Topic challenges for Literature SE were first proposed and enacted in March 2017. The motivation for these, as well as to bring our users together in a community activity of reading the same books or stories together at roughly the same time, is to increase the diversity of literature covered on our site, as well as perhaps our own diversity of reading material.

We ran 26 topic challenges, with varying degrees of success, between April 2017 and July 2019, each one lasting for one month. After that we had a brief hiatus to discuss the issue of waning participation, and then re-ignited the topic challenges in October 2019 under a new system, which is described as follows.

Each topic challenge lasts for two months, and is announced one month in advance. Each month a new one begins, so that at any given time, there should be two overlapping topic challenges ongoing.

Topic challenges are proposed by posting an answer to this very meta question - everyone feel free to join in with an answer below! Each month the highest-voted answer will be chosen and a new meta post will be created for that topic challenge.

Guidelines for Voting on a Topic Challenge

Voting on these challenges is pretty simple, but make sure you do it with care and thought.

If the post fulfills the spirit of the reading challenge, and does indeed offer exposure to culture or thought that many people might not otherwise see, we'd suggest voting up.

If the post does not fulfill the spirit of the reading challenge, and does not offer exposure to new culture or thought, then we'd suggest voting down. And maybe leave a comment about why you're not sure it's a helpful challenge suggestion, because it's possible someone just misunderstood the purpose behind this.

The above is copied from the original thread. From the 2019 discussion, another potential criterion for topic challenge success emerged: the existence of shorter works that are available online as part of the challenge. Thus it might be suggested to bear this in mind when voting: a topic challenge is generally more likely to be a success if it includes some shorter works available online. But of course, feel free to vote however you see fit. Diversity of topics is the most important criterion.

Guidelines for Suggesting a Topic Challenge

Here are the most important principles, again taken from the original 2017 thread and the 2019 discussion. The bullet points below are also largely inspired by the original 2017 thread, but I've edited quite heavily for brevity.

Your challenge suggestion can be... honestly, whatever you'd like it to be. Please do make challenges that fall outside of what users of the site might predominantly already read. That's sort of why we're doing this.

Post more proposals for shorter works that are available online. This makes the proposal more accessible to everyone. The potential downside to this suggestion is that it may be harder to find find non-English texts, especially non-English texts that are also available in an English translation, especially online, unless the content is so old that it is in the public domain.

When you propose a topic challenge, please consider the following:

  • Why is this topic interesting? A short explanation to motivate people to take part in it is helpful. Motivations might include learning about a culture which is represented in, or which produced, that work of literature, or listing different types of interesting questions that might arise about it.
  • What is included? If the challenge is wider than a single book or story - e.g. an author, or a wider set of works such as a genre - please try to include at least a partial list of some works included. Ideally, with links: either to more information about those works, or (if possible and legal) to sites where the works themselves are available to be read.
  • Describe the sort of prior knowledge you think would be helpful to have. Please be mindful of the difficulty some texts pose. If a text would be valuable to study, but has a knowledge and time barrier that makes the book unreasonably difficult to delve into for someone outside of it, it may not be a good fit for a reading challenge.
  • Please remember that the minimum age for the site is 13, and a percentage of our users are young, so please, within reason, attempt to suggest books that are not too graphic, or contain inordinate amounts of strong language. This doesn't mean that the book can't have language, but please keep this in mind.

Currently Ongoing Topic Challenges

Upcoming Topic Challenge

Previous Topic Challenges

Older ones (one-month topic challenges) are listed in the older meta post.

  • 2
    Why a new meta post for this? Because we've rebooted the topic challenges in a slightly different system, not all of the stuff in the old post still applies, the list was getting long, and - perhaps most importantly - votes were stagnating on the old post. The hope is that, with a fresh new start, we can re-attract people's interest to posting and voting on proposals in answers.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Apr 19, 2020 at 12:04

23 Answers 23


Suggested by user37920 (in a now deleted meta post):

The works of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay

Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay (1894 – 1950) was an author from West Bengal in India and his works are mostly set in rural Bengal. According to the British poet and critic Martin Seymour-Smith, author of Guide to Modern World Literature (1973), Bandyopadhyay was "perhaps the best of all modern Indian novelists", adding that "probably nothing in twentieth-century Indian literature, in prose or poetry, comes to the level of Pather Panchali".

