The Obligation to Be a Literary Tour Guide

Tim Parks:

But globalization is not uniform, and not always so kind. It can happen that a writer remains absolutely trapped in his local community, perhaps well known for a restricted group, but unable to project him or herself outside it. I think of the fine South Tyrolese novelist Joseph Zoderer, who yearns to be an international novelist and has had his work translated in some countries, but never in English, and who finds himself constantly labelled as the Tyrolese writer. To publish successfully he has to write towards this community; when he seeks to write about matters outside it, neither his own community nor the outer world are interested. Likewise there are many writers from ex-colonies or simply the developing world who find they have to address the western world about their now distant home; publishers are immediately less interested if they seek to address other issues (I have heard this from a successful young Chinese novelist in London, and from a Surinamese in Holland). I say “have to” with the implied condition, if they want to be well and traditionally published. It is our desire for money and celebrity that binds us.

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