The absence of the Greek novel from world literature

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The importance, popularity, and even existence of the Greek novel were discussed this past summer in a series of essays by several invited Greek contributors in the literary insert of the Athenian newspaper TO BHMA for six consecutive Sundays. The editor of this in many ways remarkable series, Lambrini Kouzeli, devoted almost one third of her summary to the problems that prevent the Greek novel from becoming part of the world republic of letters. She noted that, in sharp contrast to the current international interest in Greek film (and, I would add, poetry and street art), the novel remains consistently ignored outside Greece despite its translations in several languages and readings in several countries.

There is another, even more important failure of the novel. Not only is it rarely reviewed and even less discussed but it is almost totally absent from histories, introductions, companions, and textbooks of world literature. When it comes to selecting canonical works, landmark schools, or seminal styles, editors of global surveys do not consider Greek fiction, not even for reasons of tokenism.

This is an unfortunate absence whose causes need to be explored yet it does not seem to bother Greek scholars, critics, and authors since they are willfully unaware of it, as the recent newspaper series confirmed. Sometimes they engage in revisions of the canon, as they did in the 1990s, or search for a “national novelist,” but this is only for internal consumption and satisfaction, which the rest of the world obviously ignores.

September 15, 2016

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