Australia vs. Cameroon [Women's World Cup of Literature: Quarterfinals]
From here on out, multiple judges will be voting on each of the matches and the “score” will be an accumulation of these votes.
Just to recap, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Australia) got here by first beating Sweden and Camilla Läckberg’s The Stranger and then upending Nigeria and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.
Dark Heart of the Night by Léonora Miano (Cameroon) is here by beating Switzerland and Noëlle Revas’s With the Animals and then sneaking by Ecuador and Alicia Yánez Cossío’s Beyond the Islands.
The winner of this match will go up against Canada and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake next Wednesday, July 8th.
Here we go!
M. Lynx Qualey: Cameroon
Both novels have a murder at the center. But while Burial Rites feels like an ordinary Anglophone novel set in nineteenth century Iceland, with ordinary plays at character, plotting, and change, Dark Heart of the Night—although flawed—moves through its material with power, ambition, and a twinned fear and fearlessness.
Rachel Crawford: Cameroon
I chose Dark Heart of the Night over Burial Rites because of Miano’s honest portrayal of the frightening human capacity to survive. More impressively, of its sheer slap in the face to anyone who thinks they have read Heart of Darkness, one of the canonical works we have all read, and finished it thinking they had any understanding of the affects of the colonization of Africa. A worthy winner of the quarterfinals in my opinion.
Lizzy Siddal: Australia
While Cameroon fields possibly the most shocking contestant in this competition, the storytelling is subservient to the polemic. There’s too much telling, not enough showing. After the—let’s just call it, harrowing—event at the centre, the pages thereafter lost any form of narrative drive or interest for me. The dilemma at the end is the same as at the start. While this may be true to life, it’s not my kind of literature.
Australia, on the other hand, fields one of finest debuts I’ve had the pleasure of reading. A way of life is recreated making the reader experience the entire discomfort of living in nineteenth century Iceland. The dilemma of housing a convicted murderess awaiting execution in the bosom of one’s own family is portrayed convincingly. Characterization of hosts, spiritual counselors and murderess possesses a subtlety that is entirely lacking in the Cameroon entry. The ending, no surprise given that it is a historical fact, is approached with such finesse that it nevertheless left me feeling a little teary,
Hannah Chute: Australia
While both of these novels are powerful tales of death and guilt in harsh lands, Burial Rites pulls ahead through the energy of its characters.
Lori Feathers: Australia
Both novels succeed in conveying a fully realized, unusual setting and interesting moral ambiguities
But with its wonderfully executed narrative and precisely drawn characters Burial Rites compels you to devour it in great, greedy gulps and as such, out-scores Dark Heart of the Night.
Margaret Carson: Australia
Grotesque crimes figure in both Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and Léonora Miano’s Dark Heart of the Night, but Kent’s expansive narrative field and versatile storytelling, not to mention the knock-out first-person voice of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the convicted murderess who revisits her past while awaiting execution, give Burial Rites the edge over Dark Heart.
Australia! To be honest, I wouldn’t have given Australia much of a chance going into the overall competition, but whatever, Hannah Kent is now in the semifinals, ready to meet up against Margaret Atwood!