What is Global Literature? (13 November 2016) Discussion on WhatsApp

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Waheeda: Let me begin with terms Global literature and World literature as pointed out by Sanjay. I agree with Mr. Alok about the difference between these two though in general both r considered synonymous. Because if we see the Oxford def. Of world literature it’s as follows:

‘A body of work drawn from many nations and recognized as literature throughout the world.
2(The sum of) the literature of the world’

If we see the definition here given, it is in a way in context with what we are discussing today as global literature. So to make a literature global let’s know what is globalisation?
As per given def: Globalization refers to the ways in which forces like travel, migration, religious conversion, trade, war, colonization, and the general circulation of ideas increase connectivity and interdependence of regional cultures; they increase the interactions between groups of people that previously may have had little or no contact with each other.
Then what is literature? I believe it’s the written form of ideas, stories, philosophies, histories, imaginations of a particular region or group. Then what makes it global ?
Any work that transcends the political, ethnic, provincial barriers and endears the mass of minds irrespective of nation, religion or political leniency….so literature that comes under this category is global literature

Alok: Waheeda, I would respectfully like to put forth my opinion that ‘literature’ cannot be seen in the lights of ‘dictionary’. For a dictionary, the terms Global and Worldly can surely be synonymous. However, the two, cannot be concomitant if we care about the notions the words do have.
The classic novels of Thackeray, if we are talking about the classics, are great to be read and admired in the English nation as well as in the different parts of the world. But we certainly cannot term them as phenomena of ‘global literature’. Whereas, the plays of Ibsen discuss the situation of women (A Doll’s House) which more or less is true in every corner of the world and thus, to me, (or else who believes) Ibsen’s work should be global literature rather than the classics by Thackeray.

Usman: My point in this ongoing conversation, if we look at the term global, which roughly means the whole world, literature can take that stand and at the same time cannot be global. If we look at the works of Shakespeare, that can be called a global literature because his works, I can say, spark the light to many literary items globally.
But, looking at some literary icons of this generation can we say there is that global literature??
Of course, there is, if you look at the works of Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, you all will agree with me that their works are not only confined to the African continent only and you can say their works gave people of other region the taste of how Africa is.
In my own understanding, any literature piece can be termed global regarding the content of that work. If a work is written in a local language, without doubt, you ca say that work is confined within that community or culture. So in globalization of literature, language plays an important role that none can ignore.
Lets look at this author Mario Puzo. If you look at his novels you can see, he is interested in writing only about the mafia, so I can’t see his work been global because the theme he is talking about is only familiar within the latin community.
In a nutshell, I strongly believe there is global and non-global literature!

Alok: Very well put Usman. I agree with your argument. Indeed, language plays an important role. You got it completely right. If someone writes only in confinement, in the terms of themes, that literature cannot be declared as global literature even if that’s being read by readers worldwide.

Sanjay: I strongly oppose to the view that language plays any role in the global acceptance of art.  If that was so,  then so many authors would never had any existence in the world of literature.  Rabindranath Tagore,  Pablo Neruda,  Orhan Pamuk,  many more… all wrote in their local languages.  Later their works were translated in numerous languages around the world.  If a work is termed to be a “Global”  literature,  then the main feature of it is how it has the local flavour and context within it and how it can still influence a global audience when it encounters with diverse cultural contexts or linguistic arena.

Charanjit: Global has a philosophical connotation, too. As critics say,Trump represents antiGlobal sentiment…

Alok: Sanjay, you have answered your own question in your own argument:
quoting your words “Later their works were translated in numerous languages around the world.” This is only after the translation that the world came to know about Derrida also! That’s why, I still stand with Usman on that point. Outside India, there are rare people who know about Makhan Lal Chaturvedi or Dinbandhu Nirala! Language does have a role to play if you want your message to be conveyed to the world. Either you have to write in a ‘global’ language or someone else does that for you in the form of translation.

Ankit: I believe human aspirations, emotions and sufferings are tied  by a common bond, literature becomes global when the writer goes deep into human psyche. Language ceases to be a barrier as people seem to relate to characters even while reading translated work. We may regard works of Tolstoy, gg Marquez, Murakami, Orhan Pamuk and Dostoevsky as proof of the fact.  However, I do believe that we could gain more by reading a global classic in its original language.

Sanjay: Mr.  Alok, if I said so,  then what i meant is that if anyone writes in “confinement” in their own local languages or theme that does not mean that the work of art has less global impact.  If you take an example ( as you rightly put) of Thackeray,  and translate it into various languages then too it will not have any global impact because the works has limited impact factor with the global socio cultural arena transcending time and geographical boundaries. So,  I stand on my view that language does not play any crucial role in making an art global,  rather the thought and universal theme that makes them so.

Sanjay: I agree with you Ankit,  as often it is said about Rabindranath Tagore’s “Gitanjali” that the Bengali Version of “Gitanjali”  and the English version has become two different texts completely. Reading a global classic in local language makes the experience sweeter. However,  the thoughts or expression in “Gitanjali” was much more crucial to make it a literary text with global acceptance.

Waheeda: I would like to add one last opinion of mine…..I feel that in all genres of literature… Poetry is d one that comes most under global literature…. At least 80% of d themes are global….common to humanity of d entire world…

You can know more about Global Literature and Alok Mishra’s viewpoint on that: Global Literature