Friday, May 27, 2016

Recalling books I was required to read in school

My prompt for this is this blog post at Que Leer on "Lecturas obligatorias en el mundo" (post in Spanish). The post presents a selective list of required school readings around the world (mostly in the West). As I look over the list, I realize that back in Puerto Rico my required reading in high school was very diverse as I can say I have read at least one book from every country listed in that post. Allow me to list the books from the list that I had to read with some commentary; one or two I have actually read on my own. I will list them by country as the post did. For some works that may be a bit lesser known to my English language readers, I am adding some informational links to help out.

  • Books read in Spain: 
    • Antonio Machado. Though I did not recall reading his full Antología Poética, I did read some of his poetry when studying Spanish Peninsular literature in high school. 
    • Don Quijote. This was my high school senior year required reading. In fact, I wrote my high school senior thesis paper on Don Quijote.
    • Pío Baroja. I did not read his El árbol de la ciencia, but again, I had to read short selections of his for that same Spanish Peninsular literature class. 
    • El Lazarillo de Tormes. Yep, same class as those others. 
    • I was not required to read Lord of the Flies (which apparently some Spaniards had to read, in translation) in my English classes nor in translation. 
    • El sí de las niñas. Read this play by Leandro Fernández de Moratín in that same Spanish Peninsular literature class. I remember hating it. 
    • La casa de Bernarda Alba. Ditto on which class I read this for. Also hated this play by
      Federico García Lorca.
    • Fuenteovejuna by Lope de Vega.  Lope is basically revered as English readers revere Shakespeare. I had to read this and some of his other plays throughout high school. In fact, if any of his plays were being performed in Puerto Rico at the time, schools taking field trips to see one was a common experience. 
    • I do not recall reading La Familia de Pascual Duarte by Camilo José Cela. However, it was a common required reading in some grades, so I may have just caught a lucky break. 
    • Pretty much every young student in Puerto Rican schools reads Platero y yo sooner or later. 
  • Books read in France. I have read Molière, a little Voltaire and Rimbaud, but it was not until I got to college. Have not read the others listed. 
  • Books read in the United States. I did not read any of the ones listed in high school. I did read a series of U.S. classics in English from the United States as part of my English classes. Heck, I was reading Mark Twain in 6th grade. 
  • Books read in Italy. I did not read any of the ones listed in school. However, I have read The Decameron; The Divine Comedy I did read in my high school years.  
  • Books from Germany. I did not read any of the ones listed in high school, but I read Goethe later on in college. 
  • Books read in Mexico.
    • I have not read Aura, but I have read other works by Carlos Fuentes. I probably had a short selection or two by him as required reading back then. 
    • Cien años de soledad. I read this on my own, and it is my all time favorite novel, which I make a point of rereading every few years or so. This novel is often seen as too complex to read in high school. So usually shorter works by Gabriel García Márquez are favored including La hojarasca (Leaf Storm. I had to read this one), Relato de un náufrago (not his best work if you ask me. I remember hating it in high school), and some other short fiction selections. Teachers back then had some leeway in choosing, but this author was pretty much mandatory.  
    • The Odyssey. I read this on my own back in high school. I am guessing they read it in translation in Mexico at some point or another.  I initially read it in Spanish translation. Since then, I have read it in English, the latest time it was the Robert Fagles translation. 
  • Books  read in Venezuela: 
    • Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo I was required to read in high school. I did not quite get it back then, in part due to the whole deal of narrative between the town in the time of
      Páramo and the later time when the town is a ghost town, and the protagonist talks to dead townspeople. I think if I gave it a try today I might have a bit more success. 
    • María by Jorge Isaacs was required reading. Some romantic novel I remember hating. Actually, a lot of that literature I read in Spanish happened to be romantic literature, which I did not particularly enjoy. Add to it the habit of teachers of dissecting books instead of actually letting us read them, and it is a miracle I managed to become an active reader in my life. Good thing free reading was encouraged at home. If it had depended on most of my school teachers back then, I would have probably become a non-reader. 
    • Rayuela by Julio Cortázar. I was not required to read this one, but reading some of his short fiction was required. I have Rayuela on my list of books to read someday. 
    • El Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges I did not read in high school. I read it on my own later. I did have to read some of his other shorter pieces in high school. 
    • Apparently Venezuelans were required to read The Diary of Anne  Frank. I was not then, and though I have read parts of it, I have not read the full book nor have any interest to do so. 

So, there you have it. Some things I was required to read when I was back in high school.

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