World Literature Today

World Literature Today is a publication that is based out of Monnet Hall at the University of Oklahoma. It is one of the longest running literary periodicals in the United States, and its founder, Dr. Roy Temple House, was endorsed for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1948. World Literature Today is a periodical that discusses literature across the world. However, the organization behind the periodical does much more extensive work. Every one to two years, World Literature Today hosts a Puterbaugh festival at the University of Oklahoma for Puterbaugh Fellow of the year. The Puterbaugh Fellow is generally an international author who has gathered acclaim throughout their career. The Puterbaugh festivals are funded by a donation from J. G. Puterbaugh, a philanthropist who loved poetry, and their goal is to celebrate great international authors. This event exposes students and faculty to some of the most influential authors from around the world. The winners of the prestigious award are often current or future Nobel laureates. World Literature Today also offers a variety of other opportunities for students of all ages, including opportunities to attend Puterbaugh and Neustadt festivals, gain experience editing and marketing the periodical, and taking World Literature Today classes. World Literature Today also hosts a book club, of which I am a member. This book club meets approximately once per month. Each month a different book by an international author is read and discussed at the meeting. This provides an amazing opportunity for undergraduate like myself to be exposed to literature from around the world.

The most recent novel read by the World Literature Today book club was The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, winner of the 2017 Puterbaugh prize. This is one of her more recent novels, published in 2014. The novel is a collection of four short stories, in which the protagonist dies differently in each story. The story insightfully examines the dramatic effects that can result from one small change in a person’s life. Stylistically, the novel is unique in several ways. First, between each short story, there is an intermission that investigates the changes that occurred because of the one small life change. And second, there are no names in the story. At times, it is nearly impossible to keep track of which character is which, who is the protagonist, and personality of any character. Although it’s challenging to ascertain why Ms. Erpenbeck made these choices, it seems to generalize this individual’s experience and make it more applicable to each reader. Perhaps because of these stylistic choices, I find myself contemplating the effect of one small change in my life. It has been an engaging book to read, and one that, without World Literature Today’s book club, I would not have had the opportunity to experience.

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