Friday, October 10, 2008

No Nobel for Yevtushenko. . . yet

Well, I guess that I will have to wait another year to see the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko win his well deserved Nobel Prize for literature. The announcement came today that this year's prize went to French novelist Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. According to Nobel rules it will be many years (fifty, I think) before they even officially admit that he was nominated. Those Norwegians love their secrecy.

As much as I like to avoid discussing "current events" here, I am breaking my own rules and I will quote from an AP story about this year's prize.

Le Clézio had been considered a strong contender and the announcement continued a decade-long trend of European and European-oriented authors receiving the Nobel, with recent winners including Britain's Doris Lessing and Harold Pinter, Austria's Elfriede Jelinek and Imre Kertész of Hungary.

No American has won since Toni Morrison in 1993 and no American was expected to win. Le Clézio did put in a plug yesterday for Philip Roth.

Last week, Horace Engdahl, permanent secretary of the Nobel academy, told The Associated Press that the United States is too insular and ignorant to challenge Europe as the center of the literary world; Le Clézio may serve as Exhibit A.

OK, so no argument. Who cares that it wasn't an American?!? But Engdahl makes it sound like it was a politically motivated decision. That is sad, for a literary award. Toni Morrison was certainly awarded the Nobel for political reasons more than literary. But honestly I can't think of a living American author whom I could say has been slighted by not winning this year.

Given that it seems to be a politically motivated literary award, Yevtushenko should have been a perfect fit! No one on earth is more literary. Few have been more radical or politically involved.

I can't argue against Le Clezio because I haven't read him. I'm sure he's a great author. But I would so have loved to see Yevtushenko win, and especially to see him win for Babii Yar which I have printed on this blog before.

Now, I'm off to call the bookstore to see whether they have any Le Clezio in English.

1 comment:

Brian Barker said...

The fact that a French-man won the Nobel Prize for Literature will certainly annoy the anglophiles. After all, everyone now accepts that English is the international language.

I apologise for the satire, but speak as a native English speaker. Then, if English is unacceptable, on grounds of linguistic imperialism, what about Esperanto?

Yes Esperanto was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, in the name of Icelandic poet Baldur Ragnarrson.

This is true. Esperanto does have its own original literature. Please check to confirm.