The decisions have been made for Round Two and we’re ready for the quarterfinals of the MHS World Cup of Literature. But first have a look at how Round Two played out.
This is what the line-up was for Round 2:
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
And here are the match results with the judges’ verdicts:
Our judges wrote: ‘The storytelling in Peru outclasses the other two stories, so much so that the vote was unanimous. Right off the bat, Peru’s story about a robot coping with human reproduction is immediately more interesting than a man-rat hybrid exploring a building (although that admittedly sounds nearly as cool) or a woman talking about her grandma. Also, the story’s focus on a robot’s conscious thoughts is quite captivating in the sense that it makes you question ideas about artificial intelligence. The concept itself overshadows the lush, poetic prose of Ukraine while still allowing the rich language to have a sense of both artificialness and authenticity.’
Group 2: Ethiopia: ‘It’s All the Same’ — Bewketu Seyoum defeats Russia: ‘Annus Mirabilis (Anus Horribilis)’ — Aleksey Lukyanov and India: ‘The Tale of a Coward’ — Premendra Mitra.
Our judges wrote: ‘The game of ‘Ethiopia’ vs ‘Russia’ vs ‘India’ features three 3 widely different stories of three varying styles and tones. Each story tightly competed but, in the end, there was one true winner- Ethiopia. Russia’s story, Annus Mirabillis (Anus Horribilis) presents the idea of a factory, in which workers are made to develop torture/execution devices. There was a good twist at the end; however, there was not enough internalisation and the story progressed too quickly. India’s story, The Tale of a Coward, features two main protagonist whose live where intertwined despite there opposable to this idea. No matter how many times they drifted apart, fate would bring them back together. In contrast, even though it presents a interesting setting, the story’s plot does not lead anywhere. Ethiopia’s story, It’s All the Same, shows the progress of a suicidal man, who aims to kill himself in the fanciest way a rich man can do. It goes through his adventures as an old man and leads him to many peculiar stories. The story was paced well, but did not feel too boring, and the ending had a nice suspense. This, in turn, lead Ethiopia to take the W over everyone else.’
Our judges wrote: ‘These three stories were all linked by the common theme of death which was heavily discussed in all three stories through different perspectives. Morocco’s story ‘Prosopopoeia’ was about a man grieving for his brother’s death. Montenegro’s ‘Leaving’ was a flashback of the narrator’s conversation with a man about the “specialness and solemnity” of death. Austria’s story ‘Typhoid’ was about the experiences of a person with typhoid disease and how they deal with the disease. Ultimately, we came to the unanimous decision that ‘Leaving’ was the best story of the three. This was because of its extremely detailed and image-evoking descriptions of the colour blue that said “on second thought, blue actually reminds me most of a vein that has been kissed by a syringe in the hands of an inexperienced medical student at the clinic”. This description is probably alluding to suicide as the narrator talks about wanting to leave but never where to. Another mystery in this story is the mystery behind the author’s identity, not even their gender is revealed. This makes the story so compelling and real because of how the reader feels as though the text could be referring to anyone.’
Our judges wrote: ‘Malaysia’s exotic setting and potentially surprising deliverance of the political circumstances and conditions of the country (I myself was not aware of the scale of censorship and living conditions of Malaysia) are brought across beautifully and become a real focal point of its narrative, which all in all is fast-paced and intriguing, while at the same time discussing real-world issues. Germany, on the other hand, has a potentially very powerful concept to bring across about life in the late/post communist East Germany, however personally, it fails to create enough emotional attachment to the characters to make their decisions and what happens to them seem worthwhile and important, and the story has an exceptionally slow pace in comparison to Malaysia’s. A slow pace is not necessarily a bad thing, and can be often utilised to great and engaging ends; nonetheless, the lack of significant or really any interesting events, detail into the social, economic, or political circumstances of the setting and emotional attachment to the characters only means that its slow pace only further contributes to making it barely engaging, and daunting compared to the intensity of Malaysia’s plot.’
Our judges wrote: ‘‘Dreamwriter (Autobiography)’ by Norwegian writer Gunnhild Oyehaug describes a complex and dreamy narrative that flips between different periods of time, all surrounding the famous Norwegian poem “Draumkvedet” (the dream ballad). Oyehaug goes from talking about her grandmother and the traditional techniques and stories of Norwegian culture to the memorial of Maren Ramskeid, who was said to have been the inspiration of the poem. The story is complicated to follow yet it is fascinating to piece all of the story together, however it is Cate Kennedy’s ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once’ still holds up as the strongest short story out of the pair.
