Magazine article World Literature Today

The Global Novel: Writing the World in the 21st Century

Magazine article World Literature Today

The Global Novel: Writing the World in the 21st Century

Article excerpt

Adam Kirsch. The Global Novel: Writing the World in the 21st Century. New York. Columbia Global Reports. 2016. 112 pages.

WLT readers are attuned to the complexities of what makes a novel global and of the limitations of strictly academic ripostes on the topic. Adam Kirschs exemplary, succinct, and patently foundational view of the genre vis-a-vis worldliness subtly negotiates both conditions. The novelists this justly acclaimed interpreter of literariness and criticism examines are usually marshaled in larger studies, and accordingly three of the six chapters scrutinize known authors of presumably different literary traditions for truly original findings that are an essential report to the comparatist academy.

The novels Kirsch analyzes are not overly concerned with global perils but rather with clashes or escapes that alter personal reckonings, a choice that implies observing global novels as rooted in a way that is new to the readers but not to the authors. Testing present interpretative currents, the first chapter is triggered by the discontents assumed for world literature, namely making foreignness a literary commodity, literature politically virtuous and aesthetically challenging, and untranslatability.

It is evident that Kirsch has not sought the political security clearance committed native critics and authors demand of interpretations like his, and he assuredly concludes (in the chapter on Atwood and Houellebecq) that this form of globalism "is based primarily on the experience of modern Western societies. …

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