Monday, October 06, 2008

the centre cannot hold

Last week, a Nobel Prize judge obnoxiously deemed all American literature to be "too isolated, too insular" to "really participate in the big dialogue of literature."

American writers were "too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture," he told the Associated Press. "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."

Literary cruise missiles immediately blasted off from the United States. "Put him in touch with me and I'll send him a reading list," said Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the US National Book Foundation.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker magazine, suggested it was the Swedish Academy which had been convicted by literary history of ignorance and bad taste. Some of the greatest, and most admired, writers of the past century were denied the Nobel Prize, he said – including several Europeans.

"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," he said.

However, in an intriguing twist, Gawker reported the following from a "tipster": "I work for PEN in Britain, and there is a rumour here that [the above comments are] an attempt to cover up J.D. Salinger's being on the shortlist for this year's Nobel."

The winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced this Thursday.