Monday, 1 April 2013

The Lenin Peace Prize Reading Challenge

Although we have abundant reasons to bemoan the collapse of the Soviet Union, the last bulwark and greatest hope against the sinister designs of capitalism upon the world, few will include among its losses the cancellation of the International Lenin Peace Prize. To the vast majority of the world, sadly now too brainwashed by capitalist propaganda to attribute anything positive to the former USSR, this illustrious award will strike a note of ignorance as sonorous as the utterance of Finnegans Wake does to the common reader. But those whose brain cells have withstood the relentless onslaught of fast food, social networks, cable TV and other mind-dulling, body-killing superfluous commodities of the decadent West, will recognise it as the greatest cultural award of the 20th century. From 1950 to 1989, during which period it was in activity, it rivalled, indeed surpassed, the Nobel Prize for Literature in terms of good taste, scope, and diversity in its exemplary pursuit of thinkers, scientists, artists and, most relevant to us, writers to honour. If the Royal Swedish Academy, that backward monarchist institution, could be said, and is said, to be Eurocentric, the International Lenin Prize for Strengthening Peace Among Peoples, true to its cosmopolitan principles and in strict repudiation of territorial chauvinism, in its fleeting but memorable existence chose recipients from China, North Korea, India, Canada, Japan, Chile, Indonesia, Colombia, Burma, Syria, Mexico, and yes, even the UK, the USA, France, Germany and other imperialistic countries, in an unequivocal sign of its fair play, intellectual autonomy and moral rectitude.

Now in memory of its grandiose history and importance in the fields of culture and literature, I’ve decided to host the first Lenin Peace Prize Reading Challenge. This, I am sure, will be a fun and stimulating way of reading some of the authors on the list of recipients. After all which serious reader can avoid reading the great novels of Jorge Amado? Or the humane poetry of Pablo Neruda? And the autobiographies of Denis Nowell Pritt? And the extraordinary history books of Hewlett Johnson?

Levels of Participation

Five Star (General Secretary of the Communist Party): Read at least sixty books from amongst the recipients.

Four Star (Red Guard): Read fifty-nine books.

Three Star (Bolshevist): Read fifty-eight books.

Two Star (Communist Party Card-Carrying Member): Read fifty-seven books.

One Star (Che Guevara T-Shirt Wearer): Read just fifty-six books.

Fellow Traveller Prize

There is a prize for those who go for the Five Star level. The first one to read and review sixty books wins. The prize is a $25 gift card to Amazon or Book Depository. Multiple books by the same author are allowed.

Official Rules

1 Read all books between April 1, 2013 and January 21, 2014. Yes, I know it’s not a lot of time, but for those who think this is a crafty way of making sure no one reaches the Five Star level, let me say that I chose this symbolic date for the challenge’s end because it marks the death of the great Lenin. Do not fight history!

2 Sign up in the comments section. Also put up a challenge post on your own blog. Please use a link to your challenge post, not your blog home page.

3 Blogless people are excluded.

4 In your sign up post you have to include the level of participation and the list of books you want to review. So think wisely before you post it, it can’t be changed afterwards. Any changes during the challenge will invalidate all your work up until then and you’ll have to start from zero again.

5 Overlap with other challenges is not permitted! The International Lenin Peace Prize Reading Challenge demands your full attention and commitment. I will be monitoring your blogs carefully; if I find any overlap in your choices, you will be disqualified!

6 Re-reads count. Self-published books count, of course, because they’re works of love and not mass-produced for capitalist lucre. Audiobooks and E-books do not count since they’re the tools capitalism is using to manipulate our minds.

7 As you progress, please link to your reviews on the review list page.  Reviews are not necessary, unless you are going for the prize, in which case only books reviewed count. When you finish, please link to your wrap-up posts on the wrap-up page.

8 Citizens of the United States of the America, the heart of the evil capitalist empire, are banned from the challenge!

The list of authors can be found in Wikipedia. All genres are allowed.

