Stories without End(s)
Against recent theories of world literature, I have proposed a normative con-
ception that does not simply revive the older vision of world literature as the
expression of universal humanity. That vision, which received its canonical ar-
ticulation by Goethe and which I have described as spiritualist, is not conﬁned
to the West. Here is Rabindranath Tagore’s description of how world literature
gives us access to humanity’s eternal ideals.
Among diﬀerent ages and people, only those things survive in which all
human beings can discover themselves. The things that pass this test are
the permanent and universal human treasures.
Through this process of making and breaking, a timeless ideal of human
nature and expression gathers of itself in literature. . . .
A work is admitted to the ranks of literature only when the author has
realised the ideas of the human race in his own thoughts and expressed hu-
manity’s pain in his writing. We have to regard literature as a temple being
built by the master mason, universal man; writers from various countries
and periods are working under him as labourers. . . .
The mass of matter at the sun’s core is forming itself in many ways, both
solid and liquid. We cannot see the process, but the surrounding ring of
light ceaselessly expresses the sun to the world. It is thus that the sun gifts
itself to the world and links itself to all else. If we could make humanity the
object of such an integral view, we would see it like the sun. We would see
that the mass of matter was gradually forming itself into layers, and around
it, perpetually, a luminous ring of expression spreading itself joyously in
every direction. Look at literature as this ring of light, made of language,