Around the World in 80 Books

Around the World in 80 Books

Summary

Inspired by Jules Verne's hero Phileas Fogg, David Damrosch, chair of Harvard's department of Comparative Literature and founder of Harvard's Institute for World Literature, set out to counter a pandemic's restrictions on travel by exploring eighty exceptional books from around the globe. Following a literary itinerary from London to Venice, Tehran, and points beyond, and via authors from Woolf and Dante to Nobel prizewinners Orhan Pamuk, Wole Soyinka, Mo Yan, and Olga Tokarczuk, he explores how these works have shaped our idea of the world, and the ways the world bleeds into literature.

To chart the expansive landscape of world literature today, Damrosch explores how writers live in two very different worlds: the world of their personal experience, and the world of books that have enabled great writers to give shape and meaning to their lives. In his literary cartography, Damrosch includes compelling contemporary works as well as perennial classics, hard-bitten crime fiction as well as haunting works of fantasy, and the formative tales that introduce us as children to the world we're entering. Taken together, these eighty titles offer us fresh perspective on perennial problems, from the social consequences of epidemics to the rising inequality that Thomas More designed Utopia to combat and the patriarchal structures within and against which many of these books' heroines have to struggle, from the work of Murasaki Shikibu a millennium ago to Margaret Atwood today.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 BOOKS is a global invitation to look beyond ourselves and our surroundings, and to see our world and its literature in new ways.

Reviews

  • A hymn to the unifying power of literature... Around the World in 80 Books takes us on a tour of the author's global head, and while expanding our knowledge it enlarges our capacity for fellow-feeling
    Peter Conrad, Observer

About the author

David Damrosch

David Damrosch is Ernest Bernbaum Professor and Chair of Comparative Literature at Harvard University and director of Harvard's Institute for World Literature. He is the author or editor of twenty-five books, including What Is World Literature? (2003), The Buried Book (2007), Comparing the Literatures (2020) and the six-volume Longman Anthology of World Literature (2008). He has lectured in fifty countries around the world, and his online Harvard course, Masterpieces of World Literature, has been taken by nearly 100,000 people.
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