The Beetle and the Teacup – Magazine – The AtlanticPosted: August 5, 2009
“Is there a national literature?” people ask me. “Sort of,” I reply. “But the boundaries are stretchy.”
- Ah Margaret, this is a problem because “nation” is a strange concept. Most people are told they belong to one without their consent, rather like religion. One can transport oneself and apply for citizenship elsewhere, and that is a neat and definable thing since the government that issues you a passport usually has clear rules on the matter. But “nationality?” When does a writer of immigrant origin lose his hyphen? Is a national literature a collection of writings of a culture or race without a particular style? How do we get lumped into categories that have nothing to do with the Art?
I think success breeds a sense of ownership, and you lose your hyphen quickly once you have a bestseller or you win an election. Even better, be a Cervantes and write something unquestionably canonical. You then go past being a white, male Spaniard and nobody can own you because everyone does.