Friday, October 10, 2008

The Nobel?

The news that JMG Le Clézio was awarded the Nobel for literature has brought the usual mix of self congratulations from Europe and complaints from the U.S. about American writers being excluded. Thing is that since most Americans have based their feelings of exclusion on the fact that they haven't heard about this writer that doesn't mean that the Nobel committee picked anybody obscure. Just think if there was a Nobel for film that was awarded to, say, Philippe Garrel or Jean-Marie Straub or Im Kwon-Taek there would be similar complaints though these are very familiar names outside the U.S. and I know that they would be worthy choices. (About Le Clézio I haven't the foggiest idea but then that's the point: neither do most of the people disputing the choice.)

Ted Gioia made a list of what the Nobels might have been in an alternate universe and it's interesting though there's some saying about hindsight having a 20-gauge shotgun. From this distance Sienkiewicz and Perse seem almost inexplicable choices (& yes I've read both) while how many people can even identify Paul Heyse or Jacinto Benavente? So Gioia gets to chose writers who have lasted and implicitly make us wonder how the committee could ever have decided against Borges or Stevens or Nabokov or....