Sunday, October 01, 2006

The hilarious Nobel Prize for Literature

Susan Salter Reynolds has a wonderful essay in the Los Angeles Times today. Titled "What's So Funny About the Nobel Prize for Literature?," it does nothing positive for the reputation of that prize.
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There they are in all their glory, this year's contenders for the world's most coveted writing award: Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk (3-1 odds), Syrian poet Adonis (4-1), Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski (5-1), Joyce Carol Oates (6-1), followed (ouch) by Philip Roth (10-1) and down into the nether regions of Nobel hopefuls, a list that veers closer to the sublime — South Korean poet Ko Un, Swedish poet Thomas Transtromer, novelists Milan Kundera and Thomas Pynchon, Margaret Atwood, John Updike, Julian Barnes, Paul Auster and, last but not least, Bob Dylan at 500-1 — than the ridiculous.
Swedes get the best quotes in the essay.

Knut Ahnlund, one of the 18 members of the Swedish Academy (whose members serve for life), resigned when Elfriede Jelinek won the prize in 2004. "Degradation, humiliation, desecration and self-disgust, sadism and masochism are the main themes of Elfriede Jelinek's work," he wrote in the conservative paper Svenska Dagblat. "All other aspects of human life are left out."

Others on the committee apparently thought that dwelling on these themes was praise-, and prize-, worthy.

Horace Engdahl, who has been permanent secretary of the Nobel committee since 1999, addressed Jelinek in his award presentation: "If literature is a force that leads to nothing, you are, in our day, one of its truest representatives."

Read the rest of the essay here.

When Jelinek is gone, the asteroid Nabokov 7232 will still be hurtling through space.

Regular visitors to the blog know I care about the Edgar Allen Poe Award and the Man Booker Prize more than the Nobel.

--Marshal Zeringue