Saturday, June 20, 2009

Detaching a sticky note

Turning back to Bruce Sterling post I want to share my thought for the points it explains. The first challenge mentioned is the most interesting:

Literature is language-based and national; contemporary society is globalizing and polyglot.

Word! When I started to read in the original books in English source language I realized that the difference between author’s text and translation matters at any rate or even can be of critical significance.

No, it is not a snobbish thing - you see, often translator is more talented than the one being translated and some books that were among my favourites in Russian I believe to be rather dull in English. But the trick is that even the positive difference can’t be totally ignored and that’s the reason to consider it a problem.

And the real problem is that – as to me - I do not know any foreign language enough to read books except English a bit (skill posessed nowadays by many). And a really huge amount of literature is stuck in its own language and culture and can be known through translations only – and as I revealed for myself translated book may be even better but it will not be the same book.

To understand what it really matters for literature just imagine that you are unable to get any records by your favourite group and you can listen only to the cover versions. And for the literature it is a great everyday problem, with a handicap for the authors lucky enough to have English or Spanish or other popular language as their native one.

And here we do face a challenge that is brand new and did not existed before because not so long ago there were few connections with other cultures. So, there was a possibility to be fully satisfied with the products of your own culture because they explained everything that you would ever have a chance to see in your life. Now they can’t.

And some points that I disagree on:

Vernacular means of everyday communication — cellphones, social networks, streaming video — are moving into areas where printed text cannot follow.

Not a challenge. All this stuff can be described easily with text as railways and airplanes before. Literature is a way to describe, not a thing that needs describing. Text remains text, is it embossed or printed or displayed, you name it.

Intellectual property systems failing.

The time humanity lived without intellectual property laws is much longer than the time we have them, and literature still exists. An even if it is really a challenge, it is not a challenge for literature only but for all intellectual products.

Barriers to publication entry have crashed, enabling huge torrent of subliterary and/or nonliterary textual expression.

Same as above, how did literature manage to survive Gutenberg? Also, these challenges are connected because ‘barrier crushing’ shows that the lacking of old property system is not an obstacle for new narratives to come. They are green but I think it is a question of time for them to ripe. And I am almost sure there will be a phenomenon of freeware classic-formed literature, I mean books written as free of charge primordially.

I will proceed later with other source article points but your opinion on the listed above will be appreciated.


  1. Пост по ссылке - какая-то совсем неаккуратная публицистика, на грани жежешных "провокаций".

    Думаю, лет через пять это будет смешно перечитать (эти ребята вообще поразительно быстро устаревают, хоть и пытаются быть рупорами будущего).

    Про переводы и адаптивность я бы послушал еще филологов с лингвистами, эти вопросы относятся к феномену языка, который гораздо шире текущего социального контекста.

  2. Конечно, особенно "социальные сети убьют литературу" (всё равно что "пейджер убьёт поэзию"). Но первый пункт мне показался довольно хорошей отправной точкой. И, пожалуй, десятый - это, правда, никакая не проблема, просто интересная точка для отслеживания.

  3. Достаточно посмотреть на литпром который лет 7 назад создавался как раз для этого. Все что он породил это Минаева и Багирова, которые в классическую литературу не попадут.

  4. Sapov is right, that dude is just a pretentious douche with very shaky writing skills to boot. "Hybrid creole image"? Really? Is he trying to explain things or show how many synonyms for a word "mixed" he knows? Well I'm for one is not impressed. And about the list:

    1. Language barrier problem is way overrated and absolutely not contemporary, in fact it's been dragging on humanity since Babylon Tower fell. And besides, our beloved modern society is by no means "polyglot", it speaks motherfucking english and if you can't speak english, well you're not part of a contemporary society then.

    2. So what?

    3. So what?

    4. So what?

    5. Uggh... "Books" is not equal "literature".

    6. "Core demographic for printed media is aging faster than the general population" - what? Is he saying that some parts of the population are aging faster than other parts? How does that even possible? I mean I feel old sometimes, but...

