Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Global Novel by Adam Kirsch

I requested this book as soon as I read the title. It sounded interesting, and I'm always keen on seeing what people think about novels. The Global Novel is a discussion on the subject of world literature. It starts pretty abruptly, plunging the reader straight into a discussion on the criticisms against the subject of world literature.
"The question of whether world literature can exist - in particular, whether the novel, the preeminent modern genre of exploration and explanation, can be "global" - is another way of asking whether a meaningfully global consciousness can exist."
In other words, the stakes are high. After the introductory chapter, the author goes on to discuss:

Snow, by Orhan Pamuk
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Americanah by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq
Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels.

I didn't quite get the sense of an overarching argument, but it was an interesting discussion. I haven't read many of the books (and I don't really feel like reading any of them other than Ferrante and Murakami after reading this), but I was able to follow the discussion along. Perhaps I didn't get as much depth as I would if I had read the books, but it did make me think. In fact, this line by Mizumura made me think:
"Bilinguals [will] start taking their own country's literature less seriously than literature written in English - especially the classics of English literature, which are evolving into the universal cannon." 
It did give me pause because I read primarily in English, even though I'm technically trilingual. I don't read in Chinese (not unless it's Chinese comics, and even that is rare and limited to my childhood) and now I'm wondering how much I've missed by neglecting one language.

This is probably aimed mainly at students of literature, but anyone curious about the world of literature might be interested in this.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.


  1. This sounds like an interesting book. I always feel like I need to read all the books discussed in a book like this or else I'll miss out on something. I still feel that way about Reading Lolita in Tehran, although I really liked that one.

    1. I haven't read Reading Lolita in Tehran, though it's on my list. And yeah, I think it's best to read all the books first :p If this wasn't from NetGalley (and hence under a time limit) I might have done that.


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