His works include the following:

  • Pather Panchali, an autobiographical novel published in 1929, which brought him to prominence,
  • Chander Pahar, "one of the most-loved adventure novels in the Bengali literature" (Wikipedia), published in 1937,
  • Aranyak (literally "Of the Forest"), a novel that "explores the journey of the protagonist Satyacharan in the dichotomy of the urban and jungle lives" (Wikipedia).

(Posted on 6 October 2020.)


Arun Kolatkar

Arun Balkrishna Kolatkar (1932–2004) was a bilingual poet writing in English and Marathi. His first collection of English poems, Jejuri (1976), was awarded the Commonwealth Poetry Prize the next year. Several of his other poems, both English and Marathi, appeared in magazines and anthologies from 1955 until his death. Kolatkar is also known to have written some poems in Hindi; a sample is quoted on his Wikipedia page.

Though Kolatkar was widely valorized in Bombay literary circles, he was diffident about publishing collections of his poetry and made his living as a commercial artist. He waited until he was dying of cancer to bring out further volumes. Consequently, the year of his death saw the publication of a flurry of collections in both Marathi and English. One of his Marathi volumes from that year, भिजकी वही bhij_kii vahii (The Damp Notebook), won India's highest literary honor, the Sahitya Akademi Award (Literature Academy Award).

His Marathi poems were collected in the following volumes:

  • अरुण कोलटकरच्या कविता aruN kolaT_kar_chyaa kavitaa (The Poems of Arun Kolatkar, 1977)
  • चिरीमिरी chiriimirii (The Sop, 2004)
  • भिजकी वही bhij_kii vahii (The Damp Notebook, 2004)
  • द्रोण droN (Drona, 2004)

His English collections include:

  • Jejuri (1977)
  • Kala Ghoda Poems (2004)
  • Sarpastra (2004)
  • The Boatride and Other Poems, ed. A K Mehrotra (2009)
  • Collected Poems in English, ed. A K Mehrotra (2010)

Jejuri, a record of the narrator's visit to the eponymous temple town in Maharashtra, is justly celebrated, and poems from the sequence are widely available on allpoetry.com. NYRB Classics reissued Jejuri in 2005 with an introduction by Amit Chaudhuri. Mehrotra's edition of Kolatkar's poems is also easily available on Amazon.com and other fine purveyors of your literary fix.

Kolatkar's Marathi and/or Hindi poems are somewhat harder to come by. Extensive research (i.e., cursory googling) does yield the odd website or two that carries one or more of his poems here and there. Vinay Dharwadkar's translations of a few of Kolatkar's Marathi poems have appeared in TriQuarterly 77, Winter 1989/90, and are freely available online. Kolatkar's own translations of several of his Marathi poems are included in Mehrotra's edition; comparing them Dharwadkar's translations of the corresponding poems is instructive.

Mehrotra's edition also includes Kolatkar's translations of some Marathi bhakti poetry, mainly by the 17th C. poet Tukaram, but including some by the 14th C. Janabai and the 13th C. Namdev. Kolatkar's work as a translator would be within the scope of this topic. Even though Marathi, with over 99 million speakers, is among the top 15 most widely spoken languages in the world, so far we have exactly zero questions about its rich literature on our site. It would be nice to change that.


Rohingya literature

The Rohingya are a stateless people group that experiences severe persecution in Myanmar.

A few examples of literature associated with the Rohingya:

  • First, they erased our names
  • I am a Rohingya

Cheese by Willem Elsschot

Everybody likes cheese, so why not read a novel about it? Cheese (in Dutch: Kaas, 1933) is a novel by the Flemish author Willem Elsschot (1882-1960) in which the main character, Frans Laarmans, a clerk, decides to become a sales agent in cheese. Without spoiling too much, I just want to say that he is out of his depth in this job.

Willem Elsschot wrote several other novels, all of which are relatively short. Cheese is "the most translated Flemish novel ever" (see Flanders Literature, where you can find a sample of the 2002 English translation).

Reviewer Chris Baker wrote,

Cheese is one of the very few comic novels that is able to escape its era and its culture. Though written almost seventy years ago, its situations are as fresh as today's office place.

