The Incuriosity of Bloom

On the subject of Bloom’s canon, what I might have added (if I was feeling a bit more controversial) was that a foreigner, looking at such an American-compiled list, might almost get the impression that this American was quite incurious about foreign literatures of any recent stamp (for he’s looked through the list and there certainly isn’t much of his own literary tradition in there – what about X and Y, he finds himself saying, who are generally thought to be our best writers) – and perhaps he might generalise this view at some point to include other Americans.

Let’s see: – nothing in South America – no, not one writer – since the Boom (only relics, Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Fuentes);  the most recent Greek writer is Odysseas Elytis, who if he’d lived would today be 97; Hungarian literature (one of my favourite traditions recently) represented by 3 writers, the latest born 1928; the Poles do better, with 6 writers, one of whom is still alive – the first we’ve found in non-English speaking Europe so far; like South America, nothing in Czechland post-Pr. Spring boom; Scandinavia, on the other hand, is a veritable haven of literature, with 2 living writers; the Russians are all dead (mostly – it has to be said – killed by the communists, but they’d probably be dead anyway by now); the Spanish and Portuguese each have a novelist, while the Italian tradition only survives in the person of one 87-year old poet. (OK, I admit, France and Germany do a bit better).

Here are some more figures of significant c20th writers by “country” (because I know you’re impressed by them):

Romania 0
Czech 5
Scandinavia 8
Spain 13
Hungary 3
India 3
Russia 18
Arabic 4
Africa 12
Latin America 18
US 161

Of course, Paul Auster’s down at the Festival of Oaxaca this week, doing his bit – along with his wife and Francisco Goldman. Which proves the breadth of American literary tastes.


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