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The Novel and “ Globalisation ”. GLOBALIZATION 1. Making or being made global: (a) In individual instances (i) by the active dissemination of practices, values, technology and other human products throughout the globe.

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1. Making or being made global:

(a) In individual instances

(i) by the active dissemination of practices, values, technology and other human products throughout the globe.

(ii) when global practices and so on exercise an increasing influence over people’s lives

(iii) when the globe serves as a focus for, or premise in shaping, human activities

(iv) in the incremental change occasioned by the interaction of any such instances;

(b) seen as the generality of such instances;

(c) such instances being viewed abstractly

2. A process of making or being made global in any or all of the senses in (1).

3. The historical transformation constituted by the sum of particular forms and instances in (1).

(Martin Albrow, The Global Age: State and Society beyond Modernity, Cambridge: Polity 1996)


Iceland does not matter very much, when one looks at the total picture….we have been rather an insignificant nation.

The Atom Station (172)


‘It’s a crying shame round here, people laid off, workshops closing down, one after the other . . . Maybe it’s not the Emperor’s own fault, but why does he need to go off to fight in America? […]

Now Étienne was able to survey the whole countryside. The shadows were still deep, but the old man’s hand had somehow fleshed them out with a breadth of suffering that the young man could now intuitively feel living in the limitless space that surrounded him, as if the March wind were wringing a cry of shame from the bare countryside.’

‘What? Who does it all belong to? . . . Who knows? Other people.’

And with his hand he indicated an imaginary point in the shadows, some distant, unknown place, inhabited by those other people, for whom the Maheu family had been hacking their hearts out for over a century.’

Germinal Part I


I hope we shall manage to squeeze some money out of this utterly heathenish parliament next session so that the winds can sing psalms out there in the valley when everything is laid waste. But the wild horses will have to look after themselves in their own divine way, because the German horse-dealers are now kaput.

Bui Arland, The Atom Station (2)

It had no come to the point that Reykjavík Corporation was quite literally evicting the little men who did their fishing in tiny inshore-boats here in the bay; the men who provided the inhabitants of the capital with good fresh fish from the bay had no place of their own along the whole length of the sea front controlled by the Corporation.

The Atom Station (50)

positive globalisers
“Positive” Globalisers

To the neo-liberal new cosmopolitans, globalisation signifies the transnationalization of capitalism, the breakdown of national economies, and the creation of a more interconnected world economic system. It also describes the emergence of new technologies of communication such as satellite, fax, and e –mail, which, along with the possibility of rapid intercontinental travel, alter the relationship of time and space. This spatial compression and temporal acceleration allow people, ideas, and goods to move with great speed, while also making it possible for individuals, however far apart, to witness events simultaneously.

Gregory Jusdanis, ‘Culture, culture everywhere: the swell of globalisation theory’, Diaspora (Vol. 5, no. 1, 1996).


Only from the window of the telegraph office came the glow of lamplight. Here in happy seclusion, protected from the droning wind and rain, sat the telegraphists in idyllic calm, bent over their desks like fantastic silkworm breeders, winding into spools the long, white threads that bound the whole world tightly into one.

Skylark (183)

Once again [Don Fabrizio] noted how astoundingly fast all this had gone; put in modern terms he could be said to be in the state of mind of someone to-day who thinks he has boarded one of the easy-going old planes pottering between Palermo and Naples, and suddenly finds himself shut inside a Superjet and realises how he would be at his destination almost before there was time to make the sign of the Cross.

The Leopard (72-73)

negative globalisers
“Negative” Globalisers

It is widely asserted that we live in an era in which the greater part of social life is determined by global processes, in which national cultures, national economies and national borders are dissolving. Central to this perception is the notion of a rapid and recent process of economic globalisation. A truly global economy is claimed to have emerged or to be in the process of emerging, in which distinct national economies and, therefore, domestic strategies of national economic management are increasingly irrelevant. The world economy has internationalised in its basic dynamics, it is dominated by uncontrollable market forces, and it has as its principal economic actors and major agents of change truly transnational corporations, that owe allegiance to no nation state and locate wherever in the globe market advantage dictates.

Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson, Globalisation in Question


‘The Northern Trading Company,’ he said. ‘Cars bulldozers, tractors, mixing machines, vacuum cleaners, floor polishers: everything which whirls, everything which makes a noise’ modern times. I’m on my way south from my first trading trip.’

I reached out my hand for the notes and said, ‘I’ll burn them for you my lad.’

The Atom Station (145)

While he was a straightforward drunkard and businessman, newly arrived from the north, he bought two pliers and five anvils for every single Icelander; hairnets, six for each and every person; an unlimited quantity of boiled American water in cans, to use in soups; ten year old sardines from Portugal; and enough baking powder to blow up the whole country…Finally he had resolved to buy up all the raisins in the world and import them to Iceland, but by that time he had also lost his voice except that he continually screeched the vowel A. The Snorredda company saved him. We adore idiots. We are hoping that Two Hundred Thousand Pliers can become a minister.

The Atom Station (53)


National/International/Cold War Imperial

We belong to the atom bomb.

