Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Horace Engdahl (second thoughts)

It's remarkable that nobody has pointed out a very obvious point in the whole debate surrounding Horace Engdahl: The Swedish Academy - which supposedly is so incredibly anti-American - has given no awards to Swedish writers since 1974 (when it went to Harry Martinsson), and before that to no Swede since Lagerkvist in 1951, unless you count Nelly Sachs (who i believe lived in Sweden but wrote in German and got the prize in 1966).

(Should be noted that there were a few Swedes early on that got, not including the most important modern Swedish writer, August Strindberg, who was passed over but received "the anti-nobel").

In all the babbling about this topic, I've yet to read someone say, "These Swedes don't appreciate their own literature." In the same period, the US have received quite a few (Morrison, Bellow, Brodsky, Walcott, maybe I'm forgetting some). Yet, I've read (and continue to read) how much Swedes hate American literature.

There have also been very few poets awarded as of late. Notable here is that arguably the world's two most prominent poets are one Swede (Thomas Tranströmer) and an American (John Ashbery).

I bring this tired issue up again because I'm writing an essay about it for a journal.


Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

I suppose the sad part is that they'd love to pick a Swede, but as soon as they did, they'd hear nothing but shit about it.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Donald Dunbar said...

Well, people are saying "This one Swedish guy who is representative of the Nobel Judging Committee (or whatever) has something against American writers, especially American writers from the dominant social/ethnic group(s)." For precision's sake.

I think a lot of this "controversy" is a lot simpler than the blog network has made it out to be. Nobody actually believes it's a Right to be a likely choice for a Nobel Prize in Literature, nobody (who doesn't watch Fox News etc.) believes Swedes hate American writers, and most writers know that prizes don't change the work. What it comes down to is we're all fanboys? (in the comic book / anime sense?)

We love these authors, we want them to be happy and applauded and writing tons more shit, so we've got to be a little angry every so often when we imagine them slighted? We also get a chance to publicly display our devotion to them, a devotion they might see and that might make them smile as they google their own name in quotes?

Those are my guesses.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Max said...

I think that perhaps you're only seeking to respond to the most idiotic critiques of Engdahl's statements, Johannes.

And also, I would expect a Nobel bias to play out as a pro-Sweden bias. It seems pretty clear to me that, in this day and age, the European mentality is that we're in this thing together, as a union. That there have been very few Swedish Nobel laureates doesn't mean that Engdahl should be cleared of his status as a target of scorn.

It doesn't take spite brought on by Engdahl's comments to drive a larger critique of the Nobel's modern day relevance. What's most surprising to me are the people who rush to the defense Engdahl, of his institution, merely because they believe all criticism of his comments to be driven essentially by reactionary xenophobia.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Correction: I wouldn't expect a Nobel bias to play out as a pro-Sweden bias.

6:47 PM  

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