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Translation and World Literature



Translation plays an important role in creating the category of ‘world literature’, a term that has acquired new currency in this era of globalization. Commenting on essays by Susan Stanford Friedman, Rebecca Beasley, Jessica Berman, Eric Bulson and Laura Doyle, I suggest that the global spread of modernism and its local flowerings need to be understood through the vigorous translation activity that accompanied it. I focus on vernacular modernisms in India between the 1920s and 1960s in order to show that the impact of translation was by no means unidirectional or targeted towards the West. Translation from both European and non-European languages was an indispensable element in the climate of Indian modernist writing, especially as printed in the poetry magazines of the early twentieth century. The simultaneously local and cosmopolitan character of this modernist literary corpus, far more important and extensive than Indian literature in English, can only be understood through a continuation of the project of modernism’s translations.