought that Iran should win:

It’s finally here. The matchup we’ve all been waiting for. Iran’s Flamingo #13 of the Caspian Sea pitted up against Singapore’s There Was a Bridge Tekka! In this tight and furious match up, who will prevail? Who will fall short?

Both stories are well written and expressed through an interesting plot or backstory. Singapore has a morbid theme in relation to death but portrays how nostalgic looking at a particular place can be. Through tough times such as war and losing loved ones, we explore how the protagonist has managed to persevere and live her life. However, Iran has contained a much more light-hearted atmosphere with aspects such as fantasy. Both stories had a unique ending, but it was ultimately Iran which tugged my heartstrings. The epiphany Once Solomon reunites with his family to me was emotional and consisted of a moral to be grateful for what you have.

Hence, well both teams put up a good fight, Iran ultimately had the lead finalising the scores 5–3.

Allan, however, went with Singapore:

Both of these stories were great reads with many interesting cultural elements, however, having read Indonesia in my first round, I felt that it and Iran had very similar stories, and that took out a lot of the impact from the story, in fact in some ways I felt it was just a worse version of Indonesia’s short story. However, there were a few things I liked about the story. The description used is very vivid and imaginative and it paints a clear picture of what the story is about. Other than that, Iran’s short story felt a little bit lackluster compared to its opponent.

Singapore’s short story on the other hand felt completely fresh and new to me. bordering on 11 pages, it is quite long for a short story however I feel that if it wasn’t as long as it was, it wouldn’t deliver the same impact as it did when I read it. It gave a very insightful and interesting story with many darker thought-provoking themes such as war and gender roles/ the treatment of women. The story was very vivid, but in a different way to Iran’s story feeling almost real, with real times and places. All in all this short story was very new and interesting and I find it hard to compare the two stories in terms of quality.

Final Verdict: Singapore beats Iran 5:1

In the end, the majority of students agreed with Allan, which means that Latha and Singapore are the winners of this year’s MHS World Cup of Literature!

The whole tournament was tremendous fun and I was hugely impressed with the eloquent contributions of the students. I think they and I learned a lot from reading this incredibly diverse range of stories from around the world. I hope other people also manage to find the time to read some of these stories as well: there is a wealth of wonderful literature out there. Thank you to all of the authors for writing it and the translators for enabling us to sample some of these riches.

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Teacher of Literature and Philosophy, prolific reader and sometime writer

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Blair Mahoney

Blair Mahoney

Teacher of Literature and Philosophy, prolific reader and sometime writer