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04 December 2009

National literatures

I suppose this link is the first I've done that's related to the nebulous concept of comparative literature. Another entry in the sometimes dull, often provocative, Author, Author series in The Guardian Review, here Pankaj Mishra gives some of his experience as a judge on international literary awards.

The story is of how local literatures develop, sometimes in opposition to western norms, sometimes, though, in opposition to nationalist tendencies (eg Joyce & Beckett). He talks about how publication in the West (ie in translation) depends on whether the work meets the West's expectations; so Egyptian novels about the role of women are OK, while Cuban literary mystery novels which don't criticise the Castro state (Leonardo Padura) are not. We want sex and salsa and dissidence from Cuba.

It's a short but thought-provoking piece. I'm sure these are themes I'll come back to.

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