Literary perspectives: An introduction
The re-transnationalization of literary criticism
Literary criticism in the more narrow (European) sense of the word – meaning texts discussing and criticizing recently published books – is today a very national affair. Almost all books reviewed in daily newspapers, weeklies, and journals are published in the country where the reviewing medium appears. Single reviews or general overviews of books written in other parts of the world and not (yet) translated – be they poetry, short stories, or novels – are extremely rare.
This was not always the case. Not so long ago, both newspapers and magazines regularly reported on and discussed contemporary literature published outside their respective domestic scenes. Many publications even had their own “literary correspondents”, stationed in Paris, Rome, and Madrid (or New York, Moscow, and Berlin). The focus was, of course, on the “bigger” literatures, written in French, German, Spanish, and English, but at least some efforts were made to widen the horizons of an educated and interested audience. Today, this type of outlook is almost completely limited to occasional themed issues and focal points published by literary journals. Even in this small sector of publishing, the situation is far from satisfying: the continuity is gone, and when a focal point or a theme issue is presented (often covering 50 or 100 years of a country’s literary history) the stress is put on the literary texts. If there is any literary criticism at all, it usually deals with one particular author. Articles painting a broad picture of what is really contemporary are rare exceptions.
The situation is not equally bad everywhere. In Germany you can – even in the cultural sections of the major daily newspapers – occasionally find well-informed reviews of, or at least comments on, newly published books from, for example, Poland, Ukraine, or Russia. Occasionally. In most other parts of Europe there is simply nothing.
There are several reasons for this development (the decline of the literary institution, changes in the publishing business, or even “globalization”) but it is safe to say that there is still a need – in the idealistic as well as the practical or professional sense – for a “re-transnationalization” of literary criticism.
“Literary perspectives” is a step in this direction. Eurozine’s new series of essays aims to provide an overview of different and diverse literary landscapes, describing the current literary climate in specific European countries, regions, or languages. The articles in this series are published bi-monthly. Written by renowned literary critics and authors based in the respective countries and regions, they will also represent different critical traditions and practices, and thus widen the meta-critical as well as the literary horizons of Eurozine and its readers.