... writers seeking to be part of the international debate about books, and thereby perhaps realizing lucrative sales of their work, will focus on tropes that are internationally recognized—the detective novel, say, or the story of political struggle—exoticizing and caricaturing a local reality for the benefit of those who can’t be expected to know it. We will thus find ourselves debating the banal or bewildered by the authentic. I recall a discussion on the jury of an international prize in which it was felt that the work of the great Indian writer U.R. Ananthamurthy would simply be too strange for an Anglo-Saxon audience. Which tells us volumes about what we mean by “international prize”: foreign writers who make sense to us.
(Side note: Ananthamurthy was author of Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man, now reissued in English by NYRB [New York Review Books].)
This constitutes another facet of the argument that literary prizes and creative awards generally are glorified popularity contests. The curation of a label like NYRB does far more of real value for bringing needed recognition to deserving authors from all corners than a dozen awards do.
I'm also seeing another case of more-things-change. In his introduction to his translation of Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human, Donald Keene had this to say (circa 1958):
The Japanese writers of today are cut off from Asian literature as completely as the United States is from Latin American literature, by the conviction that there is nothing to learn. ... We might like to reprimand the Japanese for the neglect of their own traditional culture, or to insist that Japanese writers should be proud to be associated with other Asians, but such advice comes too late: as the result of our repeated and forcible intrusions in the past, Western tastes are coming to dominate letters everywhere. The most we have reason to expect in the future are world variants of a single literature, of the kind which already exist nationally in Europe.
Which makes for all the more debating of the banal or bewilderment by the authentic. If the ultimate value of a writer not of our own language or culture is that they remind us of ourselves in some way, just with exotic graphics and hardware, that's a great way to miss the point.