Damrosch, chair of Harvard University's department of comparative literature and founder of Harvard's Institute for World Literature, set out to counter a pandemic's restrictions on travel by exploring eighty exceptional books from around the globe. Following a literary itinerary from London to Venice, Tehran and points beyond, and via authors from Woolf and Dante to Nobel Prize-winners Orhan Pamuk, Wole Soyinka, Mo Yan, and Olga Tokarczuk, he explores how these works have shaped our idea of the world, and the ways in which the world bleeds into literature. To chart the expansive landscape of world literature today, Damrosch explores how writers live in two very different worlds: the world of their personal experience and the world of books that have enabled great writers to give shape and meaning to their lives.
Damrosch proceeds at a...leisurely pace, though he occasionally makes weightless associative leaps ... Damrosch avoids diffuseness by seizing on spatial coincidences ... Damrosch’s curriculum is encyclopaedic but at the same time fondly personal ... Damrosch sees travel as a mental and moral challenge, not Phileas Fogg’s brisk experiment in abbreviating space and accelerating time. Around the World in 80 Books takes us on a tour of the author’s global head, and while expanding our knowledge it enlarges our capacity for fellow-feeling.
An enlightening tour ... Damrosch’s richly conceived survey offers readers a colorful map for an illuminating, enlivening tour of their own libraries. Travel fans and literature lovers alike will find something to savor.