It's a delectable novel ;-)

(Originally suggested on the old post on 4 April 2020.)

  • Copied from the old list. Say "cheese"! ;-)
    – Tsundoku
    Apr 21, 2020 at 11:01

Muhammad Iqbal

Muhammad Iqbal, sometimes called Allama Iqbal or Iqbal-e Lahori, was a 19th-to-20th-century Muslim multilingual poet, philosopher, and politician, one of the most important figures in Urdu poetry and also influential in Farsi poetry, the so-called "Poet of the East" and national poet of Pakistan. He is considered an important figure in the cultural and political history of several countries:

  • In Pakistan, his birthday Iqbal Day was a public holiday until 2018. He was a major figure in promoting the idea of an independent Pakistan even in the 1930s, and he is still honoured as the national poet of Pakistan.
  • In Iran, his work was popular especially in the 1950s to 1980s, and Ayatollah Khomeini said that "We have a large number of non-Persian-speaking poets in the history of our literature, but I cannot point out any of them whose poetry possesses the qualities of Iqbal's Persian poetry. [...] In spite of not having tasted the Persian way of life, never living in the cradle of Persian culture, and never having any direct association with it, he cast with great mastery the most delicate, the most subtle and radically new philosophical themes into the mould of Persian poetry, some of which are unsurpassable yet."
  • He was awarded a knighthood by Britain (his acceptance of which was criticised by some others in British India) for his poetry written in Farsi.

Iqbal wrote poetry primarily in Farsi in the earlier part of his career, starting in 1915, but after 1930 most of his works were in Urdu. He also wrote two non-fiction books and many letters in English, and some poetry in Punjabi. His writings cover philosophical, religious, social, political, and moral issues. He received a BA from the University of Cambridge and a PhD from the University of Munich, and spent some time working as a professor and as a lawyer as well as writing poetry.

A topic challenge on this poet would be able to feature several different language tags and explore a variety of cultures and viewpoints through his literature.

Originally posted on 19 November 2020.


Chingiz Aitmatov

Chingiz Torekulovich Aitmatov is one of the most famous figures in Kyrgyz literature. He wrote in both Kyrgyz and Russian, and many of his works have been translated into other languages including English.

His most well-known stories include The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, about which we had an ID question here, and Jamila / Jamilia, a romance set in rural Kyrgyzstan during World War Two. (The French poet Louis Aragon described Jamilia as "the most beautiful love story in the world".) His works are of varying length, some called short stories, some novellas, and some novels.

See also his Goodreads page.

(Posted on 14 October 2020.)


The works of August Wilson

Theater (other than Shakespeare) is somewhat underrepresented on our site, and August Wilson's works are particularly relevant now in light of recent events. August Wilson (1945 – 2005) received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama and a number of other awards.

(Posted on 25 June 2020.)


The Works of Thomas Middleton, "our other Shakespeare"

Thomas Middleton (1580 – 1627) was one of the most prolific Jacobean playwrights but is less well known because his work, unlike that of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, was never published in a folio edition. He wrote at least thirteen plays by himself and collaborated on numerous others. They include

The first critical edition of his works, Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works edited by Gary Tailor and John Lavagnino, was published in 2007. Gary Taylor has called Middleton "our other Shakespeare" and said in an article on Florida State University's new pages,

Middleton’s work should resonate with contemporary audiences, given his themes of money, politics and sex, and his dialogue, which is easier than Shakespeare’s on the modern ear. (...) Middleton’s plays read like they could have been written yesterday.

Those who want to read Middleton's plays online and for free can do so on Chris Cleary's website The Plays of Thomas Middleton (1580-1627).

(Posted on 7 May 2020.)


Native Australian stories and traditions

Historically experienced significant discrimination.

An example of a book is The Speaking Land: Myth and Story in Aboriginal Australia by Ronald and Catherine Berndt.

(Posted on 23 May 2022.)


Spanish Civil War literature

The Spanish Civil War was a bloody conflict that raged from 1936 - 1939, and indeed continues to divide the country even to this day.

