Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Bit of Nobel Controversy

It’s Nobel Prize time again. The first prize (Physiology/Medicine) will be announced next Monday, October 6th. There is no scheduled announcement date for the literature prize, but the Literary Saloon speculates the prize will be announced on Thursday, October 16th based on past experience and the announcement schedule for the other prizes.

There’s plenty of controversy surrounding this year’s literature prize thanks to an interview given by the Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary Horace Engdahl. Engdahl explains “it’s no coincidence that most winners are European” because “you can’t get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world ... not the United States." Engdahl believes U.S. writers are “too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture. … 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.”

The most recent American to win the award was Toni Morrison in 1993. Other American winners include Saul Bellow, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.


idiotprogrammer said...

i personally think Oates is a strong contender (at least in my pantheon). The problem with Engdahl's statement is that right now American publishing has a lot of depth in writers (but little public interest). The creative writing establishment ensures that lots of writers are continuing to crank out lots of novels.

I remain amazed at how many decent novels are published in the US even in a year when the novel's visibility in sinking. One other thing might be that American novels are hard for people in other countries to identify with; they are less about ordinary people than the glamorous or far-fetched.

Matt said...

Also we have to take into the fact that UK alone has published more literature than the United States. The novels published here are leaning more toward airport novels, popular fiction and chick lit. We have these ridiculous hardbounds on which the author's name is way bigger than the book title--serious indication of fluffy read.