Literature has always been one of the surest indicators of cultural richness around the globe. Be it from the plains of the Indus, the highlands of Scotland or the forests of Germany, novels and stories have been a favourite form of cultural self-expression for man. What originally began as word of mouth fables narrated by bards soon evolved into more refined storytelling mediums like plays, shorts stories and novels. And with the advent of the industrial revolution, the written word became the refuge of millions of people around the world.
Even in the 21st century, delving into the literature of a new culture remains one of the best ways of familiarizing oneself with the cultural norms, history, beliefs and ethos of new people. So for travel fanatics and bibliophiles alike, we have compiled a list of seven great novels from around the globe that perfectly represent certain distinct cultures and value sets.
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini – Afghanistan
Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel won millions of hearts around the world by painting a gut-wrenching narrative of the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Told through the perspective of a young boy, The Kite Runner not only gives us a microscopic look at life under the Talban but also provides numerous insights into the Pashto culture. At its heart, The Kite Runner is a love letter to the beauty and culture of Afghanistan and the country it could have been.
One Hundred Years Of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Colombia
Colombia’s king of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s body of work is an ode to his country, none more so than his definitive work, One Hundred Years Of Solitude. Though it tells the tale of the fictional town of Macondo, the story is deeply set in Colombia and paints a magical picture of the country. Few who have ever delved into Marquez’s world ever manage to leave for long.
Cry The Beloved Country – Alan Paton – South Africa
Alan Paton’s heart-rending depiction of pre-Apartheid Africa is necessary reading across many schools around the world, and with good reason. No other novel has managed to craft such a delicate portrayal of the socio-economic conditions of Africa that led to the brutal systematic racial segregation the country went through in the years to come. With the rise of intolerance around the globe, it’s time we returned to such books.
The God Of Small Things – Arundhati Roy – India
While ‘Cry The Beloved Country’ explores racism, Arundhati Roy’s The God Of Small Things is a haunting foray into one of India’s biggest social evils – the caste system. Set against the backdrop of the gorgeous locales of Kerala, the book is a bittersweet tale of forbidden love, inequality and deep-rooted social crimes.
The Circle Of Karma – Kunzang Choden – Bhutan
The Circle Of Karma tells the transformative tale of a young repressed woman’s quest for spiritual awakening in mid-20th century Bhutan. Delving deep into the heart of the Buddhist religion, the tale takes you across Bhutan and India in beautiful story that perfectly encapsulates the culture and religion of the Himalayas.
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee – USA
A book that will always be a classic across the world, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird still remains the best literary tale of racial discrimination in the deep south. Strongly based on the author’s own childhood experiences, one cannot deny the pulsating authenticity of the narrative nor the lingering impact it has on the minds of readers across the globe.
Silence – Shusaku Endo – Japan
Recently brought to the screen for the second time by Martin Scorsese, Shusaku Endo’s Silence takes us deep in the heart of feudal Japan during the infamous prosecution of Catholic priests. It begins with the arrival in Japan of two young Catholic priests in search of their missing mentor and instantly transports you to the beautiful yet terror laden corners of the country. With underlying themes of faith and religion, Silence also manages to give us an unfiltered glimpse into the beauty and horror of feudal Japan.