A more interesting question, posed by de Tonnac, is whether “an unknown masterpiece might still be discovered.” Eco’s response is similar to the comments of the late critic Hugh Kenner. Kenner pointed out that if a copy of the Iliad turned up for the first time today it would arouse an archeological curiosity but little more. Eco agrees. “A masterpiece isn’t a masterpiece until it is well known and has absorbed all the interpretations to which it has given rise, which in turn make it what it is,” he says. “An unknown masterpiece hasn’t had enough readers, or readings, or interpretations.” Shakespeare, in contrast, is getting richer all the time. Disagreeable though it is to admit this, the anti-Western canon agitators have a point — literary masterpieces don’t simply drop from the heavens, or emerge from the brain of an inspired individual. Fate and politics play their roles.
Philip Marchand in Open Book: This is Not the End of the Book, a review of This is Not the End of the Book: A Conversation Curated by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac. (via bookoflead)