Nobel Judge Attacks ‘ignorant’ US Literature

From The Guardian:

Permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Horace Engdahl told the Associated Press that US writers were “too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture”, which he said dragged down the quality of their work. “The US is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature,” Engdahl said. “That ignorance is restraining.”

“Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can’t get away from the fact that Europe still is the centre of the literary world … not the United States,” he said, later adding that “what I said expresses a conviction resulting from more than 10 years of assiduous labour”. Toni Morrison was the last American to win the prize, in 1993.

Contacted by guardian.co.uk this morning, Engdahl claimed a misunderstanding had occurred and that the Swedish Academy strictly adhered to Alfred Nobel’s wish “that in awarding the prize no consideration whatsoever be given to the nationality of the candidates”. He added: “It is of no importance, when we judge American candidates, how any of us views American literature as a whole in comparison with other literatures. The Nobel prize is not a contest between nations but an award to individual authors. It is essential to remember that when national feelings run high.” He maintained that there was “no reason for any particular author to get upset by my observations.

(via Gerry Canavan)