In the 2007 manifesto ‘Pour une “littérature-monde” en français’, the notion of a ‘world literature in French’ is offered as an enabling alternative to the concept of Francophonie, widely criticized for its neo-colonial political associations and the way in which it is often used to ‘emphasize ethnic or racial “difference” from a perceived [metropolitan] “French norm”’ (Forsdick and Murphy, 2003: 7; see also Mabanckou, 2007). The signatories to the manifesto posit the 1970s rise of a ‘world literature in English’ as a key precedent for their project, citing writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro, Ben Okri, Hanif Kureishi, Michael Ondaatje and Salman Rushdie as part of a new generation of métis pioneers which, ‘au lieu de se couler dans sa culture d'adoption, entendait faire oeuvre à partir du constat de son identité plurielle’, thereby taking ‘possession des lettres anglaises’ (‘Pour une “littérature-monde” en français’, 2007). The year 2006, in which five of the seven major French literary prizes were awarded to ‘foreign-born’ writers, is taken as a similar watershed in French literary culture, heralding ‘l’émergence d'une littérature-monde en langue française consciemment affirmée’ (‘Pour une “littérature-monde” en français’, 2007).
Though the signatories' invocation of the concept of ‘world literature’ is optimistic and celebratory, the reference to the literary precedent in English signals potential pitfalls in the valency and utility of the concept.
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