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Orsini, Francesca (2019) 'Present Absence: Book circulation, Indian vernaculars and world literature in the nineteenth century.' Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 22 (3). pp. 310-328.

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More books from India in Indian languages circulated in Europe in the nineteenth century than now--partly thanks to the efforts of book importers like Trübner & Co. Trübner’s monthly American and Oriental Literary Record (1865-) shows pages and pages of imported Sanskrit books, but also Hindi, Hindustani, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati, Arabic, Persian, and so on. Trübner also imported Peruvian, Argentinian, Brazilian, Yucatanese and other books from Latin America. Yet this impressive circulation and presence of books did not translate into their recognition as world literature. Voluminous compendia like John Macy’s The Story of World Literature (1927) cover “Asian Literature” in merely 13 pages (out of 500), and fail to mention any modern Indian writer apart from Rabindranath Tagore, damning him with faint praise. Why was this material presence and circulation of books in non- European languages in Britain and other parts of Europe matched by their absence as modern literary texts from the imagination of world literature? This essay examines the “technologies of recognition” (Shih) that made modern Indian literatures virtually invisible though materially present in Europe, and the conditions of visibility that occasionally allowed them to be seen.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics
ISSN: 1369801X
Copyright Statement: © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies on 20 Sep 2019, available online:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2019 10:57
Funders: European Union

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