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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.
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One comment on “Tomas the Tranströmer

  1. Biblibio
    October 6, 2011

    I have to admit that I disagree with you. The US has plenty of exposure regardless awards handed out (believe me – as an American living abroad, I see exactly how much American lit makes it to the other end of the world… even when it doesn't deserve it at all) while other countries struggle to get even minimal exposure. I completely agree with you that the Nobel prize focuses too heavily on Europe, but I don't think the fact that no American has won since 1993 should be of major concern. Annoyance, perhaps, but that shouldn't be the focus.

    However: The fact that only one Arab and Indian author each has ever won… worth noting. The fact that only one Chinese author has ever won (and that under the mantel of France)… worth noting. The fact that only two Japanese authors have ever won… worth noting. The fact that Africa has all but been ignored… worth noting. The US gets the fame and attention with or without the Nobel – I'm afraid other countries can't quite boast of that as well.

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This entry was posted on October 6, 2011 by in http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Nobel Prize.
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