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Nobel jury head slams U.S. authors

According to The Guardian, Nobel jury head Horace Engdahl has got a bit of a hate-on for U.S. authors, describing U.S. writing as “insular and ignorant”:

Permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Horace Engdahl told the Associated Press that U.S. writers were “too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture,” which he said dragged down the quality of their work. “The U.S. 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.”

Engdahl appears to be backpedalling a bit now, but he hasn’t offered any apologies. And we’re not saying he should: he’s entitled to his incredibly sweeping, pretentious, pointy-headed opinion.

The Nobel jury is expected to announce this year’s winner sometime over the next few weeks, and Engdahl’s comments have oddsmakers predicting that contenders like Philip Roth, John Updike, and Joyce Carol Oates needn’t bother to clear space on their mantles.

Oh, and for an alternate opinion of U.S. writing, the L.A. Times contacted Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the foundation that administers the National Book Awards, who said he wanted to send Engdahl a reading list of U.S. literature.

“Such a comment makes me think that Mr. Engdahl has read little of American literature outside the mainstream and has a very narrow view of what constitutes literature in this age,” he said.