Although English is the most-spoken language in the world and has significant dominance in the world of literature, it is merely one of many languages used by people of different cultures across the world. With the rise of globalisation and the prevalence of the internet, it is becoming more common to see books that reflect cultural values different from English-speaking nations, broadening from British and Eurocentric values to tell a broad range of stories about people’s lives irrespective of their country of origin.
Reading across a variety of cultures allows one a wider view of the world and recognition of different cultural views and values. I myself am an admirer of the works of Russian novelists, especially Dostoyevsky and Nabokov, for their unique approach to writing fiction. Many have described Russia’s geographical location as responsible for its different perspective that comes through in its fiction, embracing neither the values of Western Europe nor that of Asia.
It is also becoming increasingly common to see works by Asian authors written in English. Mao’s Last Dancer is one of the best-known instances of this, a work of fiction with strong ties to the historical context of Chairman Mao’s Communist regime in China and the social consequences of the Cultural Revolution. However, what makes any novel truly good is how it connects with and attempts to explain human lives, which Li Cunxin manages effectively. Haruki Murakami is another one of my favourite authors, who has become popular and successful worldwide despite his books being initially written in Japanese and often exploring bizarre themes or ideas.
A work that has been translated from one language into another recognises its quality as a piece of literature. Many of the greatest works of the Western canon were not originally written in English. The works of French authors such as Proust, Voltaire, Hugo and Camus have profoundly influenced the history of literature because of the revolutionary ideas that they proposed at the time. Then there are German authors such as Herman Hesse and Günter Grass whose philosophical writings questioned the European school of thought, and the Russian novelists that I mentioned earlier that expanded the creative boundaries of the novel.
Language is a powerful tool; it has shaped our discourse for millennia into the society that we are today. Literature is in many ways becoming much more globally interconnected, with contributions from people all over the world expanding the creative boundaries of the medium. Your writing is able to contribute to a truly global discussion, with anyone who has a computer and internet access being able to comment on this blog and share their thoughts, feelings and opinions with others.
This week, I invite you to consider how expanding global interconnectedness is affecting communication between different people across the world. Are culturally dissimilar nations becoming more similar as the result of globalisation? If so, is this a bad thing? This raises potential questions about whether it is better to develop an isolated, potentially unique perspective or engage in a broader range of ideas from others. Consider writing about certain cultural philosophies or events in your writing, or applying your own understanding to that of another country’s way of life.
Writing has been expanding its borders for centuries, and is now spreading across the world faster than ever. Right now your writing can contribute to this vast, rich world of global literature and be read by people all over the world.