Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany's Pact with Books

Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany's Pact with Books

Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany's Pact with Books

Recoding World Literature: Libraries, Print Culture, and Germany's Pact with Books

Synopsis

From the current vantage point of the transformation of books and libraries, B. Venkat Mani presents a historical account of world literature. By locating translation, publication, and circulation along routes of "bibliomigrancy"-the physical and virtual movement of books-Mani narrates how world literature is coded and recoded as literary works find new homes on faraway bookshelves. Mani argues that the proliferation of world literature in a society is the function of a nation's relationship with print culture-a Faustian pact with books. Moving from early Orientalist collections, to the Nazi magazine Weltliteratur, to the European Digital Library, Mani reveals the political foundations for a history of world literature that is at once a philosophical ideal, a process of exchange, a mode of reading, and a system of classification. Shifting current scholarship's focus from the academic to the general reader, from the university to the public sphere, Recoding World Literature argues that world literature is culturally determined, historically conditioned, and politically charged.

Excerpt

The Universe (which others call a Library) is composed of an
indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries…. Like
all the men of the Library, in my younger days I traveled; I have
journeyed in quest of a book, perhaps the catalog of catalogs.

—JORGE luis borges, “The Library of Babel” (1949)

My dazzled eyes could no longer distinguish the world that existed
within the book from the book that existed within the world.

—ORHAN pamuk, The New Life (1998)

The universe arranged like a library, the world indistinguishable from the book. Two authors from two different parts of the world: Borges, the Argentine modernist, once director of the National Public Library in Buenos Aires; Pamuk, the Turkish Nobel Laureate, founder of the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul. the former wrote in Spanish, the latter writes in Turkish; their literary careers are separated by a few decades of the twentieth century. and yet, through their penchant for material collections, they cross paths in fictionalizing two important institutions of literary circulation: the book and the library. As these authors juxtapose the fictions of the universe and the world with those of the library and the book, they pose fundamental questions about literature’s relationship to the book, the library, and the wor the quest for a “catalog of catalogs.” the narrator travels in the hope that such a catalog is the key to understanding the classification of the contents; that it might somehow help to make some sense of the indefinite and infinite nature of the library. in The New Life, the protagonist Osman ends up in a much smaller, private, “finite” library, and creates an inventory of . . .

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