Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Controversy Embroils Nobel Literature Prize : NPR

Controversy Embroils Nobel Literature Prize : NPR: "The 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced Thursday morning, and it's already drawing attention — for the wrong reasons. An official of the Swedish Academy — which awards the Nobel Prizes — caused a furor last week when he described American literature as isolated and insular, and therefore unqualified for literature's most prestigious award.

Playwright Edward Albee, whose credits include Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe and Zoo Story, has gained a sort of cranky perspective when it comes to awards. 'All prizes are peculiar,' he says. 'There's politics in everything, and some judges just don't know what they're doing.'

Albee points to a long list of great 20th century writers who were passed over by the Nobel judges: Leo Tolstoy, Marcel Proust, Jorge Luis Borges, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov and W.H. Auden. . . .

Still, Prose says that Engdahl had a point when he criticized U.S. publishers for not promoting more literature in translation. Novelist Junot Diaz — who won this year's Pulitzer Prize in literature — says something good could actually come out of this controversy.

"If this encourages the average American to read one more book in translation — if only to spite the kind of sneering Eurocentric elitism of this one individual — that's not a bad thing," he says.

Nor would it be so bad, Diaz says, if it incited U.S. publishers to translate more work from other parts of the world. He has a tip for them: the young Mexican writer Marteen Solares. His work, says Diaz, is brilliant, but mostly unavailable in English — or, in Swedish.

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