We admit we’ve always sort of liked Horace Engdahl, the superpolyglot permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy who emerges each year from a pair of enormous double doors to announce—in Swedish first, of course, then English, French, and pretty much every other language on earth—the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He seems like the closest modern equivalent to the grand high chancellor that would step outside the palace gates to announce royal decrees to the masses. But our world was shaken a few days ago when this lovable Scandinavian mandarin revealed himself to be—gasp—a snob:
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Horace Engdahl said Tuesday that “Europe still is the center of the literary world”…Engdahl says the U.S. “is too isolated, too insular” and doesn’t really “participate in the big dialogue of literature.” (from Breitbart)
Abbeville doesn’t publish much literature, so we don’t really have a dog in this fight, but as Arbiters of Style we’re still galled by the hypocrisy. If only we Americans could shake off our insular self-absorption and start using phrases like “the center of the literary world” to describe ourselves (and awarding ourselves eight out of the last ten Nobels to prove it). Honestly, would it kill Thomas Pynchon to set a novel in, say, Europe? Or for John Ashbery to incorporate French aesthetics into his poems once in a while? Anyway, one of Gawker’s tipsters has theorized that Engdahl is just dropping red herrings because they’re going to give the prize to American isolation poster boy J. D. Salinger this year. We doubt it, but if so, goddamn it, that makes him a snob and a phony.