Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Prizes in Literature

Despite the news of the day, let's not forget that Herta Mueller, a Romanian-born German poet and novelist, won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Haven't read her work? Me neither. However, Martin Chalmers argues that
the Swedish Academy is, I think, doing two things. It is once again challenging the self-satisfied Anglo-centrism of the English-language publishing business, with its rather narrow definitions of what constitutes good writing, and it is widening our ideas of Europe.
In the last two days, her book The Land of Green Plums has moved up to the number 9 spot in's best-sellers list, so some people are paying attention to the news. I might just have to pick it up. I've been trying to do better at reading the people that they award, but I haven't done so well. The list reads like a who's who of literature, so it's hard to argue that obscurity is a prerequisite of the prize, unless you've never heard of Samuel Beckett, Jose Saramago, Gunter Grass or Elfriede Jelinek (this list says something about my own taste; there are a lot of noteworthy authors on it). I am currently working on a paper about that guy who, 45 years ago, turned the prize down.

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