The Long Space - Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form

peter hitchcock - pramoedya anata toer

This book began several years ago as a means to understand how postcolonial writing might be thought differently within world literature (and, indeed, how world literature itself would be changed in that relation). I never thought at the time that the Long Space as a concept of duration could affect the work of writing the book itself. This extensive engagement has been a lesson for many.

First, I would like to thank Emily Apter, who gave me initial encouragement for the idea and the project it precipitated. I am grateful to the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York (PSC-CUNY), whose research grants allowed me to work in London, Paris, Cape Town, and Jakarta. I thank Nuruddin Farah for an extraordinary conversation with him in Cape Town, as well as another author and friend, Margie Orford, for helping to facilitate the event. Various conferences and universities hosted talks on aspects of the Long Space.

In particular, I would like to thank the organizers of the South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion (SSEASR) for letting me speak on Pramoedya in Bangkok, the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) for the chance to discuss “the world as concept” in Puebla, and the Museum Moderner Kunst (MUMOK) in Vienna for the keynote I was afforded on the postcolonial chronotope. I have also given lectures at Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, the University of Sheffield, and the University of Cape Town on key elements of this research. Thank you all.

Chris GoGwilt has been an important inspiration on the work of Pramoedya, as well as Max Lane, who translated the Buru Quartet. I have not followed all of their advice, but I do hope my efforts here might further the conversation. Hena Maes-Jelinek, whose work on Wilson Harris is exemplary, provided me with important information and answered my queries— however far off the beaten track. Clarisse Zimra and Anne Donadey offered expertise and comment on Djebar, while conversations with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak elicited clarification on the vexed concept of “worlding.” I thank my students, of course, for usefully questioning every concept at work in my text.

Mieke Bal has given strong support for this project, and I also thank the folks over at Stanford University Press, in particular Emily-Jane Cohen, Sarah Crane Newman, Mariana Raykov, and Elizabeth Forsaith. Thanks, too, to Meechal Hoffman for assistance with the index. This has not been an easy text to write or edit, but I appreciate all of the help I have had in these otherwise lonely processes. That acknowledgment, of course, includes friends and colleagues who, whether living, liminal, or lost, still inspire the words I write and include: Robert Barsky, Tim Brennan, Keya Ganguly, Lawrence Haddad, Isabelle Lorenz, Eric Mendelsohn, Jenny Sharpe, Neil Smith, Larry Venuti, and the inimitable Marco Esposito, “il miglior fabbro.”

This book is dedicated to my brother, David, whose untimely death is a constant reminder that my literary understanding of duration is not the equivalent of personal experience or necessarily a window on the fleeting ticktock of time called life. My only hope is that the analysis I provide might lend greater substance to the meaning of duration so no life is wasted by its elision.

Finally, I would like to offer a bow to my wonderful family: to my mother, whose lessons in persistence put mine to shame; to my kids, Molly and Sam, who persist in more ways than I dare to list; and to the love of my life, Amy, who always finds a way to live with these texts while eloquently shaping her own. If this book sometimes challenges me to remember the one I imagined, it is yet ready to come into this world; so, as Djebar would put it, “Enfantement!”

Peter Hitchcock


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