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Survivors

Reading in another language poses a recurring doubt. An image, a turn of phrase, an expression pleases you. Is it original to the author, or is it a commonplace of an unfamiliar tradition? Corollary: a minor writer within a tradition may be a major writer in literature generally, if there are no other survivors. (Even the first entrant to the mainstream from some tributary looms as better writers within that tributary never can.) No novel so trashy, no polemic so petty, no puff so creepy, that if some cataclysm obliterated the rest of the accomplishments of our civilization, it would not impress itself on our posterity. In any living literature there is something in common that counts for nothing from within, and everything from without. Lemma: greatness in writing requires you either to enlist an otherwise hidden tradition and impinge with it, or to imply the presence of an alien tradition, to bring some hidden weight to bear behind the cutting edge.