The Nobel Prize committee has come under criticism over the last decade but I can't argue with them on their choices for literature. Over the last few years they have recognized authors not only for their literary expertise but also for, as Tim Rutten, a Los Angeles Times staff writer says "an author's particular relevance to the moral moment in which the world finds itself."
Because the world constantly "finds itself" mired in prejudice, one would have to assume that the books that are awarded the coveted Nobel would be about intolerance of one kind or another. Last year V.S. Naipul won for his condemnation of sectarianism. Gao Xingjian writes about man's struggle for individualism in a milieu dominated by governments, politics and other social structures. Gunter Grass writes about the "disavowed and forgotten." These are simplified descriptions, of course, but the struggle of human kind to live free, joyous lives is a subject worthy of prizes.
We must go back to 1995
to find a Nobel Prize winner who writes in English. (Seamus Heaney's work
may be found at : http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/1995/poems-1-e.html.
Even those of you who don't think you like poetry will fall in love.)
Heaney is Irish. We have to go clear back to 1993 to find an American
(Toni Morrison). The Nobel committee has a world of literature to choose
from. Nevertheless, it is my belief that there is much of value that goes
unawarded and even more of value that they do not consider.
So, I am up in arms again. Not because the famous Swedish Academy doesn't do a fine job but because there are so many brilliant (both sung and unsung) writers who write about the prejudices of our time (if prejudices can indeed even be placed in a given segment of time). Many write about it in English so those of us from English-speaking countries (especially those of us with limited language skills) can enjoy the lovely prose in the original. They do it whether they are men or women, old or young, heavy or twig-thin. They do it regardless of their color or religion. I am about to give them my own "Noble (not Nobel) Prize for Literature."
One might argue that if I exclude other languages, I am practicing one of the prejudices I decry. Though many of my readers may be bi or multilingual, they all, by definition, speak English. That is my only excuse.
My apologies also go to my readers; some of these books have been mentioned in prior columns. My justification is that I did not know I would be writing this column until the Nobels were awarded. Therefore I could not possibly secret these titles away as a surprise for my "Noble Prize for Literature's" presentation day!
Tips and Tidbits
Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a writing or promotion tidbit that will help authors and a tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.
2002 Past Columns