But had Columbus returned to Cairi [Trinidad] in 1935 he would have found her still beautiful as on that July day four hundred years before […] the stars would shine like those jewels in the El Dorado of dead men's dreaming.Ralph de Boissiere, Crown Jewel (1952)
In his grand, three-part narrative of globalization Peter Sloterdijk dates the middle stage as occurring from 1492 to 1945 when, he argues, the globe became a philosophical concept. Material expansion created the terrestrial earth, which effectively ejected the cosmological domain from its coordinates so that the ancient cosmos or sphere became the globe (Sloterdijk 2013, 3–15). Sloterdijk describes his formulation as ‘the para-Nietzschean proposition: The Sphere is dead’ (quoted in Alliez 2007, 318). This second phase overlaps with its predecessor in time, if not in thought, for as Sloterdijk notes, it retains ‘metaphysical quirks that like to hide beneath the veneer of the ordinary’ (Sloterdijk 2013, 6). This second era was that of ‘world history’, of global exploration and colonization, which was characterized in European history and thought by unidirectional, nonreciprocal ‘discovery’ of new places, peoples and ideas (Morin 2008, 64–66), as examined in the previous chapter.
This chapter is concerned with the moment this second stage of globalization gives way to the third and final epoch that Sloterdijk terms ‘global foams’, which he dates from the end of the Second World War and which continues to fold into the present. ‘Global foams’ evokes qualities of relationality, permeability, mobility, plurality and ephemerality in what is, in many ways, a spatialization of theories of postmodern simultaneity and surface. The era of global foams, the globalized globe of our own time, is defined by relationality because all (terranean) places have been discovered. The unidirectional trajectories of world history have given way to dynamics of action and reaction.
Sloterdijk's particular metaphorics (or metonymics) of globes as encapsulated worlds are especially productive to a consideration of literature's role in the remaking of world and globe in the postwar period. Specifically, the model of global foams enables the tracking of vectors and interactions between multiple conceptions of inner and outer worlds across/on/through topologies and topographies at a moment of radical global transformation. Derrida argues that from this time, ‘[t]here is no world any more, only islands’ (2009, 9).