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

Adam Kirsch. Columbia Global Reports, $12.99 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-9977229-0-1
This slender volume from award-winning poet and critic Kirsch (The People and the Book) contributes little to the ongoing debate over the definition and function of world literature. He starts by asking the standard questions: Can a book ever be truly global, since it is written in a specific language and typically deals with topics close to the writer’s own homeland? Does translated fiction tend to look too much alike, aiming to please a certain market? Kirsch addresses these questions through close readings of selected novels from eight authors. These include Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, and Orhan Pamuk’s Snow. Kirsch asks readers to wait patiently as he wades through detailed plot summaries of each novel before reaching unsurprising conclusions. For example, Americanah illustrates the ways that a “migrant’s experience of America... serves as a route to the creation of a global political consciousness.” Murakami’s characters, though living in Tokyo, in their “contentedly rootless” existence convey something universal about the human spirit in the 21st century. The current conversation among literary critics about world literature has now persisted for over 20 years, and Kirsch doesn’t have enough original insight to justify a fresh salvo at the subject. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2017
Release date: 04/01/2017
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