World Cup of Fiction Preview: Group A

May 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Although the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil does not begin until June 12th, it is not too early to begin writing the Group previews for the 32 nation World Cup of Fiction (and Poetry) that will take place on this blog during the timeframe of the FIFA tournament.  I did a version of this for the 2010 World Cup, but that was a bit rushed due to starting it during the middle of group play, so for this iteration, I would like to be able to devote more time to covering specific writers and poets from countries, like the African ones represented here, that receive relatively scant coverage even from sites devoted to international fiction.  In order to do this, especially for those countries whose literary traditions in print form do not possess the deep roots of others, I am going to try to balance it out as much as possible, likely choosing a modern poet from one of the more “established” literary powers to go up against, say, a poet from Cameroon or Côte d’Ivoire (if I cannot locate novelists from these countries in time for individual group play matches).  Hopefully, this will lead to more intrigue, as otherwise it could devolve into a perceived mismatch that would lessen the enjoyment of writing these posts, not to mention reduce the chances of someone seeking out new authors due to a lack of proper treatment.

Therefore, when two literary sides match up, there will be only 1-2 authors discussed per country in the writeup and while there will be some allusions to actual football/soccer in the comparisons, the focus this time will be more on the individual merits of these writers.  Now with all of this convoluted explanation out of the way, time to commence with the Group A preview:

Group A:



Whether they are called the Canarinhos or simply O Seleção, the Brazilian literary side may enjoy a slight bit of a homepitch advantage here.  Capable of fielding a side that includes writers as diverse as Clarice Lispector, Moacyr Scliar, Jorge Amado, and Machado de Assis, among others, the Brazilian side is strong on Modernist short fiction, with some deftness among those who use magic realist techniques to tell engrossing stories.  If there is a weakness, it might be in poetry, as their poets are not as well-known outside the Lusophone sphere.


Les Lions Indomptables may have to live up to their football side’s courageous nickname, as their literary tradition is not as familiar to world lit readers as are those of the other three members of this group.  However, the Cameroon side does have a group of 20th century poets who have been translated into English and other major global languages:  Simon Mpondo, Mbella Sonne Dipoko, and Patrice Kayo. Cameroon does have a promising young novelist and poet, Patrice Nganang, whose Dog Days was translated into English back in 2006.  If Cameroon hopes to advance, it will have to pin its hopes on its strong lineup of poets, although there certainly is a chance that it will spring a literary upset on one of the literary powers.


The Vatreni will likely bring some of their renowned literary fire to their group play match ups.  Capable of fielding a diverse set of writers ranging from Daša Drndić to Dubravka Ugrešić to Miroslav Krleža, the Croatians appear to be strongest when it comes to realist literature of the 20th and early 21st centuries.  They may be a bit suspect when it comes to defending against a strong poetic counterattack, so it will be interesting to see if their aggressive literary themes can withstand a quick striking counter from their opponents.


El Tri has baffled literary observers for years.  Despite possessing a wealth of essayists, poets, and writers, the Mexican literary side barely qualified for this year’s World Cup of Fiction, as they needed to win a playoff against New Zealand in order to advance.  The 2012 death of Carlos Fuentes seems to have discouraged this team, as there has yet to emerge a suitable replacement.  Yet the combination of Ignacio Padilla and Jorge Volpí, with their Crack Manifesto system of short, sharp literary texts peppered with incendiary prose, promises to wreak havoc on unprepared foes.  Yet the problem of this side remains their relative age.  Old war horses like Octavio Paz and Sor Juana have provided many thrilling moments over the centuries, yet in 2014 their influence on the pace of the play may be on the wane, as other literary sides can bring to bear newer, more revolutionary writers.  Mexico’s literary fate may depend upon its ability to develop its reverses quickly upon to stem any reverses on the pitch and to provide a punchy counterattack to provide the necessary points for advancement.

The preview of Group B should be up by the weekend.  Any guesses as to which should be the two favorites to advance to the Knockout Stage?


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