The top member of the jury that decides the Nobel Prizes for literature finds the U.S. “too insular and ignorant” for its writers to compete with their counterparts in Europe.
As you can imagine, the comments went over like, um…let’s see… a rejected American Idol contestant throwing a Big Gulp of Coca Cola on Paula Abdul.
Said permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Horace Engdahl:
“Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can’t get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world … not the United States… The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining.”
The insults provoked passionate responses from American editors, including David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker:
“You would think that the permanent secretary of an academy that pretends to wisdom but has historically overlooked Proust, Joyce, and Nabokov, to name just a few non-Nobelists, would spare us the categorical lectures,” said David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker.
“And if he looked harder at the American scene that he dwells on, he would see the vitality in the generation of Roth, Updike, and DeLillo, as well as in many younger writers, some of them sons and daughters of immigrants writing in their adopted English. None of these poor souls, old or young, seem ravaged by the horrors of Coca-Cola.”
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