The Influence(?) of the American Novel

By: Aryanne Ferguson

I recently finished reading Orhan Pamuk’s 2004 novel, Snow. If you’ve never read anything from a Turkish author, I recommend Pamuk as a great starting point. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006, and after reading Snow, I see why. This is a poetic political novel. It debates issues which affect our increasingly globalized world today, for example, Westernization, suicide, religion, and the treatment/role of women in society and at home.


But Reader, my post isn’t meant to galvanize you toward action in support or attack of one cause or another. I’d like to ask a question. Have we – Americans – lost the ability to truly empathize with and affect the rest of the world with our fiction? In many countries, just as in the Turkish city of Pamuk’s novel, what an author writes or what a person reads is such a big deal t that they can get you killed. The novel and the poem each have the power to directly affect the course of your life. Write a poem against the wrong person in government and you’re lucky to escape death; you’d count yourself lucky to be exiled.  Authors who understand life in these countries are the ones that make visceral impacts through their written work. Why doesn’t the written word in the US have a tenth of that effect? For years, I’ve read that the work of American writers just isn’t influencing the national stage. How long has it been since the Nobel Prize went to an American? Toni Morrison in 1993.

So what about you, Reader? Do you read novels/poems from non-American authors, and if so, do you notice a difference? For example, the difference (or similarity) could be in subject matter, writing style, or the basic rules of the world in which the story takes place. And if you do notice a difference, does it matter?

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