Beyond Commodification

Ideally, every good literary work written in any language should have a chance to be read around the world at least through its translation into an international language (which in today’s world, like it or not, is English).

But as we all know, publishing it is not only a cultural endeavor, but also a business. And often business considerations become the dominant factor in selecting genres or types of works to be translated into English.

If a certain work is considered as a successful product in the market, then there are interests to find similar works that would fit that formula. We can see such a thing happened in the case of “magical realism” in South American literature. It became the main representation of, or even identical with, South American literature, whereas South American literature itself is actually much more diverse than only one genre or one style of fiction writing. To give another case, lately Eka Kurniawan’s works were deemed to be a representation of Indonesian literature to the world and this spurred an interest to find similar works.

This limits the chance of other stories that don’t fit the mold of the successful genre to break into the international market. The success of magical realism, for example, had overshadowed the brilliance of other authors who wrote in the same era, like Clarice Lispector, which made her remain unknown in the Anglophone world until lately.

Is “commodification” or “business interest” the sole cause of this? Are there other factors? And what are the unique cases where stories or works of literature from a foreign country that didn’t fit the norm broke into the international market and were received well.

Laura Prinsloo (IDN)
Linda Christanty (IDN)
Shenaz Patel (MUS)
Oliver Precht (DEU)

Manneke Budiman (IDN)


21 August 2019


10:30 - 12:30


Teater Kecil, Taman Ismail Marzuki
Jl. Cikini Raya No. 73


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