An insightful addition to the Columbia Global Reports roster.

A critical appreciation of “world literature,” highlighting works that combine specifics of locality with global reach.

Like “world music,” the very notion of world literature has become problematic, weighted with notions of cultural imperialism, dilution, elitism, and what Kirsch (Jewish Studies/Columbia Univ.; The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature, 2016) terms “the original sin of translation itself.” Does simple translate better than complexity? Do novels that appeal to the lowest common denominator stand a better chance of crossing borders than ones that are unique to the culture that spawned them? Is the whole issue “just another way of asking whether a meaningfully global consciousness can exist”? A poet and critic, the author finds plenty of literary value in novels that have found a readership well beyond the author’s homeland. He matches six of the books that he surveys into pairs, and some of these pairings can initially seem arbitrary. Sure, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility of an Island might both be categorized as “dystopian,” but even Kirsch admits that “writers more different than Atwood and Houllebecq can hardly be imagined—the Canadian feminist and the French misogynist,” although he makes a case for some sort of shared moral vision and social criticism. Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 and Roberto Bolaño's 2666 are both epic, doorstop volumes with numbers in their titles, though the critical receptions to the two were very different. Kirsch is shrewd on what he terms “a new genre of English-language fiction…call it migrant literature,” which is less about an immigrant’s arrival than a transitional passage, one that reinforces the notion of globalization in novels whose cultural roots are tougher to untangle. The author finishes with the popular and critical triumph of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, which are so personal and specific to Naples yet so universal in theme.

An insightful addition to the Columbia Global Reports roster.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9977229-0-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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