Friday, October 9, 2009

Herta Muller:another surprise Nobel Prize winner in literature

When Austria's Elfriede Jelinek was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2004, most had asked, Jelinek who? The same question is now being asked about this year's winner German writer Herta Muller. Like Jelinek before the Nobel, she is an obscure, virtually unknown writer - even neglected in Romania, her own country.

One of the beauties of the Nobel Prize is that the Nobel Committee has almost always picked up a truly real writer for the Prize, irrespective of his/her country, language and popularity. Without the Nobel, we would have never known Elfiede Jelinek or Orhan Pamuk.

At a time when everything gets to be dumbed down - and lierature is being frowned on and cornered - it's truly a great job for the Nobel Committee to ignore the market forces in selecting its winner.

Jelinek impressed me hugely despite her bleak complexity. I hope I would also like Herta Muller who "depicts the landscape of the the dispossessed".


Anonymous said...

You make a good point here, Dr. Bose. But I am still wondering about the comment a judge made last year denying that literature could be produced in the Americas, which makes it seem to me that the Nobel administration, vis-a-vis the literature prize, might as well stop advertising itself as universal and recognize that is essentially a European prize given by and large to Europeans. I haven't Googled this to check my facts, but I think only one South American writer has ever won, and that was about 30 years ago; there have been, what?, two or three North American winners in the past 50 or 60 years. An African or two. It would be interesting to check the facts on this, and when I have enough time I may do it, but my guess is that at least 80% of Nobels for Literature have gone to Europeans. And I think that reflects a clear and distinct bias.

There is a short discussion of this over on Court Merrigan's blog.

Mrinal Bose said...

Thanks for your comment, Don. The Nobel Prize has been awarded to many writers outside of Europe. I can immediately recall these names: Rabindranath Tagore(India), Gao Xingjian(China), Kenzaburo Oe(Japan).

May be the Nobel Prize committee has bias, but it's for good literature. Who else would award an obscure writer these days?

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