Book reviews

Kellman, Steven G. “Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global Mobility by Arianna Dagnino.” Review. symploke, 23 (1-2): 2015.

“In Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global Mobility, Arianna Dagnino offers not only a description of an emerging decentered, transnational, and translingual literature but also a rhapsodic manifesto for a new sensibility that embodies and celebrates fluidity, plasticity, and hybridity. Her paragons for this new sensibility are “transcultural writers,” which she defines as “Writers who have experienced a creative transpatriation process and thus express a transcultural orientation through their writing” (202). A literary nomad who has lived in France, England, the Soviet Union, the United States, South Africa, and Australia and is now based at the University of British Columbia, Dagnino offers herself as one such transcultural writer… The writers Dagnino celebrates defy the usual academic taxonomies based on nationality, language, and religion. They refuse to be subsumed under categories such as “American literature” or “German literature” or “Muslim literature.” The sole rubric they cannot transcend is the one that Dagnino has invented for them: “Transcultural Writer.” Until that irenic day when all embrace hybridity and fluidity, the category will remain useful and desirable.” (Steven G. Kellman)

Jacklin, Michael. Dagnino, Arianna.Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global Mobility. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2015. x + 240 pp. $45.00. Review. Studies in the Novel. 48 (4): 2016.

Transcultural writers are those “who do not belong in one place or one culture— and usually not even one language—and who write between cultures and are interested in the complex dynamics of cultural encounters and negotiations” (14). In selecting the authors for her study, Dagnino had three criteria: the subjects’ variegated cultural identities; their lived transcultural experiences across a number of countries; and, for each, a creative transcultural literary work or body of work (10-11). Her interviewees include Inez Baranay (Australian and Hungarian), Brian Castro (Chinese, Portuguese, Australian), Alberto Manguel (Argentinian, German, Canadian), Tim Parks (English, Italian), and Ilija Trojanow (Bulgarian, German, Kenyan). For each of these writers, cultural heritage is complicated by migration or, as Dagnino prefers, “creative transpatriation,” a process of critical distancing from one’s place and culture of origin (129).

[…] This diversity of geographic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds provides a broad palette for the interviews. Herself a novelist as well as an academic, Dagnino frames the interview section in a quasi-narrative of a (fictional) visit to Istanbul, a city where cultures collide and connect, and where she (imaginatively) meets four of the five writers. The fifth, Parks, is “diffused” throughout (91), a distant commentator on others’ views. This playful, post-modern approach to literary scholarship, though not without risks, is here a delight. Dagnino did indeed interview the authors, though not in Istanbul. Their resituated quotes are stitched together with citations from their novels, Dagnino’s reflections, and—most daringly—extracts from the author’s own diaries, providing glimpses into Dagnino’s past and establishing her own transcultural credentials as she comments on locations ranging from Zimbabwe to Australia. These autobiographical insertions will make the book of interest to scholars of auto/biography as well as of the contemporary novel. Overall, this nontraditional approach to literary analysis is effective in conveying both the author’s and the interviewees’ understandings of transcultural writing, and its deliberate blurring of boundaries is inspired by, and illustrative of, this body of writing.

[…] In bringing together the works of the five writers she selects—an otherwise eclectic grouping spanning continents, cultures, and languages—Dagnino demonstrates that the concept of the transcultural is a significant analytical tool for contemporary readers of world literature.