This article explores some of the issues that prevent the existence of a more diverse canon in the field of world literature. It discusses extra-literary issues that have been effectively displaced onto the question of literary quality and outlines some of the concrete hurdles that face minority literatures, with reference to the literature of modern East Asia (China, Korea and Japan). The final section examines Pak Kyongni’s Land (1969–1994), a novel virtually unknown outside of Korea but revered there as the national epic. The discussion of a work that is regarded as ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’ by one nation yet remains practically unknown to the world will bring to the fore issues of ranking and status produced by the ‘worldification’ of literatures. In the process, it will consider some of the dynamics between nationality and universality, the relations between literature and nation, and what it means for literatures to be in dialogue when literatures and literary histories have been defined along national lines.
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