Friday, May 05, 2006

Quote: Ricardo Piglia (on Viswanathan)

This past week I was (re)reading Argentinian writer Ricardo Piglia's 1992 novel, Ciudad Ausente (The Absent City), and came across this passage at the end of his afterward. I immediately thought of the plagiarism scandal surrounding Kaavya Viswanathan's novel, now-recalled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got In (Little Brown, 2006). His idealist, anticapitalist view clashes squarely against the reality of global capitalism itself, and in particular the fact that a 17-year-old received half a million dollars, plus a movie deal, for a project that appears to have been slapped together by a marketing company, but at the same time, it poses many interesting questions, including: is language common property, and can anyone--any corporation, in particular--ever fully own it?


"I hold the same relationship with literary property as I do with property in society: I am against it. I think there is a game with property in translation. That is, it puts into question something that common literary sense takes for granted, which is the fact that issues of property in literature are extremely complex, just as they are in society. Language is a common property; in language there is no such thing as private property. We writers try to place marks to see if we can detain its flow. There is no private property in language; language is a circulation with a common flow. Literature disrupts that flow, and perhaps that is what literature is."
--Ricardo Piglia, from the afterword to The Absent City (Introduction and translation by Sergio Waisman; Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), pp. 146-147.

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