The Atom Station (148)

‘Icelanders,’ he said, repeating this word which is so little in the world and yet so large. (64)

‘Do not make our young republic the mere appendage to a foreign atom station.’ (60)

‘The maid brought in a Yank now and again; they get health inspections.’ (25)

[The distinguished men from America] were seated beside the master of the house with maps in front of them, both of Iceland and the world. The master stood up and came towards me and helped me put down the tray and asked me to be at hand should they need anything with it, but they required nothing all evening. Near midnight their car came up to the gate and they rushed off; for some reason it was not considered a good idea to let their car pause for any length of time outside the house. (27)

The nice Americans would come when it was nearly midnight; they had stopped leaving their coats in the vestibule and went straight to the master’s study; and if they came across a housemaid in the hall they patted her on the back and brought out cigarettes and chewing gum. (59)


Suddenly there was unrest in this restful street, with loosely knit groups of young people milling around in front of the Prime Minister’s house; something had happened, there was vehemence in their eyes […] After a little while I heard the groups of young people start to shout at the PrimeMinister’s house, ‘We don’t want to sell Iceland, we don’t want to sell Iceland.’The Atom Station (29)

Daddy’s boys…..the sons of men who have cheated the populace of vast wealth.

The Atom Station (43)


Why Ugla?

‘I am people’ (3)

I am the most stupid thing there is in the whole of Iceland, and that I don’t

have opinions about anything.

The Atom Station (34)

I was left alone in this new world which in a single day had made my previous

life a dim memory – I am tempted to say a story in an old book.

The Atom Station (7)

I stood as if nailed to the spot, dumbfounded at this unbelievable spectacle.

The Atom Station (58)


I was no bondswoman, I was a person, I was a free woman.

The Atom Station (52)

‘I was taught never to believe a single word which is written in the papers, and nothing except what is written in the Icelandic sagas.’

The Atom Station (44)


That Icelanders have managed to preserve their thousand-year old culture is demonstrated most tellingly by the fact that they can still speak the language of their forefathers. Any Icelandic child in fact can easily read the sagas of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The language, the oldest spoken in the Western world . . . is lost everywhere except Iceland.

(Gylfi Gislason, ‘In Defense of Small Nations’, 1984)

The sagas are not a standard form of medieval narrative, and Iceland itself was an atypical medieval European culture. Although he sagas are not a mirror of actual events, these repetitive stories of feuds, written over a period of over one hundred years in different parts of the island by different kinds of people, give us ambience of medieval Iceland. Iceland had no military, had never been invaded, and had no kind or hierarchical form of government.

(Jesse L. Bycock, ‘Saga form, oral pre-history, and the Icelandic social context’, 1984)


When a culture starts moving towards the modern novel, it’s always a compromise between foreign form and local materials… For me it’s more of a triangle: foreign form, local material – and local form.

Franco Moretti, ‘Conjectures in World Literature’, New Left Review 1 Jan/Feb 2000

Current discussions of globalization often focus largely or exclusively on contemporary literature and culture, yet the global penetration of regional culture is not at all a new phenomenon. As a case in point, I would like to take the case of literary production in medieval Iceland. […] As a writer from a peripheral region of Europe, Snorri [Sturluson, writer of the Prose Edda (c.1240)] was well aware that his traditions are in danger of being overwritten by the global traditions that entered Iceland in Christianity’s wake. As a result, a concern over cultural memory pervades the Prose Edda


It is a rare country that develops its own script and its own literature in fundamental independence from other societies; ancient Egypt and Shiang China are more the exception than the rule. Most literatures – from Latin and French and from Hebrew to Icelandic – have been formed with broad systems grounded in the power of cultural traditions to cross the boundaries of time, space, and language. Arising within a transcultural context, a local, or national literature must negotiate a double bind: the new influences that can help shape a people’s traditions also brings them the threat of the local culture’s absorption into a broader milieu.

David Damrosch, ‘Global Regionalism’, European Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, 135-143 (2007)


The End?

When the peace of autumn has become poetic instead of being taken for granted . . . . the last day of the plover becomes a matter of personal regret . . . the horse become associated with the history of art and mythology . . . . the evening ice-film on the farm stream become reminiscent of crystal . . . and the smoke from the chimney become a message to us from those who discovered fire – then the time has come to say goodbye. The world-bacterium has overcome you, the countryside has turned into literature, poetry and art; and you no longer belong there. After on winter in the company of electric floor polishers, farmer Falur’s house in the valley has become only a brief shelter for the girl in the poem “Snow swirls across the hills”, in order not to die of exposure. I had long begun to count the days until I could once again leave home, where I felt an alien, and go out into the alien world, where I was at home. But still I paused for a while over my thoughts of departure, and listened to the silence which had robbed the gods of sleep; and dusk sank slowly over the horses.

That same night, near bedtime, Government messengers arrived in police cars to fetch the Portuguese sardines and D.L.

The Atom Station (154)


Soon the whole world will be one vast barbarian land…’Has Iceland been abandoned to the atomic war’? I asked…

‘The conflict is between two fundamentals,’ he said. ‘The battlefield covers all lands, all seas, all skies; and particularly our innermost consciousness. The whole world is one atom station.

The Atom Station (163)