World Literature is a concept that appeared in March 2007 when the french newspaper Le Monde published on March 16, 2007, at the heart of the presidential campaign that was to lead to the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, of a manifesto entitled For a French World Literature, followed, in May of the same year, by a collective work entitled For a World-Literature, edited by Michel Le Bris, Jean Rouaud and Eva Almassy and bringing together the contributions of several French-speaking authors from whole world. A year before the publication of the Manifesto for a world-literature and the collective work, in an article published on March 19, 2006 in Le Monde and entitled The Francophonie Yes… The Ghetto, No! (La Francophonie, Oui… Le Ghetto, Non!), Alain Mabanckou already denounced the centralism of French literature and the marginalization of other spaces of French expression. His text, augmented, will be published the following year in the collective work For a Literature-World in French.
In his manifesto ‘For a World-Literature’ in French, Michel Le Bris recalls that he had “launched the word” world-literature in 1992 in the collective work For a Traveling Literature, as well as in the review Gulliver a year later. The term emancipated itself from the literary field on the occasion of the 2007 presidential campaign with the publication of the manifesto entitled For a literature-world in French in the newspaper Le Monde on March 16, 2007. World literature can be compared to Édouard Glissant’s concept of Tout-Monde (All-World), which led to the creation of the Institut du Tout-Monde in 2007.
In the English-speaking world, the concept of World Literature has been constantly redefining itself since Goethe from his idea of Weltliteratur. In 2003, in the midst of the crisis of the gulf war, the controversy over what is World Literature was revived with David Damrosh‘s book “What is World Literature? ». This disciplinary controversy is above all a disciplinary debate of Comparative Literature regularly put in crisis by his peers.
This concept of world-literature essentially aims to put an end to some of the ambiguities that attach to the notion of english and francophone literature, which, according to etymology, should designate any literature written in the English or French language. The concept of “French-speaking literature” would, in practice, according to the defenders of the concept of world-literature, be exclusively intended to designate works produced in French by writers, whose mother tongue is not French or whose nationality is not French. This notion would create an artificial opposition between “French” and “Francophone” writers, based on dubious distinctions of barely veiled racism insofar as the delimitation between the two seems to rest on even less obvious bases than a first definition, which is already inaccurate, would appear, according to the ‘etymology’.
Although they are of French nationality, writers like Aimé Césaire, Patrick Chamoiseau, Édouard Glissant, from an overseas department, will be labeled “French-speaking writers” while Saint-John Perse, a Guadeloupean writer, will be labeled French writer. Similarly, Quebec writers, such as Réjean Ducharme, whose mother tongue is French, will be classified, unlike Belgians or French-speaking Swiss, as “French-speaking writers”. On the other hand, bookstores will store authors such as the Italians Christine de Pisan and Casanova, the Uruguayan Lautréamont, the Cuban José-Maria de Heredia, the Greek Jean Moréas, the Irishman Samuel Beckett, the Romanian Eugène Ionesco, the Spaniard Jorge Semprún or the American Julien Green, to name but a few, in their French literature department. Only very good sales figures can allow a “French-speaking” writer to hope for access to the French literature departments, like Gallimard authors to move from the “Black Continents” collection to the “White Collection”.
The examination of the “francophone” label showing that its attribution is confined to writers in process or in need of independence or decolonization, it follows that one also expects that their literature will feel the inflections of their language, and above all, their imagination.
This quota of the imagination associated with the notion of “francophone literature” also turns out to be a limitation imposed on “francophone” writers: the Canadian Nancy Huston is not asked to limit her imagination to Canada or to the American Jonathan Littell to limit his to the United States, while, for example, critics, despite its good reception by the public, on Violon, the novel by the French writer of Vietnamese birth Anna Moï, whose the action takes place in Normandy, have kept silent. It is in reaction to this kind of attempt at limitations that Dany Laferrière responds with provocative texts such as I am a Japanese writer.
“World literature”, in the Anglo-Saxon world, designates a current extending the postcolonial and postmodern currents, and whose themes transcend geographical, cultural and linguistic barriers. This term refers to the circulation of literary works far beyond their country of origin and the resulting aesthetic interactions. World literature occupies a full place in the international context and benefits from the range of the globalized publishing system. The quality of the increasingly numerous translations has favored its development. This is a literature that goes beyond the national framework and whose borders are intended to be unlimited. World literature is the subject of particular attention within cultural studies and comparative literature. Generally, it offers a mix of many genres, themes and styles in search of a communion of cultures. Among the heralds of this cross-border literature, we can mention Gabriel García Márquez, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Vikram Seth among others.
In the French-speaking world, authors have claimed to belong to world literature, including Édouard Glissant, Jean-Marie Le Clézio, Alain Mabanckou, Jean-Luc Raharimanana, Amal Sewtohul, for the novel, and Ernest Pépin and Frankétienne, for poetry.
Several authors have spoken out against the concept of world-literature and the attack thus made on the Francophonie, among them the Lebanese lawyer and writer, Alexandre Najjar and the Secretary General of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) Abdou Diouf. The same concept exist in American Literature with the African-American and American Natives writers and abroad.For this reason, this website was created to be the spokesman for all literary voices without racial or identity distinctions.