Just when you think you know what a novel is, Rebecca L. Walkowitz comes along and screws it all up.
In Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature, Walkowitz argues that it is becoming impossible to say what the original version of a novel is. That’s because many novels–like those by Junot Diaz, Mohsin Hamid, Jamaica Kincaid, and others–are being released in multiple languages at once. So, as far as readers and the marketplace are concerned, the translations are just as valid as the “native” language version. There are even cases, like with J.M. Coetzee’s Childhood, where a translation (Dutch) gets published before the “original” (English).
In this globalized age, where multiple editions of each novel proliferate, Walkowitz says we have to revise our understanding of what the novel is. The novelist’s work is becoming detached from its native language and turning into something multifaceted and polyvocal, something that nobody, unless they speak countless languages, will ever fully apprehend.