Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A screed worthy of Heather Mallick

There's a kernel of justification in the bone headed missive from the Nobel Laureate permanent secretary Horace Engdahl, who yesterday cited American writing as being ""too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture" and said "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."
He's right that there's not enough translation, but that's true in Canada as well, and economics rather than ignorance, is at the heart of it. There's no payoff, so translation doesn't happen.
If there's a reason for an argument to be made that American literature pales next to that of another state, then make it with some specifics, but to impugn popular culture in it's place is just a lazy form of snobbery.
David Remnick gets it right in his reply,
"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.
The piling of all things American is getting just a bit tedious anyway, but lets lay off the American writers.
They know a thing or two about writing well.

Posted by David

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