The horror, however, gave rise to a rich outpouring of art and literature. Classic examples include Hemingway's account of the struggle, For Whom the Bells Tolls, Koestler's reminiscence of being imprisoned on death-row in Sevilla, Dialogue with Death (which informed his later work Darkness at Noon), Laurie Lee's As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, and of course Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

As well as these older works - which have the advantage of being easily available from the Internet Archive or Project Gutenberg - the war has continued to inspire literature (see, for example, this Goodreads link). As the historian Paul Preston remarked:

It was like this Pandora’s box that had everything. You have got Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky, Mussolini, Franco, Baldwin, Chamberlain, Leon Blum, fascism, communism, socialism, anarchism and liberalism – you name it, it was all there.

-and yet I only count six questions concerning it. I think it would be definitely worth raising it as a Topic Challenge.


The Works of Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen was a very influential and highly regarded Norwegian playwright. Wikipedia claims that he is the “most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare,” and calls him “one of the founders of modernism in theatre,” and “one of the most influential playwrights of his time.”

We have six questions with the tag [henrik-ibsen], and only one of them has been answered — How did Ibsen's writing in A Doll's House influence the James Joyce character Molly Bloom?, which is only peripherally about Ibsen's play. So it seems that Ibsen has not been getting enough attention on this site.

Ibsen's plays are generally entertaining; they often deal with interesting social and psychological issues, many of which are still relevant, and they have been very influential in the field of literature, on drama in particular. His plays are easy to find — they are out of copyright, and so can be found on Project Gutenberg. The meaning of some of his plays, in particuar Rosmersholm, is still being debated. Having a topic challenge on him will focus attention on him, and hopefully help us answer the existing questions on his plays and inspire new ones.


Aḥmad ibn Faḍlān ibn al-ʿAbbās ibn Rāšid ibn Ḥammād

While he is only for a single series of accounts from a single travel, these writings of an early Islamic traveller have influenced western cultural perception of the area he traveled in a way that would be nigh unimaginable:

He described the Volga Bulgars and the Rus People, and many of the things he wrote about the Rus have been wholesale adopted as what many people think of as Viking today. In fact, in some areas, he is seen as one of the most neutral sources about old norse culture, as contemporary Christian texts about norse people in Viking depict those as raider, bloodthirsty monsters and irredeemable heathens.


The works of Alberto Moravia, one of the most important Italian writers of the 20th century

I wish to propose the name of Alberto Moravia, pseudonym of Alberto Pincherle (born 28 Nov 1907, died 26 Sep 1990, both in Rome, Italy). His works are available online.

This Italian journalist, short-story writer, and novelist is known for his fictional portrayal of social alienation and loveless sexuality. He was a major figure in 20th-century Italian literature. He has won numerous literary awards, including Strega and Viareggio Prizes, some of the most prestigious Italian literary awards. His work has received several nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Translated from the 2014 Bompiani's edition of the short novel Agostino:

In the course of sixty years of uninterrupted activity, Moravia has built up an immense and coherent production in its developments - novels and short stories, theatre, travel reportages, writings on literature, art and cinema, writings on politics, current affairs and costume, autobiographies and interviews – which represents one of the most significant testimonies of the past century. Numerous films have been made from his novels and short stories, including La ciociara by Vittorio De Sica, Le Mépris (Il disprezzo) by Jean-Luc Godard and Il conformista by Bernardo Bertolucci. Also from Agostino Mauro Bolognini made a film in 1962.

His major works are:

  • The Time of Indifference (Gli indifferenti, 1929)
  • Agostino (1943)
  • The Woman of Rome (La romana, 1947)
  • The Conformist (Il conformista, 1947)
  • Contempt (Il disprezzo, 1954)
  • Roman tales (Racconti romani, 1954)
  • Two Women (La ciociara, 1957)
  • Boredom (La noia, 1960)
  • Journey to Rome (Il viaggio a Roma, 1988)

Translated from the abstract of the 2014 Bompiani's edition of the short novel Agostino:

The short novel Agostino was the masterpiece that allowed Moravia to win critical and public recognition. Agostino is the story of a sexual initiation. On the one hand, a thirteen-year-old boy who is still a child; on the other his mother, a widow, but still thriving and eager to live.

During a beach holiday, the relationship between the son and the mother deteriorates, becomes corrupted by restlessness. For the boy it will be necessary to arrive at an authentic crisis, a laceration that will allow him to start again and then to recompose the world, to get a reason for life.

