“Over the years I have found that many Americans—from readers to reviewers to critics to academics to publishers and of course to politicians—take pride in knowing almost nothing about the rest of the world. Academics will probably bristle at this thought but, at least in relation to literature, all you have to do is look at the courses that are offered featuring the literatures of other countries. Not only don’t they teach these literatures, they don’t read them.
“In any event, there is a kind of pride taken in how little we know about the rest of the world. And this is coupled with a belief that, if given the chance, all other people would want to be Americans, would want to enjoy our way of life, would want our political system, our economic system. And then of course we try to impose our tastes—for purely economic reasons—on the rest of the world. But at the end of the day, we are shocked and hurt and utterly bewildered at the fact that America is hated by many people and governments. And then we manage to turn even that into evidence of our superiority.
“I think that it’s of absolute importance that the literature and intellectual thought of the rest of the world be readily available in this country, and that these be valued and respected. Otherwise, we become this strange, isolated country that survives only because it possesses the military and economic dominance that it does, not because it is the epitome of civilization and freedom. There should be an immersion in this country’s schools of world literature.” – John O’Brien (Director, Dalkey Archive Press)