This article focuses on an overlooked connection between the “cultural fever” in China in the 1980s and a comparable cultural fever that emerged in Africa and the Caribbean in the mid-1950s through the writing of Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Jacques Stéphen Alexis, and others. It argues that, in the mid-1950s, these writers politicized their discourse on culture partly under the influence of Mao's “Talks at the Yan'an Forum on Literature and Art.” In particular, they translated the tension between the state and the local, which is intrinsic to Mao's “Talks,” into the dialectical opposition between nationalism and pan-Africanism. In post-Mao China, Chinese writers released the local from the grip of the state and aligned localism with a nascent cosmopolitanism, which inclined them to identify with Third World cosmopolitan writers. In the process of translating post-Mao Chinese literature into the mechanism of the world literary system, writers and translators transformed localism into an assimilable cult of culture. By looking at the shift of value in Chinese literature in the 1980s in relation to a change of consciousness in Euro-American literary culture in the same period, this article further argues that the context of Third Worldism is largely eliminated in the reception of global South literature in the world literary setting. It contends that recognizing the formation of Third World cosmopolitan novelists in the milieu of an international socialist literary culture oriented to the Third World necessitates the construction of a global history of the novel that will redress the myopia in novel studies, postcolonialism, and contemporary theories of world literature.

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