As the Swedish Academy enters final deliberations for this year’s award, permanent secretary Horace Engdahl said it’s no coincidence that most winners are European.
"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," he said yesterday. "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."
His comments were met with fierce reactions from literary officials across the Atlantic. "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."