World Literature Circles

World Lit Circle Discussion Prep Revised 2010.doc

Examining the Setting with Research

Why? Actively pursuing additional background knowledge can make a book more enjoyable and multiply the avenues of conversation when literature circles meet.

1. With your world lit. group, list the time period, location, and as many historical details and figures as you can identify from the first section of your book.
2. Each group member needs to select one item on the list to research. It could be the time period, location, or a historical detail.
3. You need to find one reliable source (an article or web page) that provides interesting / relevant information on your topic.
4. You may not use Wikipedia as your source, but you can always check the links at the bottom of the relevant page.
3. By the next class you need to post the following on your world lit. wikipage: (on the Block C or Block E page)
  • your topic of research
  • a URL link to your reliable source
  • state why you think the source is reliable
  • write a one paragraph summary of your source (5-8 complete sentences)
  • be prepared to share with your group and the class

World Literature Circle Reading Selection:

Physical copy of book due Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 - it is your responsibility to obtain a physical copy of your book. Most of these books are available locally or through

Note: You must select a book you have not already read for English 9 (including the summer reading assignment).

All synopses quoted from

Siddhartha (Asia; 152 pages)
by Hermann Hesse
Siddhartha's life takes him on a journey toward enlightenment. Afire with youthful idealism, the Brahmin joins a group of ascetics, fasting and living without possessions. Meeting Gotama the Buddha, he comes to feel this is not the right path, though he also declines joining the Buddha's followers. He reenters the world, hoping to learn of his own nature, but instead slips gradually into hedonism and materialism. Surfeited and disgusted, he flees from his possessions to become a ferryman's apprentice, learning what lessons he can from the river itself.

All Quiet on the Western Front (Europe; 296 pages)
by Erich Maria Remarque
"All Quiet on the Western Front" is probably the most famous anti-war novel ever written. The story is told by a young 'unknown soldier' in the trenches of Flanders during the First World War. Through his eyes we see all the realities of war; under fire, on patrol, waiting in the trenches, at home on leave, and in hospitals and dressing stations. Although there are vividly described incidents which remain in mind, there is no sense of adventure here, only the feeling of youth betrayed and a deceptively simple indictment of war - of any war - told for a whole generation of victims.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Europe; 158 pages)
by Aleksander Solshenitsyn
Solzhenitsyn's first book, this economical, relentless novel is one of the most forceful artistic indictments of political oppression in the Stalin-era Soviet Union. The simply told story of a typical, grueling day of the titular character's life in a labor camp in Siberia, is a modern classic of Russian literature and quickly cemented Solzhenitsyn's international reputation upon publication in 1962. It is painfully apparent that Solzhenitsyn himself spent time in the gulags--he was imprisoned for nearly a decade as punishment for making derogatory statements about Stalin in a letter to a friend.

July's People (Africa; 176 pages)
by Nadine Gordimer
When war break out in South Africa, a fugitive white family takes refuge with their black servant, July. So imagine their quandary when the blacks stage a full-scale revolution that sends the Smaleses scampering into isolation. The premise of the book is expertly crafted; it speaks much about the confusing state of affairs of South Africa and serves as the backbone for a terrific adventure.
Amazon link 3

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Asia; 192 pages)
by Dai Sijie (Author)
The Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao Zedong altered Chinese history in the 1960s and '70s, forcibly sending hundreds of thousands of Chinese intellectuals to peasant villages for "re-education." This moving, often wrenching short novel by a writer who was himself re-educated in the '70s tells how two young men weather years of banishment, emphasizing the power of literature to free the mind. Sijie's unnamed 17-year-old protagonist and his best friend, Luo, are bourgeois doctors' sons, and so condemned to serve four years in a remote mountain village, carrying pails of excrement daily up a hill. Only their ingenuity helps them to survive. The two friends are good at storytelling, and the village headman commands them to put on "oral cinema shows" for the villagers, reciting the plots and dialogue of movies. When another city boy leaves the mountains, the friends steal a suitcase full of forbidden books he has been hiding, knowing he will be afraid to call the authorities. Enchanted by the prose of a host of European writers, they dare to tell the story of The Count of Monte Cristo to the village tailor and to read Balzac to his shy and beautiful young daughter. Luo, who adores the Little Seamstress, dreams of transforming her from a simple country girl into a sophisticated lover with his foreign tales. He succeeds beyond his expectations, but the result is not what he might have hoped for, and leads to an unexpected, droll and poignant conclusion. The warmth and humor of Sijie's prose and the clarity of Rilke's translation distinguish this slim first novel, a wonderfully human tale.
Amazon Link 2

The Guide (India; 224)
Product Description
Formerly India’s most corrupt tourist guide, Raju—just released from prison—seeks refuge in an abandoned temple. Mistaken for a holy man, he plays the part and succeeds so well that God himself intervenes to put Raju’s newfound sanctity to the test. Narayan’s most celebrated novel, The Guide won him the National Prize of the Indian Literary Academy, his country’s highest literary honor.
About the Author:
R. K. Narayan (1906–2001), born and educated in India, was the author of fourteen novels, numerous short stories and essays, a memoir, and three retold myths. His work, championed by Graham Greene, who became a close friend, was often compared to that of Dickens, Chekhov, Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor, among others. October 10, 2006, is the centennial of Narayan’s birth.
Amazon link

The Joy Luck Club (Asia; North America; 288)
by Amy Tan
A stunning literary achievement, The Joy Luck Club explores the tender and tenacious bond between four daughters and their mothers. The daughters know one side of their mothers, but they don't know about their earlier never-spoken of lives in China. The mothers want love and obedience from their daughters, but they don't know the gifts that the daughters keep to themselves. Heartwarming and bittersweet, this is a novel for mother, daughters, and those that love them.