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Writing and Literature on the Internet

Представяме ви за първи път английски превод на една от нашите статии. „Писане и литература в интернет” е посветена на актуалната тема за ролята на виртуалното пространство в съвременния литературен свят.

Writing and Literature on the Internet

Internet is no longer the mysterious, free and curious space which it was 15, 10 or even 5 years ago. For many people this place is a well-known and everyday part of their lives, rather boring than exciting. While for other people Internet equals Facebook – a stream of opinions on all  issues and photos of anything, a place where everyone publicizes with ease. Both the promotional text for a book – since we will be talking about literature- and the review are equally substantial. At least because everything appears as swiftly as it goes down. As if Internet is less like a world or an ocean and more like just a text (as it has always been for its creators and the ones who understand its depths), which can be edited, re-written, corrected, underlined or deleted – or more precisely, hidden.

Literature is a part of Internet from its very beginning as a social network accessible for everybody. A short article cannot comprehend all the dimensions of what we call “literature” on Internet. Not to mention that the virtual space regularly challenges the meaning of the word “literature”. But it is possible and interesting to try to track all the visible stages which form the image of the fictional text’s art in our cyber dimensions.

As writers in a lesser used language, Bulgarian authors are not able to take advantage of Internet boundlessness. Places like Amazon where a person can buy, sell, write or self-publish a book which can be lost among the thousands like it or become a surprising bestseller serve as an example. A probable future opportunity.

Our traditional authors rarely use Internet like writers. Official pages, official blogs are mostly missing, not to mention Twitter (although it is exactly Twitter where David Mitchell’s last novel Slade House became popular). It seems that except the creating of a Facebook page the Bulgarian writers still prefer to dwell in the paper territory, mostly the one of serious publishing houses and magazines.

At the same time it is exactly on Facebook that a new kind of writing catches on, a remainder of the forum subculture from the 90s and the first years of the 21 century, which already enjoys a success among readers not only  as likes, shares and comments but as marketing and sales too. The curious thing is that the two of them do not intermingle but rather outline a new writing field for Bulgaria. The authors start from their personal or fictional Facebook profile, gather fans and popularity, then attract the attention of a publisher who releases their texts, not long ago only statuses, in a book format with the author’s real name, removing the nickname, and thus the user becomes a writer. It is important to point out that by “user” I mean only a person who seizes the chance to profit by media’s opportunities stating their presence in that same media. This does not suppose that they possess or lack bad or subtle literary taste. If there are attempts to change the status quo of publishing and selling in our country through such writing, they are almost intangible. Thus Facebook and Internet become a testing field for eventual market power, see the example with Aunt Eudochia, as well as the newspaper has proven the abilities of Lola Montesquieu.

Concerning literature the Bulgarian Internet space is divided into two sections: on one hand, we have established, serious writers who almost do not use it; on the other hand, we have people who write humorous stories pretending to be a new kind of feuilletonists, or simply jokers for whom Internet serves as an incubator where they directly communicate with readers and admirers.

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the aim of every literary activity on Internet is actually an attempt to exit the Internet space. To publish a real book that will be sold in a real bookshop. Nobody stays an Internet writer if they can. As a result, the market as well as the bestseller lists are brimming over with all sorts of texts which baffle readers and critics alike.

If the stories in ”Diary Of a Panel residential Block” look more like stories on Facebook (as some readers’ reactions claim on Goodreads), why not search for a way in which this type of writing can create a new environment – not that aesthetic but rather market oriented  and emotional? With new models of publishing and engaging the readers (even financially), models alternative to the serious ones but which still develop the reading culture? For instance, there are a lot of online authors in the Philippines who use blogs and even platforms like Hackpad to create popular and mass-market literary texts. This is a distinctively autonomous pop-culture environment, something different from the serious literature but not less developing than it. It just takes a different track.

If books like the mentioned above, such as those by Emil Conrad and the likes are not literature, then why don’t the authors of real literature and the critics start being more active and publish on Internet fictional texts and reviews, giving the reader clear examples which lead to a clearer assessment?

The opposite is also true: if the readers are confused to defer an advertisement from a review of a certain work, then why don’t they slow down Facebook scrolling and read a little bit more carefully? The differences are easily noticeable.

Bestseller lists, readers’ groups on Internet where occasionally there are arguments about what is a serious book and what is rubbish, all the writing nicknames which suddenly become publishing authors, the numerous sites for literature (unfortunately lacking comments different from emotional sharing like “I read it and it really moved me”)… all this abundance of emotions, impulses, attempts make the facts even more blurred and hard to point out. What does real literature really mean? Are there false books?).

Maybe the post-truth is a context for our contemporary literature as well. The lack of literary criticism together with the presence of aggressive advertisement only expand the gap between the reader and the literature “facts” – its characteristics which make it a significant art, not just posting for fun. And like in every post-truth world, it is obligatory for us to realize our responsibility towards the text: writer for the work, reader for the reception, critic for the review, blogger for the comment, publisher for the product.

Translated by Gergana Stamatova.

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