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

Columbia Global Reports. Apr. 2017. 112p. ISBN 9780997722901. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9780997722918. LIT
A conversation has been ongoing for years as to whether or not, with an increase in translated literature and a growing worldwide consciousness, literature can transcend national borders and traditions, and speak to and for a single global community. If such a universal literature is possible, would it be good, or would it be mediocre, devoid of intricacy and nuance, easily palatable and ready for mass consumption? Kirsch (director, master's program in Jewish studies, Columbia Univ.; Why Trilling Matters) here argues that global novels exist, and that they are good novels. Focusing on eight books, the author demonstrates that world literature does not take on a single form but rather allows for variation, which prevents it from becoming a one-size-fits-all commodity. Owing to the small size of the book, some of Kirsch's arguments, such as that a push for global literature means more than a push for more works translated into English, are not fully realized and remain unconvincing.
VERDICT While far from a comprehensive treatise on the subject, Kirsch's analysis thoughtfully adds to the existing conversation, making a persuasive case for the global novel. Best suited for academic libraries.
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