The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Doris Lessing just a few days ago.
I have tried to read Doris Lessing upon the recommendation of my sister (although she now denies ever having recommended it to me). Some of my more astute readers will remember the result which were document in this post. Let's just say it wasn't flattering.
And then I read the author's reaction to winning the prize as reported in the New York Times:
"Either they were going to give it to me sometime before I popped off or not at all."
I could say the same thing! She's not very clever, is she? So what exactly is the criteria for winning the Nobel Prize?
On a more positive note, my hero, Al Gore, shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC assesses scientific information related to human-induced climate change. This is a well earned, well deserved award.
Not so sure about the literature prize though. Seems to me the thought "gee she wrote lots and she's getting on in years, maybe we oughta give her an award or something". Kinda like those lifetime achievement awards at the Oscars for those actors who never actually won during their career but made so many dang bad films we gotta tip our hats to them!
So I went back through the list of Nobel Prizes for Literature. I was afraid that over the last several decades, there were only 3 or 4 writers whose names I even recognised. I found that as I travelled back in time I was far more familiar with the authors and had more than likely read their several of their books. I even found some of my favourites: Pearl S Buck, John Steinbeck, TS Eliot, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Isaac Bashevis Singer. Does this mean that good literature needs to age, like fine wine and superb port? Or that the Nobel committee used to be much better at picking out winners?
Another observation I made was if the authors were not American, English or Irish I did not recognise their names nor could I cite their works. Their were a couple of exceptions: Gabriel Garcia Marquez who hails from Columbia(whose work 100 Years of Solitude I have been trying to read off and on for over 6 years now); JM Coetzee who is originally from South Africa but now lives in Australia. I don't know about him from his writing but due to the controversy surrounding his, according to some, abandonment of his mother country for the good life in a Western culture. I also recognised last years winner, Orhan Pamuk but only because the book group forced me to read his book which I hate to admit but did really enjoy.
Why are authors from other countries not translated and published in foreign countries? Any one?