I finished Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, and I have some good news: it’s possible that European literature (and consequently European culture) is not dead. It might have simply been taking a nap. Not only did Houellebecq come out with something decent, now Ferrante has brought the clinically dead Italian literature back to life.
Everybody knows that Italian Studies are dead on this continent. At most, an American university might have an ancient Italian professor teaching Intermediate Italian in utter isolation. And if even Americans won’t study you, that means your culture is irredeemably lost.
Europe has not been producing anything massively valuable in terms of culture for quite a while. Spain, yes, but “Africa begins in the Pyrinees”, so it’s a question just how European it is. Plus, Spain is fertilized by the vibrant Latin America to whom it gave its language and culture. Also, I’m biased in Spain’s favor. Germans keep being as scatologically German as ever, and in the UK the valiant Zadie Smith single-handedly is trying to fill the gap where the British culture used to exist. Scandinavians produce tons of shallow commercial glop, and Eastern Europeans can’t even do that.
But now all of a sudden everybody is back to reading European novels and talking about European writers and the ideas they produce. And that’s huge. I hope this isn’t a fluke but, rather, one of those moments when the endlessly announced decline of the West once again fails to transpire.