Initiated not by the moguls of FIFA (you already may have noticed that this World Cup goes without ™), but by Jeff VanderMeer himself, who in his flaming passion for literature and fiction has called for the best, the weirdest, the most imaginative and whimsical writers of this world to be nominated by us, the equally passionate readers and bloggers, and to be set against each other in a unique tournament of quill and ink (or tournament of typewriters, if you prefer) — the amazing First World Cup of Fiction!
Given my lack of knowledge about the tradition of fiction-writing (partly due to simple ignorance, partly to my illiteracy in the respective languages) in some of the participating countries, I will thoughtfully restrain myself to nominate some players that I regard as especially promising for this competition.
Let's start with the country I'm living in right now, my beloved and beautiful Argentina. The Silver Republic has enough top-class players to field not only a team, but a deadly host of champions with the ability to shred the paper-wasting and pompous ink-blobbing of any adversary. Take alone the field of the phantastic, and Argentina runs up with ingenious authors like Jorge Luis Borges, Leopoldo Lugones, and — more recently — Alejandro Dolina. Julio Cortázar adds a striking touch of the surreal. Enter the dystopic novel with Angélica Gorodischer. Or if you're rather into genre fiction, Liliana Bodoc ventures into the realm of epic fantasy, which is a novelty for Latin America. As you can see, there's hardly any field of literature where Argentina can be beaten. Especially its team captain Borges is a master of all styles, whose more-than-impressive work ranges from the essayistic to crime fiction to the phantastic short-story. With Borges teaming up with his sidekick Adolfo Bioy Casares, the opposing team won't stand a chance.
Mexico has got the one and only Carlos Fuentes. He's an oldschooler, no doubt, but alive and kickin'. A fearless player who won't accept any bullshit from his opponents, which are many (first and foremost the Roman Catholic Church and the US of A).
Italy's Umberto Eco, the Milan Mastermind, can be seen as a fading talent. The critics who accuse him of having written his last enjoyable novel in the 1980s are legion. And indeed, at times his writing moves seem to be too predictable or lacking of depth. But let the critics try to smear his legacy, I hold his Foucault's Pendulum in highest esteem. It's no less than an all-time favourite. Eco still enjoys the support of a huge fanbase that will do its very best to back him in the match. Besides, Eco is not alone, but comes in a team with Italo Calvino, the great cosmocomical Warlock of Turin.
The Netherlands show up with the quirky-but-very-serious Harry Mulisch. If the English-speaking world hasn't discovered him yet, this World Cup is the time to check him out, because this guy in The Discovery of Heaven does what Dan Brown and the Army of his Clones will never be able to do.
Last but not least, let's nominate a Spanish champion. I'd like to introduce Ana María Matute, who with her Olvidado rey Gudú proved that you definitely still can write old-school epic fantasy without either imitating Tolkien or going grim and gritty. As far as I know, this mythic masterpiece hasn't been translated to English yet. But if you can read Spanish, you should better sooner than later immerse yourself in this wonderful piece of imagination.
It's tournament time.