With Agostino, a return to actual fiction after evasions and surrealist and satirical outbursts, Moravia won his first literary prize.

In The Woman of Rome (La romana), the protagonist, Adriana, is a beautiful and very naive young peasant girl who, to get out of the condition of poverty, begins a modeling career for some low-grade painters. Adriana thus finds herself immersed in a mediocre and hypocritical world, which ends up leading her to prostitution and increasingly complicated situations. We find then a picture of the intersecting lives of many characters, including a fascist official and a young law student with anti-fascist ideas, the prototype of the intellectual in Moravia's works. This young man is incarcerated for political ideas, but, after an interrogation by the Fascist forces, betrays his colleagues. This leads him to suicide.

It's a novel with a suspended tone between realistic portrayal and existential investigation, which questions the hypocrisy and inauthenticity of bourgeois values.

The following text is translated from the abstract of the 2017 Bompiani's edition of Racconti romani (Roman tales):

Alberto Moravia's Roman tales are linked to a tradition begun by Belli with his monumental work and then continued by Roman poets and narrators such as Pascarella, Trilussa and others. Here we also find an anonymous character from the Roman common people or small bourgeoisie, who speaks in the first person, recounting their own cases and those of their people. The language is no longer the narrow dialect of Belli or the tempered one of Trilussa, but an Italian sprinkled here and there with Romanesco words and expressions. The city and the people of Rome have naturally changed a lot over the past century: here is described the modern and somewhat eccentric Rome of the first decade after World War II; a Rome that is both free and alienated; diverse, vibrant, and yet marred, full of encounters, unexpected events, and adventures, but also of resignations and anxieties. An incredibly rich book, a significant act from the human comedy of our not-so-distant past.

Romanesco is the regional language around Rome.

At Internet Archive, you can find some of the Moravia's books in original Italian and translated to English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, German and Polish, for instance:

  • A selection of Roman tales translated to English by Angus Davidson.
  • A translation to Vietnamese of Racconti romani by Thanh Gương.
  • The short novel Agostino translated to English by Michael F. Moore.
  • L'ennui, a translation to French of La noia by Claude Poncet.
  • Contempt, a translation to English of Il disprezzo by Angus Davidson.
  • Le mépris, a translation to French of Il disprezzo by Claude Poncet.
  • Two women, a translation to English of La ciociara by Angus Davidson.
  • La campesina, a translation to Spanish of La ciociara by Domingo Pruna.
  • La romana translated to Spanish by Francisco Ayala.
  • A translation to Chinese of La romana.
  • Journey to Rome, a translation to English of Il viaggio a Roma by Tim Parks.

(Posted on 26 November 2020 by user37920.)


Katja Kettu

Katja Maaria Kettu is a Finnish author, originally from Rovaniemi in Lapland, "one of the most acclaimed authors in Finland today", who's written a number of novels.

Her most famous work is Kätilö (The Midwife), which has been translated into several languages, adapted to a film, and won widespread acclaim - see reviews at Words Without Borders and Goodreads. The Goodreads reviews range from positive to negative, but much of the criticism seems to be based on the difficulty of following the story without knowing some details of Finland's participation in WW2 (consisting of at least three separate conflicts: the Winter War, the Continuation War, and the Lapland War), while learning something about this history as part of reading a story actually makes it more appealing, in my view, as long as you're prepared beforehand to have to do that. Apparently the story doesn't skimp on gore and explicit descriptions - it's about a midwife in wartime, after all - so be prepared for that too. A sample English translation is available online.

All of our site's questions so far are from the Kalevala, a previous topic challenge. It'll be nice to have some more modern Finnish literature represented too, and to learn something about a different part of Finnish history and culture.


The works of Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich is a Nobel Prize-winning Belarusian journalist and author. (While this is related to my proposal for Belarusian literature, my understanding is that her books were largely written in Russian, so they would likely fall outside of the scope of the previous proposal).