In order to show you how it’s done, here’s my list of the sixty books I’ll be reading:

Jorge Amado, Showdown
Jorge Amado, Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon
Jorge Amado, The Discovery of America by the Turks
Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children
Bertolt Brecht, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich
Bertolt Brecht, The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Bertolt Brecht, Life of Galileo
Louis Aragon, Holy Week
Danilo Dolci, To Feed the Hungry
Danilo Dolci, Sicilian Lives
Danilo Dolci, Report from Palermo
W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
W.E.B. Du Bois, Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil
Miguel Angel Asturias, The President
Miguel Angel Asturias, Men of Maize
Miguel Angel Asturias, The Mirror of Lida Sal
Yiannis Ritsos, Selected Poems 1938-1988
Miguel Otero Silva, Dead Houses
Mahmoud Darwish, A River Dies of Thirst: journals
Mahmoud Darwish, The Butterfly's Burden
Mahmoud Darwish, Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems
Álvaro Cunhal, Até Amanhã, Camaradas
Álvaro Cunhal, Cinco Dias, Cinco Noites
Álvaro Cunhal, Um Risco na Areia
Álvaro Cunhal, A Estrela de Seis Pontas
Hewlett Johnson, The Socialist Sixth of the World
Hewlett Johnson, Christians and Communism
Hewlett Johnson, The Secrets of Soviet Strength
Anna Seghers, The Seventh Cross
Ilya Ehrenburg, The Tempering of Russia
Ilya Ehrenburg, Chekhov, Stendhal and Other Essays
Ilya Ehrenburg, The Stormy Life of Lasik Roitschwantz
Yves Farge, Le sang de la corruption
Yves Farge, Rebelles, soldats et citoyens. Souvenirs d'un Commissaire de la République
Yves Farge, Témoignage sur la Chine et la Corée
Howard Fast, The incredible Tito
Howard Fast, Being Red
Howard Fast, Citizen Tom Paine
Pablo Neruda, Memoirs
Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions
Pablo Neruda, Canto General
Baldomero Sanín Cano, El humanismo y el progreso del hombre
Baldomero Sanín Cano, Divagaciones filológicas y apólogos literarios
Baldomero Sanín Cano, Crítica y arte
Nicolás Guillén, El diario que a diario
Nicolás Guillén, El son entero
Nicolás Guillén, España: poema en cuatro angustias y una esperanza
Denis Nowell Pritt, From Right to Left
Denis Nowell Pritt, Brasshats and Bureaucrats
Denis Nowell Pritt, The Defence Accuses

Now let’s all have fun reading great books and make the world a better, more loving and tolerant place through literature!


  1. Best. Challenge. Ever. Comrade. As a longtime decadent running dog capitalist pig from "the heart of the evil capitalist empire," even I am tempted to defect to be able to vie for the title of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the book blogosphere!

  2. Hardcore. Was relieved to find no rule disqualifying the reading of eligible works in translation. Or perhaps it was already implied...

    To "strengthened" peace!

  3. I am tempted to join but the pull of reality TV and McDonald's French Fries may win out. I just need to focus upon the example of the great world statesman Kim Il-sung to stay focused I I think that at least I may make it through a few books this year.

  4. What do I get if I read 55 books? One four-pointed star?

    Oh, wait, I'm banned from the challenge already before it's even begun.

  5. A good excuse to revisit Asturias, Brecht, Du Bois and introduce myself to my Amado books sitting unread all these years. Since you've banned the evil empire (where the need is greatest) I'll carry on as a "fellow traveler."

  6. That rading list could be a lot worse. No works by Kruschev or Allende or - I am at the Wiki page - who are all these people? Hey, there's Rockwell Kent! I would read something by him.

    Anyway, I denounce myself as a deviationist wrecker and will report to the re-education camp.

  7. To everyone who replied, thank you for getting into the spirit of the joke :)