    7. Really? Media conglomerates are in it for the money and if they can make it, then their business model is not poor. It's called capitalism, baby.

    8. Fucking cyber-punks and their slang. Somebody explain this to me. I know what "long tail" is. How the fuck is it going to do all that bad stuff to literature? I thought that "long tail" was/is a good thing for culture, in theory at least. Yeah it divides audiences into smaller groups, but isn't that the goal though?

    9. That's #2 all over again. And how the fuck is this a challenge to literature? Text is text whether it's on a sheet of paper or on a screen.

    10. Things were always like that. Majority of the people just don't give a fuck about issues of general urgency and why would they?

    11. Again, this is not new. About 90% of ANY medium (music, literature, comics, cinema, etc) in ANY given period of time are shit. That is just how things are. Sincerely yours, the Captain.

    12. "Network socially-generated texts replacing individually-authored texts". Nope, sorry, been there already. Billion monkeys are not going to write "Hamlet" any time soon. Example - twitter.

    13. That is outrageous even for me. Look, literature is a godfather of this motherfucking "media" thing. It was here before it and it sure as hell will be there after it. The beauty of it, is that as long as you have a pen and some sheets of paper, you're good to go. Literature has all the possibilites AND almost no barriers except for the author's imagination. You can't fuck with that. You simply can't.

    14. So what?

    15. Actually the opposite of it is true. If somebody's calling himself "jack-of-all-trades" in modern world it means that he's master of none.

    16. Can't argue with that, but how the fuck it's a challenge to literature?

    17. News*fucking*flash: cold war is over. We lost.

    18. Poetry may look dead now, but when time calls, it will be there, like it always was.

    Now the main fucking challenge in contemporary literature is not that weak shit above. The main challenge is that there is nothing left to write about. Все уже написано до нас. И это блядь такой челлендж, что все остальные челленджи могут прямо сейчас пойти и отсосать. Потому что, будем честны перед собой, литература - это лишь показатель уровня развития человечества, а человечество катится в сраное говно.

    Багрепорт: тебе коммент в 3-м файрфоксе написать невозможно.

  5. В первом пункте тем не менее разница со всеми предыдущими временами есть, так что это, может, и не челлендж, но реальность, данная в ощущениях, точно. Если раньше альтернатива была невозможна в принципе, а автаркия была реальностью для подавляющего большинства людей, то сейчас это не так. Т.е. языковые отличия действительно overrated с точки зрения смысла и авторского стиля, но, но, но.

    По поводу "всё уже написано до нас" извините, то же самое можно было с не меньшей уверенностью сказать и в XIX веке.

    По поводу no.10 снова не могу согласиться, "потрет бестселлера" всё же сильно изменился, и даже не бестселлера, а "небульварного" бестселлера. "Гарри Поттер" - это serious shit, например. Раньше такого настолько явно не наблюдалось.

    По остальному особых разногласий нет.

  6. По поводу "всё уже написано до нас" извините, то же самое можно было с не меньшей уверенностью сказать и в XIX веке

    Можно было, но тогда еще попадались работы, если не оригинальные, то по крайней мере "новые", в плане обыгрыша каких-то старых идей, заполнения пустот и т.д.

    "Гарри Поттер" - это serious shit, например. Раньше такого настолько явно не наблюдалось.

    Это то о чем я и говорил. Гарри Поттер - это всего лишь пересказ старых бестселлеров от Диккенса, Киплинга и т.д. на новый лад, а копия почти всегда хуже оригинала.

  7. Кстати, то что Стерлинг пытается делать: провозгласить "смерть" литературы вследствие развития технологий, интернета и т.д. на самом деле верно, только не касательно литературы, а касательно журналистики/публицистики. Американская печатная индустрия уже практически мертва (об этом как раз 5-й сезон the wire), у нас процесс идет не так быстро и к тому же задерживается искусственно, но и здесь уже тоже все ясно.