Nobel Secretary Who Criticized American Literature Steps Down

12.22.08

Horace Engdahl, secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize, announced on Saturday that he would leave his post in 2009. Engdahl, whose position entitled him to chair the judges for the prize in literature, caused a stir in September with comments he made to the Associated Press about the limitations of American literature.

"Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can’t get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world," Engdahl said. "The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature." He later told the Guardian that nationality is not a factor in the selection of a Nobel Prize winner.

Engdahl, who has served as secretary for ten years, will remain on the board of the academy. Swedish author Peter Englund, an academy member since 2002, will assume the post on June 1.