This essay reads the novels of Orhan Pamuk and J.M. Coetzee to interrogate the idea of a universal aesthetic regime. In recent years, the idea of a modern aesthetic regime that shapes the contours of literary forms and their reception within the paradigm of universal readability has been made popular by Jacques Rancière and, to a lesser extent, Alain Badiou. Such a universal paradigm has also been aligned with the conditions of democratic politics, making democracy and literature interdependent historical allies. Quite naturally, such a paradigm has immense appeal for critical readings of global novels. In this essay, however, I show the limits of this paradigm by tracing the lineaments of a set of novelistic strategies in Pamuk and Coetzee that consciously build on the exact opposite of the readability paradigm—i.e. illegibility and untranslatability. I argue that the democratic future of the global novel depends on these strategies, by marking out the novel's ability to give voice to something previously unrecorded in its discourse, and doing so by not extending the readability paradigm ad infinitum. This radical illegibility, in other words, allows the novel to take note of what Coetzee often describes as the "real south."


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pp. 299-322
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