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World Cup of Books: June 15th

This summer, the Loyola Libraries are excited to bring you the World Cup of Books, an interactive program to encouraging reading books from other countries. Show your support for your favorite team by reading books from and about their country!

Today’s match-ups include Egypt v. Uruguay, Morocco v. Iran, and Portugal v. Spain.

The Map Of Love by Ahdaf Soueif.

Soueif’s writing is often described exactly the way one might describe the playing style of Egypt’s (potentially injured) superstar, Mohammad Salah: intricate and beautifully simple.

Coincidence–personal, political and cultural–rules in this burnished, ultra-romantic Booker Prize finalist. In 1997, Isabel Parkman, a recently divorced American journalist, travels to Egypt to research about the impending millennium. But her interest in Egypt has more to do with her crush on Omar al-Ghamrawi, a passionate and difficult older Egyptian-American conductor and political writer, than with her work. Once in Egypt, Isabel neglects her project for a more personal investigation. Soueif (In the Eye of the Sun) writes simply and, on occasion, beautifully. Anna’s journal entries are particularly evocative. Sticklers for narrative detail might chafe at the number of incredible coincidences, including a bizarre twist involving Isabel’s mother and Omar, and forsaken plot devices. On balance, however, Soueif weaves the stories of three formidable women from vastly different times and countries into a single absorbing tale. -Publisher’s Weekly

Find it here, or on display at Lewis Library!

The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis

This Allende-esque novel has a classic Uruguayan feel with a modern twist, which is exactly what the Uruguayan supporters are hoping for in Russia: that signature intensity with a combination of youth and maturity. And hopefully less biting.

The history of Uruguay through the 20th century sparks personal tragedies amid political intrigues and cultural upheavals in this enchanting, funny and heartbreaking debut novel. Three generations of women populate this sweeping saga. This novel is beautifully written yet deliberate in its storytelling. It gains momentum as the women’s lives spin increasingly out of control while Uruguay sinks into war, economic instability and revolution. An extraordinary first effort whose epic scope and deft handling reverberate with the deep pull of ancestry, the powerful influence of one’s country and the sacrifices of reinvention. -Publisher’s Weekly

Find it here, or on display at the IC!

Tales of a Severed Head by Rachida Madani, translated by Marilyn Hacker


This volume brings Moroccan poet Rachida Madani’s remarkable poems to English-language readers for the first time. In Tales of a Severed Head, Madani addresses present-day issues surrounding the role of women in society—issues not unlike those explored a thousand years ago in the enduring collection of Arab tales known as The Thousand and One Nights. In the ancient tales, the insanely distrustful King Shehriyar vows to marry a new wife each night and have her beheaded the next morning. Through the courage and wit of young Scheherazade, who volunteers to be the king’s bride and then invents the legendary tales that go on for a thousand and one nights, Shehriyar is healed of his obsession and the kingdom’s virgins are saved. Like her brave-hearted predecessor, Madani’s modern-day Scheherazade is fighting for her own life as well as the lives of her fellow sufferers. But in today’s world, the threat comes as much from poverty, official corruption, the abuse of human rights, and the lingering effects of colonialism as from the power wielded by individual men. Madani weaves a tale of contemporary resistance, and once again language provides a potent weapon. -Yale University Press

Find it here, or on display at the IC!

Censoring an Iranian Love Story By Shahriar Mandanipour, translated by Sara Khalili


Imagine trying to write about romance in a society in which it’s a crime for a woman to walk down the street with a man who isn’t a relative, and in which government censors scrutinize every line. Shahriar Mandanipour, the struggling Iranian author portrayed with mischievous wit and serious intent in this elaborately chambered double-novel by the real-life Shahriar Mandanipour––a prominent, censored Iranian writer––labors anxiously over the love story of Sara and Dara under the sharp eyes of Mr. Petrovich, a censor of disturbingly omniscient powers. Their passion is taboo, yet nothing keeps them apart, not tapped phones, nosy neighbors, or the brutal patrols for the Campaign Against Social Corruption. From Kafkaesque bureaucracy to a blind movie censor to violent repression, Mandanipour, summoning both irony and outrage in his first novel published in English, archly illuminates the labyrinth of paradoxes entrapping the politically repressed, and celebrates the liberating powers of literature and love. A charming, canny, and rambunctious novel of courage and freedom against all odds. -Booklist Reviews

Find it here, or on display at Lewis Library!

City of Ulysses by Teolinda Gersão, translated by Jethro Soutar

Portugal, champions of Europe, have put the country on the map, the same way Gersão longs to do in this gorgeous novel.

An elegant paean to love—and to “the least known of all European capital cities,” Lisbon. By Portuguese novelist Gersão’s account, speaking through her many-flawed hero, Paulo Vaz, “for millions of perfectly well-informed people across the globe, Portugal barely existed: at most, it was a narrow strip of land tacked onto the side of Spain.” She does much here to make the country and the city come into a life of specific detail: how the sunlight glints, how spring arrives to the soft green trees on the Avenida da Liberdade, how a crumpled-up T-shirt bearing the slogan “Lisbon is for lovers” looks when covered with “salt and boat oil.” Gersão’s central theme, though, is the impermanence of love. -Kirkus Review

Find it here, or on display at the IC!

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba

This novel has been described as unsettling, dark, and haunting. For Spain fans, that’s not unlike how the last World Cup felt. Here’s to hoping this tournament will be different.

A newcomer to an all-girls orphanage invents a violent game for the other children to play each night. Marina is in the back seat of her parents’ car during the accident that kills them both. “My father died instantly, my mother in the hospital,” is the refrain she hears, over and over again, from the doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists at the hospital. It’s the same refrain she repeats to the adults at the orphanage to which she is soon taken. Barba’s fourth novel to appear in English describes the haunting, mysterious world of prepubescent girls. He switches back and forth from Marina’s perspective to the collective point of view of the other girls. Barba’s descriptions of the furtive, nearly cabalistic world of children are wonderful and disturbing. The border between what is real and what isn’t has been fogged over. His writing is both lyrical and spare. Barba’s girls, and their game, will linger in the minds of his readers. -Kirkus Reviews

Find it here, or on display at the IC!

Have you read any of these books, or a book from another country participating in the 2018 World Cup? Add a review of a book from a participating nation to our bracket here! You can also fill out our quick form here, and we’ll add your review to the bracket board. Your review may appear in a future blog post!

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