Thursday, October 09, 2008


Today the Nobel people awarded the Nobel in Literature to Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio. He's a French writer, and is apparently an author of "new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization."

I have to admit that I have no earthly idea what the quote above means. I have not read any of le Clezio's works, so maybe that would help. However, it kind of feels like a typical Nobel literature pick. How can people possibly evaluate writers from literally everywhere in the world and then compare them to award a prize. Look at Orhan Pamuk. The Nobel people say that he was "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures." That is probably a good description of the Pamuk I've read, but if you are not familiar (and I mean VERY familiar) with Istanbul, how can you evaluate Pamuk's work? I could say the same for Naguib Mahfouz and Gabriel García Márquez. Their writings are very culturally and historically specific.

This is part of why I decided to read the Pulitzer Prize winners, instead of Nobel Prize winners. To get anything more out of Mahfouz than the obvious meaning of the words I had to take a n0n-Western literature class in college. I just don't have the time to learn enough about the history and culture of these places to give these works their full value. I guess the Nobel people have that kind of time.


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