Tomas the Tranströmer
Swedish poet, Tomas Tranströmer has been awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature, “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.” Check out the 20 second video announcement at www.nobelprize.org. If that’s not the picture of standoffish, snooty, elitist award-announcing, I don’t know what is.
I would never want to take anything away from a 80-year-old, half-paralyzed stroke victim who has made a living writing poetry, but… a Swedish poet? Hometown referee, I say. How ’bout leaving Europe for a change, you Nobel dickwads? 7 of the last 10 winners have been Euros. The last American was Toni Morrison in 1993 – you’re telling me that there has been not one single American writer, poet, or playwright in the last 18 years worthy of the Nobel? What about Africa? (Not South Africa, Africa Africa.) Or Japan?
Before Morrison, we Americans had Joseph Brodsky in 1987, Isaac Bashevic Singer in 1978, Saul Bellow ’77, Steinbeck ’62, Hemingway ’54, Faulkner in ’49, and Pearl S. Buck in 1938. Really? That’s all the broad-reaching, globally-embracing work we’ve produced since 1901?
Again, I don’t really want to take anything away from Tomas – I’m sure he’s a very fine poet – but I’d hate for authors like Haruki Murakami, Cormac, Nurrudin Farah, or even old white dudes, DeLillo and Roth, to get Mark Twain-ed out of a Nobel Prize. Most of what I read, if the authors are American, is coming from writers of my generation – ie: under 50 years old. Will we be having this conversation in 40 years about Ron Currie, Téa Obreht, David Mitchell, Wells Tower, Aravind Adiga, or Jeffrey Eugenides? Who the hell knows? I guess for now I’ll just shelve the ranting until next year and give Tomas his day. Congratulations, Tranströmer – I can’t wait for your books to not be available to sell in English for the next 6 months. By then, maybe no one will care anymore.