In the New York Times Sunday Book Review on March 8, 2012, Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland declared the existence of a new genre which he christened “Translit.” The specific occasion for his coinage was Hari Kunsru’s novel, Gods Without Men, which moves from 1775 to 2009, from New York to Iraq to California. Coupland calls the novel “an embodiment of our new world of flattened time and space,” which is, in his assessment, a precondition for translit.
As evidence of this “flattened” world, Coupland points to a decade-long aesthetic deep freeze that has seized western culture. He begins the essay by describing the experience of watching 9/11 footage shown as part of 10-year anniversary television programming. “Aside from the absence of phone cameras,” he writes:
“the people and streets of September 2001 looked pretty much identical to those of September 2011: the clothes, the hair, the cars. I mention this because it has been only in the past decade that we appear to have entered an aura-free universe in which all eras coexist at once — a state of possibly permanent atemporality given to us courtesy of the Internet. No particular era now dominates. We live in a post-era era without forms of its own powerful enough to brand the times. The zeitgeist of 2012 is that we have a lot of zeit but not much geist. I can’t believe I just wrote that last sentence, but it’s true; there is something psychically sparse about the present era, and artists of all stripes are responding with fresh strategies.”