Several particularly well-known books by her include:

  • Could you include links to translations or for more information about these books?
    – bobble
    Mar 6, 2021 at 22:14

The Works of Carlo Goldoni

Carlo Goldoni (1707 – 1793) was a playwright and librettist who lived in the Republic of Venice. His libretti include one for La finta semplice, an opera Mozart composed at the age of 12, and one for Vivaldi's opera Griselda. His best-known play is possibly The Servant of Two Masters, which draws on the tradition of the commedia dell'arte.

Online versions of some of his works include the following:


Uyghur literature

In my tradition of taking jabs at authoritarian regimes, I would like to propose that we study Uyghur literature, a minority group in China that is currently heavily persecuted by the government.

There's a list here that seems decent.


Native American and Canadian oral traditions

The treatment of native Canadians has been in the news quite a bit lately. I would like to propose the oral traditions, myths, and literature of native Americans and Canadians.

A few examples of books I was able to find on Amazon:

  • Native American Folklore & Traditions by Elsie Clews Parson
  • Lakota Sioux Legends and Myths: Native American Oral Traditions Recorded by Marie L. McLaughlin and Zitkala-Sa by Marie L. McLaughlin and Zitkala-Sa
  • Indigenous Poetics in Canada

The works of Maryse Condé

Maryse Condé is a Guadeloupean/French novelist, playwright and critic. Her "novels explore racial, gender and cultural issues in a variety of historical eras and locales" (Wikipedia). She has won awards for several of her works, which include the following:

  • Hérémakhonon (1976), her first novel, "was so controversial that it was pulled from the shelves after six months because of its criticism over the success of African socialism".
  • Segu (French: Ségou: Les murailles de terre, 1985) is set in the 19th-century Bambara or Ségou Empire of Mali and is the novel that brought her to prominence.
  • I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem (French: Moi, Tituba, Sorcière…Noire de Salem, 1986) creates a character, Tituba, who was thrown into the same cell as Hester Prynne from Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
  • Windward Height (French: La migration des coeurs, 1995) is a reworking of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

(Posted on 15 September 2020.)


Literary Hoaxes

Every few years, the literary world becomes aware of a new hoax perpetrated on it. The persona of JT LeRoy and the fake memoir of James Frey are two relatively recent examples. Examples of literary hoaxes go back at least as far as the 5th century BCE, when Onomacritus inserted forgeries of his own devising into his edition of Musaeus's oracles.

Literary hoaxes sometimes retain influence even after the hoax is exposed, whether by the perpetrator or somebody else. Thomas Chatterton, for example, became a figure of great interest among the Romantics because of his tragic life and the role his faked 15th C. Rowley poems played in it. Sadly, another hugely influential hoax, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, continues to circulate as part of the propaganda of anti-semitic, right-wing conspiracy theory groups.

The category of "literary hoax" raises interesting questions about truth in a creative context. Frey's so-called memoir, A Million Little Pieces, would still be a well-written and moving work if considered as fiction rather than memoir. Yet its being marketed as the latter, and the scandal that ensued when its fictitious nature was revealed, demonstrate that part of the value attributed to the world rested on a truth-claim that would be inoperative if it had been marketed as fiction. What does this tell us about the truth-value of a literary memoir as opposed to that of a work of fiction?

As a thought experiment, what would happen if we were to take a reader who was unaware of the scandal surrounding A Million Little Pieces and had her read the work as fiction? How would her response and evaluation change, compared to that of a similar reader (one similarly unaware of the scandal) who read it as memoir? By definition, creative writers indulge in world-building. What are the ways in which the presentation of the built world as fiction or as memoir determine how the reader responds to and evaluates the work?

The same holds true for poetry. If the Rowley poems are good poems, does that depend on their "really" being 15th C. poems? Evidently not, since the Romantics found them well worth reading anyway, and they continue to be anthologized in reputable collections.

There also seems to be a distinction in the reception of a literary hoax depending on whether it's exposed by a third party or by the hoaxer. Frey and Chatterton attracted opprobrium. But Rabindranath Tagore, as a very young man, passed off a pastiche of poems in the 15th C. – 17th C. Vaishnava Padavali tradition as the real article. After the sequence had been published and praised, he admitted that Bhanusingher Padavali was his own creation rather than a rediscovered older manuscript. He suffered no enduring blowback.

