« "What filters through the curtain” : Reconsidering modernism, travelling literatures and little magazines in a Cold war context » The Transnational and Transmedial Circulation of Literature

Intervenant : Laetitia Zecchini

EHESS, Paris et IEA, Paris
Institut d’études avancées, 17 quai d’Anjou, 75004 Paris

As several critics (such as Monica Popescu) have started to acknowledge, the story of postcolonial literature – not to mention world literature - is also a Cold War story, and perhaps one of the indispensable (but long neglected) backgrounds against which modernisms in India must be reconsidered. My aim here is to throw light on the ways by which the Cold War also shaped the publishing, critical and literary scene in India in the 50s-70s, with a special focus on Bombay. As the Hindi writer Mohan Rakesh suggested, India in the 60s could well appear as a “chess board … between the United States ideologists and the USSR’s ideologists” (1972), both blocks being engaged in “pressing the fight” (Barnhisel & Turner) and devising or funding an arsenal of “cultural weapons” (journals, book programs, translations, etc.) to promote its image. Because this study is one of the developments of a new project on the PEN - itself part of the same intellectual constellation as the Congress for Cultural Freedom, indirectly funded by the CIA -, I will not focus here on the soviet-sponsored ‘other side’ which is more documented, but on the « free world’s » (and especially American) presence in India.

If as Mulk Raj Anand acknowledged one of the results of the Cold War has been to divide literatures of Asia and Africa (1962), it also brought writers and literatures in sudden contact with each other. Delving into the Cold War context helps to re-examine the “paperback revolution” that Dilip Chitre saw as a defining feature of modern Marathi poetry, as well as the transnational and translational traffics that were taking place at the time ; why certain authors were read, published, and translated in India ; why and how certain texts and little magazines travelled, or why specific literatures (Eastern and Central European writers, for instance, or the ‘Beat poets’) had such an impact on some Indian writers. By examining the role of the ICCF, and of pivotal modernist figures in India such as Nissim Ezekiel, Dilip Chitre or Agyeya, the importance of foreign centers like the American Cultural Center or the British Council, the editorial choices or transnational circuits of journals such as Quest, The Indian PEN, Freedom First, Thought or Imprint, but also little mags like damn you, my aim is obviously not to write a determinist history of the literary scene at the time.

The idea is to illuminate some of the affiliations and rebellions, debates and negotiations that were taking place, but also see how Indian writers “used” the cold war (and the worldliness it gave rise to) or defined themselves against the bi-polarization of the world ; how they often bypassed official circuits, dictates and expectations to suit their own agenda, clear a space for themselves, and invent their own voice and medium.

“What filters through that curtain is only fit for the international shit-pot” wrote Adil Jussawalla provocatively in a student periodical The Campus Times (1972) where he criticizes the ‘dreadful dilution’ of the literature disseminated by international agencies like the USIS in India. This in turn prompted him to launch a “Dangerous Animals” series of readings at St Xaviers’ with writers like James Baldwin, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and … Arvind Krishna Mehrotra : “dangerous animal from Allahabad”.

Lundi 22 janvier 2018
EHESS, 54 Bd Raspail, 75006 Paris
Amphithéâtre François Furet

17:00 Introduction
Gisèle Sapiro (CNRS-EHESS) et Tristan Leperlier (Univ. Paris 5)

17:10 - 17:40 Vérité cinématique : Reality effects in transnational and global literature and film
David Damrosch (Harvard)
Président : Jean-Marie Schaeffer

17:40 - 19:00 Table ronde : Elleke Boehmer (Oxford), Stefano-Maria Evangelista (Oxford), Laura Marcus (Oxford), Tiphaine Samoyault (Univ. Paris 3)
Modérateurs : Gisèle Sapiro et Jean-Marie Schaeffer (EHESS)

Mardi 23 janvier 2018
Institut d’études avancées de Paris
Hôtel de Lauzun
17 quai d’Anjou, 75004 Paris

Morning session - The circulation of literature in (post)colonial and/or authoritarian contexts Présidente et discutante : Elleke Boehmer (Oxford)

9:30 - 11:00

African literary festivals and world literature : from the map to the territory
Claire Ducournau (Univ. Montpellier)

Fake Internationality ? Prizes and the Circulation of Francophone African Authors
Madeline Bedecarré (EHESS)

Postcolonial writers in the global literary marketplace : the case of Italy
Laura Penachietti (University of Manchester)

11:00 - 11:15 Pause

11:15 - 12:45

"What Filters through the Curtain" : Reconsidering ‘Indian’ modernism, travelling literatures, and little magazines in a Cold War context
Laetitia Zecchini (CNRS)

The import of theories in the field of literary studies (Argentina, 1976-1986) : between clandestine and institutional practices
Analia Gerbaudo (UNL)

Palestinian Translators of Hebrew Literature : Translation as a Social Practice and a vehicle for cultural exchange
Sadia Agsous (EHESS)

12:45 - 14:00 Pause déjeuner

Afternoon session - Translatio : from text to images
Présidente et discutante : Laura Marcus (Oxford)

14:00 - 15:30

The Surreal Real : Proust, Woolf, and World Cinema
Delia Ungureanu (University of Bucarest)

"Novels are written to God, scripts are sent to a director..." Imre Kertész as the scriptwriter of Fatelessness
Clara Royer (CERFRES, Prague)

Constructing National Film through Literature : Contemporary British Adaptation
Alexis Brown (Oxford)

15:30 - 15:45 Pause

15:45 - 17:15

Comic, City, Archive : Public Space, Private Lives and Post-War Reconstruction in Recent Lebanese Graphic Memoirs
Dominic Davies (Oxford)

Transnational Translation Policies in the Interwar Period (1925-1946) : The International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation and Its Agents
Diana Roig Sanz (Open University of Catalonia)

Literary agents as cardinal intermediaries of World Literature
Lilas Bass, Delia Arribas Guijarro, Tristan Leperlier, Gisèle Sapiro (EHESS)

17:15 - 17:45 Discussion avec introduction de Vered Shemtov (Stanford), et remarques conclusives par Stefano-Maria-Evangelista et Gisèle Sapiro

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