16 oct. 2007

The Nobel prize confers no particular distinction. There was no Nobel for Borges, for Kafka, for V. Woolf, for Proust or Galdós. None for Wallace Stevens or David Shapiro. César Vallejo. Frank O'Hara never won the Nobel prize, nor did Lorca, Pessoa, WCW, Antonio Machado, and José Lezama Lima. Clark Coolidge is never mentioned as a candidate! Adonis is still waiting in the wings. How about Flann O'Brien? Raymond Roussel? Roland Barthes? Claudio Rodríguez, Kenneth Koch? Celan? Where is Ashbery's Nobel prize? How about Alice Notley, Lorine Niedecker? HD?

Sure, Beckett, Yeats, and Eliot won. Faulkner, Neruda, Kawabata, and Mann. Vicente Aleixandre. You couldn't expect the Nobel committee to miss every single significant writer of the past hundred some years. But only hitting a really good writer every 10 years or so, while bypassing the true greats again and again, is not such a good record. The main problem is that they want writers with heavy non-literary aspects, some political significance or geographical interest. Adonis would not win because he is a great poet, but because of the need to confer the honor on Arab literature.

I thought Lessing had already won the Nobel prize another year. I was abslutely convinced of that til I realized I was thinking of Gordimer. She is the perfect choice, the archetypical Nobel laureate in many ways. And not in a good way, I fear.

11 comentarios:

Joseph Duemer dijo...

I'd also mwntion Czeslaw Milosz as one of the great writers the Nobel Committee managed to notice.

And for an alternative view of Lessing, see:

Jonathan dijo...

I'm unconvinced by Milosz, personally. He's one of those writers you assume must be better in Polish, but in English translation he fits perfectly in the Nobel mode of being chosen (apparently) for SUBJECT MATTER and geography.

Joseph Duemer dijo...

I did a long interview with CM years ago for our local public radio station & he was a lovely man. But I have been reading his work for more than twenty years & while I don't read Polish I find his poems structurally interesting & moving. And I dispute your dismissal of SUBJECT MATTER. I like subject matter.

Jonathan dijo...

I'm sure he was a lovely man. Techincally, I didn't dismiss subject matter; I simply pointed out that he was chosen for the Nobel because of it, probably not for structural integrity of his poems.

He is usually praised as "witness to the century" and "exemplar of moral vision." That kind of humanist rhetoric is what the Nobel committee loves to promulgate. Literature as message. Milosz is probably the most deserving Nobel prize winner by those standards. Won't Lessing be praised now for service to humanity? Making the world a better place?

Jacob Russell dijo...

Why J.M.Coetzee? An interesting case. His merits on one side, his Nobel credentials on the other.

A happy coincidence, I'm inclined to think

Joseph Duemer dijo...

I don't know, Jonathan, maybe it's OK to choose writers for their conscience. We could use more conscience. Are you arguing of an apolitical, art for art's sake awarding of the prize?

Jonathan dijo...

Yeah, pretty much, Joseph. I'd love to see them go art for art's sake rather than humanist Concience of the World. But that's just me and the Swedish Academy is extremely unlikely to follow my advice.

John dijo...

Art for art's sake is a mirage.

Mirages can be lovely.

Sometimes you can even drink from them.

Jonathan dijo...

Art for the sake of anything else is the mirage.

John dijo...

The mirage is a Las Vegas hotel, no?

"Art for art's sake" is an imprecise cliche, and my comment didn't clarify anything.

The only true "art for art's sake" artists are those who do not show their work to anybody, who create work not to be experienced by any other person.

Once you show the work to somebody else, it creates an environment for an experience -- a human experience, not for art's sake, but for the sake of humans. The people who reduce the experience to "communication" or "ideas" are wrong, as are the people who reduce the experience to "expression." But communication, ideas, and expression are typically part of the experience. But not primary.

Some agitprop moves me greatly -- I'm a big fan of Woody Guthrie, for instance -- and much more leaves me cold. Whether something moves me or leaves me cold has to do with the experience -- the art -- rather than the "content" or message. But a beautifully produced artwork whose message/idea aspect strikes me as odious would not provide me with an experience that I would want to repeat. Paraphrasable content does matter -- it's part of the experience.

Art for communion's sake. Art for the sake of the art-buzz. Whatever you want to call the "art experience" is fine with me -- but art itself does not have a "sake."

Larry Koenigsberg dijo...

No Tolstoy. No Chekhov.

No Yasar Kemal. No Nazim Hikmet.