‘Measure Twice, Cut Once’ has a narrative that feels more as though it has a purpose and is not just telling us. That is where ‘Dreamwriter’ falls short. ‘Dreamwriter’ focuses on three different points in time and carefully links them all together, creating a fluent story where its only weakness is it does not have anything interesting driving it. Oyehaug’s writing techniques create a world where there are constant questions, however there are no answers. ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once’ is more relatable and has two characters who anyone can relate to and connect with. Australia is the winner of this match because it has a shorter, but more interesting and driving narrative that keeps us wanting to read more, unlike ‘Dreamwriter’ where it is more of a drag, with some of the most fluent storytelling out there.’
Our judges wrote: ‘The match between Finland and Iran was quite close. Both stories had twists and turns and had the audience’s attention. However, the short story by Moniru Ravanipour was explained with intricate detail and explained the story. The short story by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen ended on a cliff hanger and left the audience guessing as to what would happen next. Because of this, the ending of the Iranian story was more satisfying for the reader. By no mean was Finnish story bad but lacked a sense of completeness. Both stories required a few reads to grasp the authors intention, but at the end day the Iranian team triumphed over the Finnish side because Ravanipour was successfully able to paint an image in the reader’s mind and end the story with a satisfaction.’
Group 7: Italy: ‘Anyone Can Be Replaced (an excerpt)’ — Peppe Fiore defeats Denmark: ‘Labrador’ — Daniel Dencik.
Our judges wrote: ‘We both agreed that Italy had the better story. Italy described its scenes better than Denmark did, keeping the reader interested at all times, rather than Denmark’s story where it became dull. Italy’s story has a lot more fluent paragraphs, enabling the reader to read it easily, rather than in Denmark’s story, where most of the lines are dialogue, making it quite repetitive. Denmark’s story also creates a tense mood, which sort of sets the reader off, making the story uninteresting. On the other hand, Italy creates a relaxed mood. In Italy’s story you are able to see the triumphs and failures of a woman as she is trying to make her way up in the big city of Rome. Denmark’s ending is unsatisfying seeing how you don’t truly know what happens to them, if they keep the baby, stay together, or split apart. In the end we have come to the unanimous decision that Italy provided the better story.’
Our judges wrote: ‘ In today’s second round match, two relative underdogs of the world literature scene were pitted against each other. The respective authors however, Kristine Ong with her Equations of State and Maria Jose Navia with her #Moving, were coming off big victories over South Africa and Argentina respectively. So, as would be expected, this particular battle was engaging on every level.
Firstly, both stories had very interesting and unique plots. Equations of State was based around the rather extraordinary idea that the protagonist comes into contact with this mysterious man named Karl everyday on the bus. Nobody else can see him or talk to him. #Moving is centred around the concept that four completely distinct, unconnected individuals are trying to change their lives in some way. Throughout the majority of the story, it is difficult for the reader to make the connection but, towards the end, the deep psychological similarity becomes apparent.
I have decided to award this match to Chile however, mainly because Maria Navia was just more effective at conveying the idea and having an effect upon the audience’s mind than her South-East Asian counterpart. Navia does a really good job of forming deep connections in the reader’s mind with the different individuals in the story. You really start to have empathy for their positions in the world. She also is very effective at creating suspense and having a really psychological effect upon the reader.
The Philippines on the other hand, really makes none of these deep connections to the reader. The mysterious stranger, Karl, is described to some extent, yet this characterisation is very basic and almost superficial in a way. The great disappointment with the Filipino story is that so much more could’ve been done with the concept. Through a more image-based, descriptive story, the reader could’ve received some great insight into the main characters subconscious mind and perhaps started to have deep thoughts about the subconscious, alternate reality for himself.
In fairness, I don’t really think this is the effect the author wished to have. The piece was more of a study about the subconscious rather than a captivating example of its consequences. However, there must be a winner and, for the quality of and the interest conveyed through Maria Navia’s writing, Chile has won the match.’
Great work by the judges, who managed to reach consensus on some tight matches. This means that the line-ups for the quarterfinals are as follows:
Quarterfinal 1: Australia vs Peru
Quarterfinal 2: Italy vs Ethiopia
Quarterfinal 3: Montenegro vs Malaysia
Quarterfinal 4: Chile vs Iran
The winner of Quarterfinal 1 will face off with the winner of Quarterfinal 2 in the semifinals and likewise with Quarterfinals 3 and 4.