Okay, so Round 1 of the MHS World Cup of Literature has been completed. The verdicts are in and these are the results:
- Australia 1: ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once’ — Cate Kennedy defeats Egypt 0: ‘Scenes from the Life of an Autocrat’ — Basma Abdel Aziz. And the local favourite goes through! It was a close match, but the ‘organic’ structure of Kennedy’s story gets her over the line, according to Jay’s verdict.
- Phillipines 2: ‘Equations of State’ — Kristine Ong Muslim defeats Argentina 1: ‘A Perfect Wife’ — Angélica Gorodischer. Another close one, adn it would be shocking if it was football, but we’re talking literature here and the descriptive language and imagery gets the Phillipines the victory, according to Safwan.
- Malaysia 2: ‘Doppelgänger’ — Dipika Mukherjee defeats Kenya 1: ‘Secondhand Wife’ — Ken N. Kamoche. Our judge for this match found it very difficult to separate two outstanding stories, but in the end gave it to Malaysia for the way Mukherjee’s story tackled contemporary issues in a way that was ‘eye-opening and inspiring.’ You can read Savva’s verdict here.
- Italy 3: ‘Anyone Can Be Replaced (an excerpt)’ — Peppe Fiore defeats Greece 0: ‘The History of Grains’ — Gianni Skaragas. The first blow-out result. Charlie liked the way the Italian story had greater clarity and explains his reasoning here.
- Russia 3: ‘Annus Mirabilis (Anus Horribilis)’ — Aleksey Lukyanov defeats Taiwan 1: ‘Birds’ — Wu Ming-yi. Another comfortable victory. Ari admired the creativity in the Russian story and was impressed with the ending in particular. Read his verdict here.
- Ukraine 3: ‘The Demon of Hunger’ — Tania Malyarchuk defeats Iraq 2: ‘Approaching Zainab’ — Luma Sarhan. Back to the close matches. The Ukrainian story is all about story-telling and Delwyn was impressed with the paradoxes within it. Here is his verdict.
- Ethiopia 3: ‘It’s All the Same’ — Bewketu Seyoum defeats France 2: ‘The Cadillac’ — Sylvie Weil. In a shock result the football world champions are knocked out in the first round of the literary equivalent. It was close, but Edric liked the character development in the Ethiopian story as well as the exposure to a different culture, which is part of the point of this tournament. Edric lays out his reasoning here.
- Finland 2: ‘The Catacombs’ — Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen defeats Israel 1: ‘Made Flesh’ — Alit Karp. In another close match, Finland prevails thanks to the twists and the turns of the story, which is appropriate for the catacombs. Jun liked what he described as the ‘curvature’ of the Finnish story, as he explains here.
- Denmark 2: ‘Labrador’ — Daniel Dencik defeats USA 1: ‘The Binding of Isaac’ — Stephen Mitchell. 2–1 is a common scoreline, reflecting how evenly matched a lot of these stories are in the opinions of our judges. Donald awarded this match to Denmark thanks to the cliffhanger ending. Here is his full verdict.
- Morocco 4: ‘Prosopopoeia (an excerpt)’ — Farid Tali defeats Slovenia 3: ‘Anton’ — Polona Glavan. In this high scoring match, Morocco prevails thanks to our judge Eric’s admiration for the descriptive language in the story. Read his judgement here.
- India 2: ‘The Tale of a Coward’ — Premendra Mitra defeats Hungary 1: ‘Danube 1954’ — Zsuzsa Selyem. It’s 2–1 again, with India getting over the line thanks to Mitra’s ‘short, sharp technique,’ which impressed Oscar. Here is his full account.
- Austria 2: ‘Typhoid (an excerpt)’ — Klaus Hoffer defeats Brazil 1: ‘The Green Ball’ — Lygia Fagundes Telles. For Indy, the judge of this match, it all came down to the style of writing, and he awarded it to Austria thanks to Hoffer’s ‘descriptive, imaginative side of story-telling.’ Indy explains his verdict here.
- Mexico 3 : ‘The Objects’ — Yuri Herrera defeats Belgium 1: ‘The Tenants’ — Anne Richter. A fairly comfortable victory for the Mexican story here, with Jeremy taken by the ‘condensed’ approach of Herrera, as well as with the protagonist turning into a rat. Here is his full judgement.
- Norway 2: ‘Dreamwriter (Autobiography)’ — Gunnhild Øyehaug defeats Singapore 1: ‘Eyes and Ears’ — O Thiam Chin. The cold north triumphs in this match. Declan saw some surprising similarities between these two stories but gave it to Norway because of the ‘subtlety of expression and an experimental and creative prose’ style. Read his verdict here.
- Iran 3: ‘The Shipwrecked’ — Moniru Ravanipour defeats Greenland 2: ‘The Grouse Hunt’ — Iben Mondrup. A ‘brilliant plot and excellent writing’ takes the Iranian story to victory in this match up, according to our judge, Kiran. He explains further here.
- Peru 2: ‘Cyber-proletarian’ — Claudia Salazar Jiménez defeats New Zealand 1: ‘Home’ — Alison Wong. I can’t believe it: New Zealand knocked out in the first round! In his detailed match report, Thisara said the match was ‘an admirable effort from both teams and some world-class literature’ but I’ll be having a close look at the replays for this one…
- Germany 4: ‘We Were the New Era’ — Andreas Baum defeats Bangladesh 1: ‘Beloved Rongomala (an excerpt)’ — Shaheen Akhtar. Germany were attempting to redeem themselves after their underwhelming exit in the football version and they’ve started with a very strong performance in teh first round. Ben was impressed with two ‘long and complex’ stories, but he explains his reasoning for awarding the match to Germany here.
- Montenegro 2: ‘Leaving’ — Slađana Kavarić defeats Lithuania 1: ‘The Blockage’ — Žydrūnas Drungilas. Another close match up, but our judge Phillip awards it to Montenegro for a story he describes as ‘solemn and thought provoking.’ Read his verdict here.
- Chile 3: ‘#Moving’ — María José Navia defeats South Africa 2: ‘The Prisoners of the Past’ — Deena Padayachee. In our final match of the round we see another South American country progress. In his extremely detailed and enthralling match report, Ted expresses a lot of admiration for both stories but ultimately awards it to the Chilean story, commenting that the ‘powerful, suspenseful, in-the-moment style of Navia is quite honestly one of the most engaging and powerful I’ve ever read.’
That was a thrilling first round and we’re now down to 19 teams remaining for Round Two. Big names like the USA and France have been knocked out and some minnows like Montenegro and the Phillipines have made it through.
The draw for Round Two divides the teams into eight groups and includes some three-way matches. It will look like this:
Group 1: Ukraine, Mexico, Peru
Group 2: Ethiopia, Russia, India
Group 3: Morocco, Montenegro, Austria
Group 4: Germany, Malaysia
Group 5: Australia, Norway
Group 6: Finland, Iran
Group 7: Denmark, Italy
Group 8: Chile, Phillipines
Matches in Round Two are determined by group discussion and a verdict that needs to be unanimous. Stay tuned for the next instalment.