are Swedish.And one of them read my last post, and commented. Actually, she did so over on Facebook, where my blog posts are imported as notes, but I liked what she said enough to bring it back over here.Her point is that Engdahl didn't mean cultural hegemony as much as he meant linguistic hegemony. Now he may well have, and assumed that it would be understood by a global audience as well as it is clearly understood by his fellow Swedes (Ella picked it up immediately, and it went whooshing over my head). Here's Ella offering her support to him, and making some good points as she does so:
arrogant, Moi?ah... and perhaps this is in part a knee-jerk nationalistic reaction on my part... but i think there's an element of truth in what Horace Engdahl is saying, though by pinning it on the US alone, he undermines the credibility of his argument. I think it IS fair to say that the English speaking literary world is insular - to its detriment. in part, that's linked to the sheer volume of English language literature published yearly (and i think there are valid concerns about how the sustainability of the publishing industry's current model of swamping the market in order to trail for bestsellers, but that's another argument...) - you could, theoretically, never NEED to read something new which wasn't originally written in English, and still have plenty of unread Englsih lit and criticism to spare when you died. i get that. and, obviously, smaller languages don't have to contend with that sort of embarrassment of riches and therefore HAVE to translate work in order to be able to provide readers with enough new material to 'feed' a readership which can read as much as its englsih counterparts, but obviously can't produce as much literature. i get this too.
but the side effect of that need for translation is that it becomes seen as a virtue in itself, and i genuinely believe that to be the case. but even in the uk, where you can take a train to mainland europe, there's a very small proportion of total new literature (both critical and fiction) which was originally in another language. and, noticeably, a lot of them are actually recent nobel prize winners. (if the nobel prize committe sees part of it's job as promoting non-english language literature, surely that's a positive thing?) from what i've seen of US bookstores and curricula, the problem is even more exacerbated there - which inevitably influences contemporary US authors. so, i actually think that horace engdahl is making a valid argument about the negative influence of cultural (or rather, linguistic) hegemony on the work of contemporary US fiction - of course its broad brush and imperfect (paul auster springs to mind as an obvious exception), though he phrases it in the most obnoxious way imaginable.
Last week I wanted to spend some time expanding on why I found Engdahl's comment -- as it was reported (and I know that there's a gap between what he said and what was picked up) offensive. This week, if I find the time, I'll expand more fully on what I wanted to say. Meanwhile, it's all food for thought.