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Friday, October 7, 2011

Why I will never win a Nobel Prize for Literature

Basically, I'll never win one because I'm a white American male*. Ok, maybe that's a simplification of the argument in the aforelinked article. But, I gotta admit, my first reaction to something like this is, how is a foreign-born immigrant writing about the experience of being a foreign-born immigrant any less solipsistic than a middle-class bourgeois white guy writing about the experience of being a middle class white guy? Essentially, what this article is saying is that it's not that American writers don't win the Nobel Prize because they "write what they know," but rather they don't win because no one cares anymore about what American's know. That's probably a valid argument. The world is bigger and more inclusive than it used to be, but please don't cloak that argument in the pretension that American writers are somehow more self-involved than writers of other nationalities. Writers are self-involved. We're only ever writing about ourselves. Let's just be honest about this.

Case in point, Roberto Bolano is probably one of the best examples of the type of Globally-minded, expansive, non-American writer that they're talking about, yet Bolano's last and greatest novel is basically about how tough it was for him to write that last and greatest novel. In fact, throughout his body of work Bolano referenced himself more than George Lucas. He basically was a literary movement unto himself.

The Nobel peeps are free to give their prize to whomever they wish, and I'm sure that person will be really great and all, but let's not disguise the truth. Americans don't win the Nobel Prize because we are just one country and there is a whole world out there now. Only one person out of millions of published authors can win. The world isn't a small pond anymore, even big fish can get lost.


Mister Booze said...

Here's a hint: if you want to win the Nobel in literature, be Swedish. They usually win. It is the lazy choice. Seriously, they didn't give it to James Joyce for Ulysses and for that an entire generation of authors would never forgive or respect the literature prize. Why should it be any different now?