In a recent post on the year in translation, I asked, suggestively, whether the relatively small number of translated books in the U.S. market might indicate that American readers are culturally insulated or lacking curiosity about the outside world. I hoped not, and am happy to report that Emily Williams, in a longish article about The Translation Gap: Why More Foreign Writers Aren’t Published in America Her concludes: There are a number of explanations for this phenomenon, very few of which have to do with stereotypes of American readers as being culturally insulated or lacking curiosity about the outside world. That also reaffirms my view on the silliness of Horace Engdahl's remarks last year regarding the U.S. and the Nobel prize in literature. More on that topic in Lessons Learned and Not Learned at Quarterly Conversation.
A different kind of antidote to the notion of American insularity is the new (October 2009) Library of America volume Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing
from the LOA website:
"In his wide-ranging, expertly curated anthology, Becoming Americans, Ilan Stavans collects four centuries of immigrants' stories, laying the works of comparative newcomers like Eva Hoffman, Felipe Alfau and Gary Shteyngart alongside the writing of early settlers, from religious dissidents fleeing persecution to slaves like Phillis Wheatley and Ayuba Suleiman Diallo.... Stavans' anthology goes a long way toward contemplating the breadth of the American immigrant experience. For every tragic story collected here, there is one of joyful liberation or of perplexed amazement or, more commonly, of excitement followed by a long, slow adjustment tinged with hope, fear and regret."—Maud Newton, NPR