What are you reading!
March 28, 2007 by ruediger

Myself? At the Salon du Livre,I picked up a rather exotic reader (of ‘editions errance’) “La culture est-elle naturelle?” (“Is Culture Natural?”), reflecting about recent research in early (paleolithic and neolithic) human culture. I was puzzled that Actes Sud who obviously acquired or distributes that series considered it useful to carry 3 copies of such a book to a very popular book festival hoping for an audience (at least, they sold one – to me). This shows how the Long Tail actually works, and not only in cyberspace, but in the real world as well.

It tells us something about us readers: We’re more of a bizarre and fickle flock than we are aware of, I guess.

When I studied (German and French) literature at the university of Graz, Austria, in the 1970s, we had a very localized mindset: We did not ‘German’ literature, reading hardly any Goethe or Schiller, but Austrian, and by that fact, every new book of a then pretty lively Austrian literary scenery (yet, published predominently by German publishers, but there were a few Austrians, with great pride and zeal!) was really picked up instantly by us – Peter Handke, Thomas Bernhard, but also lesser know names, Klaus Hoffer, Peter Rosei, Elfriede Jelinek (unimaginable to expect her, of all writers, to become a Nobel laureate one day, or her mentor, Alfred Kolleritsch, who is still editing that literary magazine of ‘manuskripte’ in Graz today).

Strangely enough, something hints at a new trend towards such local cultural orientations. The point (and difference, though) is that today’s local pride is inscribed in a context of globalisation.

So at a first glance, our literary world has a very ‘global’ appearence, not for Dan Brown and Harry Potter, but for all those recent novels like “The Kite Runner” or the “History of Tractors in the Ukraine”, or, as it all started somehow a few years ago, with that “God of Small Things” of Kerala born Arundathy Roy which poped up, in 1997/1998 from nowhere and hit bestseller lists all over the world within one year.

But in fact, all those books are only small islands, local peaks, with little secured land in between.

I have no real conclusion at this point. But it is remarkable, I think.

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