Thursday, March 12, 2009

Miles Franklin long list

The long list for the 2009 Miles Franklin Award, the most prestigious literary award in Australia, has been released (h/t: Matilda).

When Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, complained 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,” American book bloggers spun into a frenzy of refutation and abuse. The fact is, though, that Europe and the U.S. are too isolated and insular where Australian writing is concerned.

Of the ten finalists for the Miles Franklin Award, I have read only Tim Winton, whose Dirt Music won the award in 2002. (I taught it the next year in a course on contemporary literature in which I teach the previous year’s award winners from around the English-speaking world.) Those who take self-righteous resolutions not to read any books by white American males would do better to resolve to read more interesting fiction from Australia (and New Zealand too), where there is an entire literature unknown to Americans who dislike thinking of themselves as isolated and insular.