By Emily Apter

Against international Literature: at the Politics of Untranslatability argues for a rethinking of comparative literature concentrating on the issues that emerge whilst large-scale paradigms of literary reports forget about the politics of the 'Untranslatable'--the realm of these phrases which are constantly retranslated, mistranslated, transferred from language to language, or in particular immune to substitution.

In where of 'World Literature'--a dominant paradigm within the humanities, one grounded in market-driven notions of clarity and common appeal--Apter proposes a plurality of 'world literatures' orientated round philosophical thoughts and geopolitical strain issues. The heritage and conception of the language that constructs global Literature is seriously tested with a different specialise in Weltliteratur, literary global platforms, narrative ecosystems, language borders and checkpoints, theologies of translation, and planetary devolution in a booklet set to revolutionize the self-discipline of comparative literature.

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More broadly, Lucretius’s theory of simulacra interacts productively with Calvino’s long-held conviction that literature impacts the imagination, and thus the thoughts, of readers. When discussing the formation of visual simulacra, Lucretius inserted a digression on thought or cognition, which I consider central to Calvino’s thinking on perception, the imagination, and literature. By thought, Lucretius meant a mental picture or visualization, for ίδέα in Greek meant “image” (Dionigi 382). According to Lucretius, visualization is made possible by simulacra that are even thinner than the ones received by the human eye.

But, instead, I am a specialist in imaginative and verbal material, and I dedicate myself to the hunger for written words, for stories told, for mythological figures: all stuff that is no less essential than food, as we all know. (“Colloquio” 2787) It was so necessary, in his view, that he confided in Camon his dream of founding a literary journal aimed at “a new public that has not yet thought about the place literature might occupy among their daily necessities” (“Colloquio” 2786). 1 In the 18 Italo Calvino’s Architecture of Lightness 1962 essay “Usi politici giusti e sbagliati della letteratura,” for instance, he framed literature as one of society’s principal “instruments of self-awareness” (“Right and Wrong Political Uses of Literature” 97).

13 My genealogy of ascending lightness as an ethical and aesthetic value reconstructs it as a continuum spanning nearly three decades and including Invisible Cities as its middle point. By reinstating the ideological and poetic continuities between the essays on magma and Six Memos, we arrive at a radically different understanding of ascending lightness, which shaped the visual nuclei and the distanced or estranged perspective of Invisible Cities, as I demonstrate later (chs. 3 and 4). This critical revision of ascending lightness places in bold relief Calvino’s idea that fleeing from the sea of the object world was crucial to preserving the alterity of the individual consciousness, that is, the self’s powers of imagination and critical thinking.

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