Or: why Ryszard Kapuściński didn’t win it this year.
The Nobel Prize for Literature is seen as a ‘big deal’ by most. And it is true that when you look back at some of the winners over the years there are some very impressive authors on the list.
But there are also gaping holes where obvious geniuses like Tolstoy or Joyce, should be.
Does whoever awards these things take into account more than just artistic criteria? Of course they do. This is not a literary prize at all, it merely reflects the contemporary obsessions of the West – and particularly Sweden.
For instance, Czeslaw Milosz won his Nobel prize in 1980. Now what was going on in 1980? Oh yeah, Solidarity became the first independent trade union in the communist bloc.
That was back in the days of the Cold War. Today, the West thinks it has other things to worry about.
So it’s no surprise that Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk won the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature. The judges said that they had given it to him as his ‘quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures.’
Ryszard Kapuściński, the third favourite this year and an obvious choice as he is one of the greatest journalists of his generation, never stood a chance. If he really wants to win it then perhaps he should become a Muslim and start writing about why he wants a sex change operation (with recycled scalpels and forceps).
Poland has won the prize lots of times - some of them in political circumstances. The 1905 prize went to Henryk Sienkiewicz - the year of another failed uprising. Wladyslaw Reymont won it in 1924 (in the years following the First World War the committee were giving awards to ‘non-combatant countries’ - in a bid to appear neutral. As Poland didn’t exist at the time of WW I it certainly counts as being a non-combatant). The Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer won it in 1974, and Wislawa Szymborska (who? – don’t worry, she’s a poet) won it in 1996.
What's So Funny About the Nobel Prize for Literature?, LA Times, Oct 1
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Posted by beatroot at 10/12/2006