The Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing

The Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing

The Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing

The Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing


Keeping track of contemporary writing is by its nature difficult. What are the recent developments in Chinese or Israeli fiction? What has happened to poetry in Russia since the fall of Communism? Are we even up to date with the best novels or plays of English-speaking countries round the world? Every year, so much is published which we feel we should know about, that there's a strong need for a volume to evaluate it and put us on the track of what is most worth reading. This new Guide - the only work of its kind to cover world literature of the last thirty years - does just that: in twenty-eight lively and trenchant chapters it assesses the most important and interesting literary developments in all five continents. Taking 1960 as its starting-point, and coming right up to date, the book explores the recent writing of cultures as various as Australian and Spanish-American, French, Japanese, and Czech, Indian and New Zealand - and of course American, English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh. Each chapter discusses the literary and cultural contexts for authorship in its particular area, throwing light on a great number of significant writers - including household names such as Mishima, Toni Morrison, Derek Walcott, Patrick White, and G¿nter Grass, but setting alongside them many others who may be less familiar but whose work is often just as well worth reading. Combining hard information with intelligent opinion, the Guide offers a discriminating - and sometimes controversial - view of a broad range of contemporary literatures. Anyone interested in the state of world literature today will find the Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing a fascinating and essential reference book. Contributors... African Countries (Jeremy Harding); Arab Countries (Robert Irwin); Australia (Peter Craven); Brazil (John Gledson); Canada (Sandra Djwa); China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (Alison Bailey); Czech Republic and Slovakia (Igor H¿jek); England (James Wood); France (John Taylor); German-speaking countries (Rhys Williams); Greece (Peter Mackridge); Hungary (Richard Aczel); India (Richard Cronin); Ireland (Patricia Craig); Israel (Bryan Cheyette); Italy (Peter Hainsworth); Japan (Mark Morris); New Zealand (Iain Sharp); Poland (George Hyde with Wieslaw Powaga); Portugal (Maria Guterres); Russia (Robert Porter); Scandinavia (Janet Garton); Scotland (Kasia Boddy); Spain (Abigail Lee Six); Spanish America (Michael Wood); United States (Wendy Lesser); Wales (Ned Thomas); West Indies (Al Creighton)


What have writers been up to in France in recent years? Or in Israel? Or in Australia? Or, for that matter, in England? These are questions it would be good to have compact, authoritative answers to, if only we knew of somewhere to look for them. Surveys of contemporary writing are a need thinly provided for, however; they come either singly or not at all, and cover at most just one country or one language. This new Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing does a great deal better than that. It contains twenty- eight chapters and covers the recent literature of significantly more than that number of individual countries. To my knowledge, nothing else of the sort attempts the width and expertise of coverage we have aimed for here.

'Contemporary' and 'writing' are both terms that need to be made more precise. in the context of this Guide, 'contemporary' means since about 1960, so that a majority of the writers whose work is discussed will be still alive, and still producing. Each chapter is intended to describe what has been happening in this literature or that over the past thirty-five years. But there can be no rigid starting-date for surveys of this sort; there are a number of chapters in which what had been happening before 1960 is sufficiently important for its future effects to require description, not least in those countries whose recent political history has had profound consequences for their cultural life.

And then 'writing'. This I now find a happier, more generous term to use than 'literature', because it acknowledges the remarkable extent to which the once fiercely patrolled border between so-called 'creative' writing and other kinds has been opened up. There is more to a literature than simply poetry and fiction, and the contributors to this Guide were invited to look beyond those privileged genres when deciding what to include, to take in writing for the theatre, say, or autobiography, or essays, or criticism, where it seemed of a high enough quality locally to merit attention. in the main, however, it is novelists and poets who dominate these pages.

The idea of each chapter is that it should be succinct but thorough, naming the names that were thought most important and picking out the stylistic and ideological trends that have marked the literature in question over the past three decades. the Guide has been written by those well placed professionally not simply to describe the literature, but also to evaluate it:

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