Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On the Nobel Prize for Literature

I can't say that I'm ever particularly excited to find out who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. It just doesn't generally seem like an effective way to discover new authors whose work I'll actually enjoy. There's a nice essay on Literary Kicks though about the predictable dismay--in the English speaking world, that is--that has greeted Herta Müller's win. Dedi Felman writes:
The problem many non-specialists (and here I count a large swath of publishers, press, booksellers, lovers of literature and non-Germanists etc) have with Herta Müller isn’t that she isn’t known. It’s that, at least until they’ve all had a chance to read her and perhaps discover differently, she’s not better loved. She’s critically acclaimed in Germany, but she’s not a bestseller. She’s topical, but it’s unclear whether her writing is all that accessible.
I think it's a good point that gets lost in all the vaguely (or not so vaguely) nationalistic, decidedly provincial hoopla surrounding the award.

Also I totally agree re: the delightfulness of Wislawa Szymborska. Her Nonrequired Reading is just about the most perfect subway commute reading I can imagine. You know, in case anyone was looking for a recommendation.

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