Reading my way through Hemon’s book—a handsome collection of 35 stories, one from nearly every major European country or language group (Ireland, for instance, is represented twice, with one story originally in English and another in Irish), mostly by writers born in the 1960s and 1970s—I was surprised by how familiar the work felt. In his own introduction, Hemon complains that the “American reader seems to be largely disengaged from literatures in other languages, which many see as yet another symptom of culturally catastrophic American isolationism.” There’s no doubt that there is very little market in America for works in translation. Yet this has hardly isolated the American reader, or the American writer: the currents of influence flow freely in both directions—as this anthology demonstrates. Julian Gough’s “The Orphan and the Mob” takes place in a distinctly Irish setting, but the broad, bawdy lines of its satire come from a tradition that goes back to Tristram Shandy (Irish/English) and continues in the work of Philip Roth. The romantic drama of Steinar Bragi’s “The Sky Over Thingvellir” (Iceland) reads like Updike crossed with Umberto Eco. Naja Marie Aidt’s “Bulbjerg” (Denmark) has an uncanny masculine anger and violence that we also see in Raymond Carver or Wells Tower.
There’s something a little bit ridiculous about continuing to use nationality as a primary label for writers now that literary culture has gone truly global.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
How is Globalization Affecting The Arts?
From a review in the New Republic of The Best European Fiction 2010 -Edited by Alexandar Hemon.