Be Less Insular!

If you were stung by the permanent secretary of the Nobel Academy’s assertion that “The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining,” take heart. There are several ways that you can become less insular:

1) By osmosis

Like many insular Americans, Richard B. Woodward hadn’t heard of J.M.G Le Clézio, winner of the 2008 Nobel for Literature. until the prize was announced. So, he immersed himself in the author’s work (reading some of it in French, which many of us ignorant Americans cannot do) and reports on the experience in today’s Wall Street Journal. The result? Woodward feels some of the works are dated but all have “passages of gorgeous writing.” 

Woodward also offers some thoughtful counters to the “insular” comments, which you may want to tuck away to refute future accusations.

2) By familiarizing yourself with some contemporary international books

This week’s New York magazine offers a handy guide to five “international literary superstars.” Fortunately, all the books are available in this country (despite the fact that we “don’t translate enough”). Included in the group is J.M.G Le Clézio’s The Prospector, which is recommended as a “buy” (rather than “wait for the paperback”).

Although the book is temporarily out of stock, new printings in both paperback and hardcover are coming this month.

The Prospector

 J.M.G Le Clézio

Hardcover: $24.95; 352 pages
Publisher: David R. Godine
ISBN 0-87923-976-x
Temporarily out of stock: available November 2008

Softcover: $16.95, 352 pages
ISBN 978-1-56792-380-3
Available November 2008

3) By trying just a little (it’s good for you)

The New Yorker magazine published a story by Clézio, “The Boy Who Had Never Seen the Sea” in the Oct 27 issue (unfortunately, not available online).

Fiction editor Deborah Teisman told the AP that they wanted to get a story by Clézio into the magazine “while people still remember his name.”

Maybe we’re not so much ignorant as forgetful.

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