Our mission is to encourage and enhance the work of transnational writers, especially by facilitating the circulation of their texts across different languages and literary markets.
The global history of literature intersects with the very long history of its translations. The circulation of literary texts – and canonical ones in particular – has always taken place through linguistic transfers from the periphery towards the centre, from weaker languages towards those with greater influence. These transfers have been borne by Diasporas which, thanks to their role as an interface, have been able to accompany these new literary forms as well as the change they anticipated. Religious or sacred at the outset, these texts have been secularized over the centuries and through the waxing and waning of empires, which are multicultural by definition. More recently, the advent of the nation-state confined this linguistic circulation and its literary production to its national soil, thus creating a new framework for exchange, as well as a new ‘inter-national’ regulation.
Today, at a time of massive migration, social networks, and major continental blocs, the nation- state is no longer the foundation stone on which the public space is structured.
The latter has been globalised and digitalized, and new means are required to add value to literary texts. Transnational literature can act as a wake-up call, both figuratively and literally. Literature should not be subject for ever to publishing excesses caused by consumerism and its commercial criteria, nor be inseparable from the machine-language (likes, emoticons, etc.) that facilitates its extension. Literature, like any form of creation, has to act as a counterweight to this dysfunction, while continuing in its mission to create value.
This transnational literary agency will allow the community of citizens that readers create with authors to revive the republic of letters that Goethe already put forward as a concept. But does this community carry much weight now? That is the question that Milan Kundera raised when qualifying rightly the absence of Die Weltliteratur as “an irreparable intellectual loss for Europe”.
This failure to create a world literature is essentially due to the fact that translators, critics, and foreign language academics largely tend to consider and translate the work of their contemporaries in light of the ‘small context’, as set out by Kundera in his novel Immortality, in other words the national history of the country to which the work is connected. They fail to recognize the ‘big picture’: the supranational history of the art or the genre practiced by the artist.
Literature is linked to the history of the nation that produces it, because of the centripetal force of language that confines literary production to its territory. But this framework needs to be broadened. Transnational literature can only become a reality if the agents of each national literature take into account the multilingual and transcultural nature of all national literatures.
We are faced with national spaces that are shrinking fast, and editorial spaces caving in under an overproduction of novels that are often of mediocre quality. We think it is thus urgent to establish the criteria for new literary spaces thanks to the creation of a transnational agency.
LINGUAFRANCA addresses the following populations
Our agency primarily concerns European and non-European authors who, for both aesthetic and political reasons (migration, exile, conflict in the latter case), want or have to circulate their texts in a market that is different from their local one.
Our services are also intended for independent literary intermediaries (translators, editors, writing coaches, literary agents, consultants, independent readers, journalists and literary critics, etc.), who play an essential role in defining the work of authors. Moreover, national publishers often call on such intermediaries in order to diversify their catalogue towards an international panorama. This sub-group of ‘European publishers’ – big publishers and small presses –, which are already active in a national perspective, may be looking to expand existing foreign literature departments, or build one from scratch. Our agency is there to facilitate relationships among these communities, and assist publishers and intermediaries alike in extending their transnational reach.
The third group that we address is the community of agents engaged in building the transnational public space. This includes major publishers, of course, but also politicians, journalists, associations, unions, the business world, and academics. Our agency will also provide a forum for intercultural and cross-cultural interpretation and mediation, and university departments of foreign languages and literature. We will work closely with the European politicians who are linked to the institutions (the European Parliament, European Council, and European Commission), and numerous structures whose mission is to construct a European space, notably national and European writers associations, and NGOs founded to defend the interests of cultural and linguistic players.
The last category consists of the European ‘l’honnête homme’ – namely cultivated men or women of the world. This ‘l’honnête homme’ has existed in literature for more than three hundred years and appeared in numerous manifestations. Most such Europeans today have dual or triple nationality, and feel at ease in as many cultures. This cultivated public overlaps with the subset of ‘avid readers’, which publishers count on so much. They could be interested in discovering, not only exotic literature from elsewhere, but also more demanding literature, in terms of both form and content: eclectic literature. This is one of the forms of literature that LINGUAFRANCA will promote in essenc