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Monday, October 2, 2006 9:21 am
The Nobel Prize for Literature: Joke or Mystery?
Posted by: Keir Graff

In yesterday’s L.A. Times, Susan Salter Reynolds provocatively–and entertainingly–explored the meaning and relevance of the Nobel Prize for Literature:

Today, the overriding question is how much do the writer’s politics factor into the nomination and award? Is the prize for literature or for politics? (It’s a dessert topping! No, it’s a floor wax!)

There’s a tradition of doing this:

Swedish literary critic Mats Gellerfelt, quoted in a long New Yorker article on the prize in 1999, agreed: “The ideal candidate for the Nobel Prize today,” he said, “would be a lesbian from Asia.”

Susan Salter Reynolds’ conclusion?

Isn’t this a sobering and lovely thought in these days of greed? The Nobel Prize in literature, one of the most lucrative prizes a writer can win, goes, more often than not, to the least commercial work in the world.

I can appreciate that irony, though it seems to me that, if literature lovers are in agreement that the worldwide decline in reading is cause for alarm, it might make sense for all the major prizes to help promote works that are both excellent and have wide appeal. Of course, if that were the case, the wagering wouldn’t be nearly as much fun (Ladbrokes.com currently has Ryszard Kapuscinski [5-1] ahead of Philip Roth [10-1]).

Read the whole article here.

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