This one about Europe snuck in under my radar

I wrote it a few days ago, but it just got published today:

The other day, Mr. Horace Engdahl, a man who normally occupies a rather obscure outpost when it comes to public awareness, bought himself a few minutes of fame by engaging in everyone’s favorite pastime: America bashing. Mr. Engdahl’s statements in this regard were noteworthy only because he happens to be the top member of the committee charged with awarding the Nobel Prize for literature.

In an “exclusive” interview with the AP, Mr. Engdahl pulled no punches when it came to demeaning Americans. In his estimation, “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.”

This was a rather interesting comment coming from a Swede. Sweden is a lovely country, and the very nice people who live there all seem to speak beautiful English. It’s also a country of only about nine million people, 87% of whom profess the same religion, speak the same language, and share the same ethnicity. Oh! Don’t forget that it’s surrounded on all sides by similar nations (Norway, Denmark, and Finland). I don’t say any of this to insult Sweden. I just think it’s worth pointing out that those who live in insular countries shouldn’t throw snide stones.

We shouldn’t really be surprised at this, however. Democrats and other Americans of the liberal persuasion are desperate to throw the Republicans out of the White House so that they can curry favor with the Europeans they so much admire. I’m afraid they have a tough road to hoe — and an Obama election may not be enough to do it. The fact is that Europeans don’t like us, and they never have.

Because Mr. Engdahl started this discussion about the dislike Europeans (or, at least, Europe’s intellectuals) feel for America, we should look first to Nobel Prize winners when we cast about for examples of European anti-Americanism. In the world of literature, last year’s controversial winner was Doris Lessing, she of the famous “they would murder Obama” attitude. (Ironically, the only place that’s almost happened, at least by tragic proxy, is in England, where a white racist shot — but thankfully did not kill — a black man wearing an Obama shirt.)

Lessing is only the most recent anti-American winner. Two years before her prize, the winner was Harold Pinter, a leftist amongst leftists, who has called George Bush a “mass murderer.” He was preceded by Elfriede Jelinek, another European Communist who deeply hates America.

This year’s winner, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, has not (yet) ascended to the ranks of rabid America haters, but his general theme seems to be a disdain for all things Western. Work your way past the prize committee’s incomprehensible praise for him as an “explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization,” and you can find the meat of his writing, which one reviewer explains the Third World as “a utopian antithesis to the ugliness and brutality of European society.”

And don’t even get me started on the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

You can read the rest here.

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  • babbie

    I certainly agree with everything you have said so eloquently. However, the English teacher in me must comment on “a tough road to hoe.” There’s a name for these misheard phrases that escapes me at the moment; it should be “a tough row to hoe.” Makes more sense now, doesn’t it?

  • Bookworm

    Babbie, you may be right — and I may actually have written it correctly in the first go round. The editor did his editorial thing, so it’s not quite what I sent out (although I have no quarrels with the final product).

  • rockdalian

    There’s a name for these misheard phrases

    I nominate Berra-isms.

    If you come to a fork in the road, take it

    The future ain’t what it used to be.

    A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.

    There are many more listed at the site.

    I suspect the real name for this condition is malapropism.
    A malapropism (also called a Dogberryism) is the substitution of an incorrect word for a word with a similar sound, usually to comic effect.

    Still, it doesn’t make them any less humorous.

  • suek

    “I just think it’s worth pointing out that those who live in insular countries shouldn’t throw snide stones.”

    Heh. Love that one…

  • Zhombre

    Oh I think the Nobel fossils will come around and give a prize to Tony Kushner, or to Gore Vidal before he croaks.

  • suek


    Thanks for the link!
    that’s a goodie!

  • Gringo

    Here is an example of how well-informed young Swedes are.

    Communism (Föreningen för upplysning om kommunismen – UOK) found that 90 percent of Swedes between the ages of 15 and 20 had never heard of the Gulag. This can be contrasted with the 95 percent who knew of Auschwitz.

    “Unfortunately we were not at all surprised by the findings,” Ander Hjemdahl, the founder of UOK, told The Local.

    “We had a strong hunch that this would be the case having spent a few years travelling around to various schools,” he added.

    Of the 1004 young Swedes involved in the nationwide poll, 43 percent believed that communist regimes had claimed less than one million lives. A fifth of those surveyed put the death toll at under ten thousand. The actual figure is estimated at around 100 million.

    The poll also found that 40 percent of young Swedes believed that communism contributed to increased prosperity in the world; 22 percent considered communism a democratic form of government; 82 percent did not regard Belarus as a dictatorship.

    I knew an ethnic Swede born in Estonia 8 years before Stalin took over. She was able to survive both Stalin and Hitler and flee to the US. So, not all Swedes are unaware.

    Most of the Swedes I met in South America were reasonable Social Democrat types, but I ran across an occasional hard-left Swedish troll, who had no qualms about misrepresenting what I said. Yes, their English is impeccable.

    If you have the time, here is a fascinating lecture by a Swedish MD on misconceptions about the Third World. While bright Swedish undergrads may hold these misconceptions, many throughout the world and in the US also share these misconceptions. The data presentation is cutting edge, and may be reason enough to watch the video.

    I once read an article Harold Pinter wrote for the Index on Censorship about the alleged malicious intent of the US, as shown by a George Kennan-authored State Department document. I read the document at a nearby government document deposit library to compare what Pinter had written about it. Suffice it to say that Pinter’s misrepresentation of that document would have been worthy of some of the trolls banned from this and other sites. BTW, isn’t a troll a figure from Swedish folk tales?

    Just remember, ABBA is Swedish. Assistant Villlage Idiot, himself of Swedish descent, recently posted a picture of ABBA in costume.

  • Ymarsakar


    Anybody that wants to read my analysis of multiculturalism from the Left can try my review of the Last Samurai. It has all the goods I hope.

  • Ymarsakar

    In Sweden or NOrway I remember a story back in 2002 something about a politician in a mall getting stabbed and then the audience just standing there and watching the assault and the attacker get away.

    Sheep to the slaughter, Book.

  • McLaren

    Anti-Americanism has been around since before John Hancock’s signature was dry on the Declaration. Notice this knucklehead’s comment about America being too isolated and insular. In the next breath he or his colleagues would go on about how American culture has infected every corner of the globe.

    “Negative sentiments and views have been driven not only — or even primarily — by what the United States does, but rather by an animus against what Europeans have believed that America is. While the politics, style, and discourse of the Bush terms — and of President Bush as a person — have undoubtedly exacerbated anti-American sentiment among Europeans and fostered a heretofore unmatched degree of unity between elite and mass opinion in Europe, they are not anti-Americanism’s cause. Indeed, a change to a center-left administration in Washington, led by a Democratic president, would not bring about its abatement, let alone its disappearance.”

  • pst314

    “The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough”

    American publishers translate huge numbers of books into English. I think Engdahl is lying–unless you interpret “don’t translate enough” as “they weren’t interested in my latest ode to Mao and Stalin.”