Universitatea „Al. I. Cuza” din Iaşi, Facultatea de Litere “Al. I. Cuza” University of Iassy, Faculty of Letters
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1 / 2013
Imaginary libraries. Two reflections on literature as a system
This paper discusses the question of literature represented as a system made of institutions such as writers, critics, literary generations, canonical battles and so on, functioning as a self-regulating mechanism. To put this question into perspective, two literary works are used which both have a metaliterary dimension and both borrow (for fiction) the form of a “serious” scholarly work: the bibliography and the monograph. In Mircea Horia Simionescu’s “General Bibliography”, the seemingly anarchistic representation of an infinite productivity of literature meets its boundaries when confronted with the actual writers making up the Romanian (Cantemir, Caragiale, Odobescu, Urmuz and especially G. Călinescu) or the European literary canon (Goethe, Ariosto, Dostoievski). Simionescu describes therefore not the apocalyptic disappearance of values and criteria for judging literature, but a necessary regeneration of stale old literary formulas by means of an ingenious and highly competent readership. In the Chilean Roberto Bolaño’s “Nazi Literature in the Americas”, the idea of a “Nazi literature” serves as a metaphor for literature itself as a form of spiritual investigation of the darker inner regions of the human being. Bolaño’s representation of literature is also that of a “closed” literary system, not because of its alleged secrecy or “danger”, but because it defines itself as an activity of thought, resorting to similar patterns in its search for originality.
Keywords: literature as system, literary canon, Romanian literature, Mircea Horia Simionescu, Latin-American literature, Roberto Bolaño
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- Roberto Bolaño, Nazi Literature in the Americas, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews, London, Picador, 2010.
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