What it means to be X, written by X
October 19, 2008 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of writings on national cultural identity by nationals of the country in question in any language.

I'm not interested in academic or scientific sociological or anthropological studies but rather something more literary or philosophical in the lines of "Labyrinth of Solitude" by Octavio Paz on Mexicans or Eduardo Lourenço's "Labyrinth of Longing" on the Portuguese. They can also be shorter works or pop culture pieces such as Metafilter's own Miguel Cardoso charming essays on the Portuguese national quirks and peculiarities.
posted by lucia__is__dada to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I very highly recommend the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru's book: The Discovery of India. It was written while Nehru was imprisoned by the British for civil disobedience and consists of letters he wrote to his daughter Indira (future Prime Minister of India) so that he could be a part of her life while in prison. Amazon has excerpts from the book so take a look at those and see if this interests you. The book provides wonderful perspective on the situation in India and its place in the world from an amazing intellectual. His prose is often very beautiful and definitely has literary merit.
posted by peacheater at 9:20 AM on October 19, 2008

Best answer: Lu Xun's writings and criticisms on the Chinese national character.
posted by monocot at 9:54 AM on October 19, 2008

Best answer: As far as literature goes, James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has a lot to do with his exploring what it means to be Irish (at a time when Ireland was losing its cultural heritage, so to speak.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:40 AM on October 19, 2008

Best answer: Martin Mull - The History of White People in America is satirical, but likely as useful as "Stuff White People Like."
posted by rhizome at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2008

Best answer: Michael King, Being Pakeha, on what it is to be a white New Zealander. Contrast with Gordon McLaughlan's The Passionless People.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:55 AM on October 19, 2008

Best answer: I, Rigoberta Menchu is a classic, and a beautiful self examination of a cultural icon (and recently failed politician).
posted by dskinner at 12:52 PM on October 19, 2008

Best answer: related links:
what one novel is most representative of each country?
books about places
Mefi Wiki list of book-recommendation AskMes; can scan thru for books on specific places you might be interested in
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:21 PM on October 19, 2008

Best answer: For Argentina: Facundo: civilización y barbarie by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Psicología de la viveza criolla by Julio Mafud.
posted by languagehat at 5:52 PM on October 19, 2008

I heartily second Discourses of the Vanishing. I think it is astonishing. I've read it several times and am just finally getting a good sense of it. It is dense, and written by an anthropologist, but I'm not sure it should stay off your list because it is in the philosophical and even literary corner of cultural anthropology.
posted by umbú at 7:09 PM on October 19, 2008

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