Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

Literary Starbucks and Language Imperialism

By Helen Wang, published

This week I came across these two expressions for the first time. I'm about curious to know if there are Chinese translations of these expressions; if they come up in discussion in China; and if so, what people are saying?

Literary Starbucks
“Littell's [Prix Goncourt winner, 2006] background exemplifies the fact that the modern world is increasingly integrated, genuinely global. It is often heard that to be truly great you must achieve international success. Combine this view with a competitive market and it’s easy to envisage a writer sidestepping lexical gaps. This trend has been termed 'Literary Starbucks', where publishers are seeing writers adopting more ‘neutral’ language and avoiding cultural idioms in order to appeal to foreign readers and editors.” (seen in this article in The Spectator and possibly originating from a Living Translation event at the University of Bristol)

Language Imperialism
This expression appears to have been coined by Thorsten Pattberg. In 2011-12 he seems to have written a lot of articles on this issue. Is he tapping into something that is already being discussed in China? Or is he driving something new?


# 1.   

This reminds me of an article by Tim Parks, which addresses a similar issue:

It would be interesting to think about how this applies to Chinese literature, maybe not only in terms of language, but also in terms of composition and different ways of writing, of storytelling. Chinese traditions vs. Anglo-Saxon “standards”? Would love to hear people’s thoughts on this.

Mark Leenhouts, February 25, 2013, 2:40p.m.


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