The Boring, Unplayful, Unoriginal Global Novel

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“What are the consequences for literature? From the moment an author perceives his ultimate audience as international rather than national, the nature of his writing is bound to change. In particular one notes a tendency to remove obstacles to international comprehension. . .

“More importantly the language is kept simple. Kazuo Ishiguro has spoken of the importance of avoiding word play and allusion to make things easy for the translator. Scandinavian writers I know tell me they avoid character names that would be difficult for an English reader.”

At the New York Review Book Blog, Tim Parks makes the case that the globalization of literature has dulled writer’s senses of local color and nuance.

Parks further makes the claim that writers seeking global readership are all beholden to the same bland, politically-correct politics, as well as the same globally-recognized “literary” flourishes:

“If culture-specific clutter and linguistic virtuosity have become impediments, other strategies are seen positively: the deployment of highly visible tropes immediately recognizable as ‘literary’ and ‘imaginative,’ analogous to the wearisome lingua franca of special effects in contemporary cinema, and the foregrounding of a political sensibility that places the author among those ‘working for world peace.'”


Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →