Thursday, October 9, 2008

Nobel Prize in Literature: no political football

Fellow writers, rejoice! The Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced in Stockholm, Sweden today, awarding Jean-Marie Gustave L Clézio, a French novelist, children’s author, and essayist with the prestigious prize. According to the New York Times article, the "prize committee in Stockholm called him an 'author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.'" Intriguing. Sounds like they're actively seeking Sci Fi / Fantasy writers, so check out their nomination page. Let's flood them with...Oops. Hmm. How does one get an invitation to nominate?

And believe it or not, Horace Engdahl -- permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy that dangles these golden rings -- hovers at the top of my "I'm thankful for" list. Years ago, when I discovered that Voltaire had written "I may not agree with what you believe in, but I'll die fighting for your right to believe it," I naively believed that this would be a relatively easy mandate to live by. Nothing has been farther from the truth, of course, but when I heard about Engdahl, I rejoiced. He lives so very far away: certainly I won't be called on to die for him. Right?

Somewhere in the midst of his rather generalized and anti-American incoherent ranting the other day, he pulled out this little gem: "The US is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature." Um. Ok. Well, as columnist Marco Roth writes, "it's unclear who "they" are in all of this." But we'll let that go. We're magnanimous in our own insularity today.

However, it was this snippety tidbit of wisdom that actually delighted me the most: "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" (Associated Press).

Yikes. So, today I have decided to ask Engdahl a series of questions, even though they undoutedly provide blatant evidence of my own naivety and isolationist thinking. I am also inviting him to respond in writing, since I believe all of mankind (note: sexist language) has the right to defend himself against both the "unknown master" or the "lauded elite."

Evidence of my Insular Isolationism:
1. I thought all cultures, big or small, possessed powerful literature?
2. I thought the definition of ego-centric remained the same, regardless of nationality.
3. I thought the definition of ethno-centric remained the same, regardless of GPS location

Ok Horace Engdahl: I am awaiting your kind, compassionate, and possibly condescending reply.


Anthony said...

This post is dipped in Awesomesauce!