The category of literary hoax forces us to ask what the boundary is between creative writing and deception. This is an ancient question, going back all the way to Plato, who flat-out denied that there was any distinction. A topic challenge about literary hoaxes would provide Lit SE the chance to indulge in both theoretical questions about the nature of fiction, and discussions of specific instances of literary hoaxes.

(Posted on 26 November 2020.)


Naim Frashëri

The national poet of Albania, and we have no questions about yet. From Wikipedia:

Frashëri's works explored themes such as freedom, humanity, unity, tolerance and revolution. His twenty two works consist of fifteen works written in Albanian as well as four in Turkish, two in Greek and one in Persian. He is considered to be the most representative writer of Sufi poetry in Albanian, and having been under the influence of his uncle Dalip Frashëri, he tried to mingle Sufism with Western philosophy in his poetical ideals. He had an extraordinarily profound impact on Albanian literature and society during the 20th century, most notably on Asdreni, Gjergj Fishta and Lasgush Poradeci, among many others.

Some of his poems are available in English here and here, for example.


The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed

This book was written by a computer. That throws out a lot of possible ways to approach questions - authorial intent, in particular, becomes irrelevant - and introduces some fascinating new approaches: knowledge of computer science and artificial intelligence might be as useful as literature expertise.

Simply exploring and thinking about how to ask and answer questions here would be an interesting experience. Not much point trying to ask about plot, as there is none, but the book could be analysed in other ways, such as why certain patterns appear in the choice of words, or which existing works of literature might have inspired some of the names or passages.

It's also a perfect delight to read, at least for anyone who appreciates the weird and wacky. Consider the following excerpts from the text, and try to keep a straight face while reading them:

RICHARD. A week is obscurely like a night.
BUCKINGHAM. My Lord, chicken is like lamb.
RICHARD. Yet weeks can be killed as can chicken.
BUCKINGHAM. Tis true, my Liege, yet ambiguities adorn our pain as ambiguities broaden our issues.

There once was a furry brown noun
Had window shades which could not pound
They excreted and boggled
But still always goggled
But please sadly call them a crown

Tomatoes from England and lettuce from Canada are eaten by cosmologists from Russia. I dream implacably about this concept. Nevertheless tomatoes or lettuce inevitably can come leisurely from my home, not merely from England or Canada. My solicitor spoke that to me; I recognized it. My fatherland is France, and I trot coldly while bolting some lobster on the highway to my counsellor. He yodels a dialogue with me about neutrons or about his joy. No agreements here! We sip seltzer and begin a conversation. Intractably our dialogue enrages us. Strangely my attorney thinks and I gulp slowly and croon, "Do you follow me?"

Reading this book will guarantee you a good laugh, and Q&A about it will guarantee our site some new perspectives and ways of analysing a very unusual piece of literature.

  • Copied from the old list, where it was a bit controversial in voting. I've edited the blurb a bit to try to justify it more as a topic challenge.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    May 5, 2020 at 8:37

Sequels to or retellings of Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe (1719) has often been adapted into children's books and films. It has also inspired sequels and retellings that sometimes put the original story into a new perspective.

These sequels and retellings include the following:

  • Daniel Defoe's lesser-known lesser-known sequel The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719).
  • Defoe's Serious Reflections During the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe: With his Vision of the Angelick World (1720), which "consists of a series of essays written in the voice of the character Robinson Crusoe" (Wikipedia).
  • Michel Tournier's retelling Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique (Friday, or, The Other Island, 1967), which was awarded the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française. The themes explored in this novel include civilization versus nature, and the psychology of solitude.
  • Michel Tournier's adaptation of his 1967 novel for younger readers: Vendredi ou la Vie sauvage (1971).
  • Elizabeth Bishop's poem "Crusoe in England".
  • J. M. Coetzee's novel Foe (1986), which is told from the perspective of a woman who landed on the same island as "Cruso" and which focuses on themes of language and power.
  • Patrick Chamoiseau's 2012 novel L'empreinte à Crusoé, which begins after Crusoe has already spent twenty years on the island.

This challenge would allow us to look at the Robinson Crusoe story from various points of view, including an anti-colonialist angle, and to compare themes across works based on the same story.

The challenge would not include other examples of the robinsonade genre, such as The Swiss Family Robinson, or shipwreck stories generally.

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