The head of the awards committee (some guy called Horace Engdahl) for the Nobel prize for literature went off on the state of writing in America in a big way yesterday. In reality, in his attempt to insult American authors, the man revealed more about his own petty world view and political prejudices than anything else he spoke about. He came across as a pompous simpleton, but maybe for him that's as good as it gets. According to London's Guardian newspaper:
It's been 15 long years since an American author was last honoured with a Nobel prize for literature....
Judging by the low opinion the head of the award jury holds of American writing, it is not going to happen this year.
Today, the literary world on this side of the Atlantic reacted in bemusement and anger to an extraordinary tirade against American writing by Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Nobel prize jury.
"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 told the Associated Press today.
"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."
The US literary community has long had an ambivalent attitude towards the Nobel prize - not helped by the long drought. The last time American to win a prize for literature was Toni Morrison in 1993.The prestige of Nobel prizes, because of the personal political views of its various judges, has been been drastically discounted for several years now. In effect, Nobel Prizes of all types have become something of a joke because the first standard that potential winners are judged on is their political philosophy. If that philosophy is not the same as that of the judges, they are booted from contention. It's become as simple as that. Frankly, I lost respect for the prizes after watching the politics involved in the awarding of them to people like Jimmy Carter and Albert Gore.
In the years since then, Europeans have been recognised nine times, including Britain's Doris Lessing.
Mr. Engdahl is just another chump of a judge in a long line of chumps.