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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Why hasn't Salman Rushdie Won the Nobel Prize Yet?

The Academy will announce the winner of Nobel Prize for Literature for 2009 tomorrow. I read 'Midnight's Children' when I was 23 and went haywire why they still hadn't given Rushdie the prize. This FAQ is for such young men (and women of course).

What? Yeah, yeah I'm still a young man.

Why didn’t/doesn’t Author X get it?

A lot of people claim to know exactly why certain authors get or don’t get the prize. Which is funny, considering the aforementioned confidentiality. Truth is, until 50 years have gone by, we usually have no way of knowing if they were even nominated.

Pick a reason:
  • There’s one award to give out each year, and on average, more than one deserving author. New books are published each year. Do the math.
  • The people who decide on it are a bunch of literary snobs. They’re not necessarily politically conservative (by US standards) or raging communist revolutionaries (by European standards). They’re just snobs, elected by other snobs for the specific task of being anal about language and literature.
  • Not everyone is a prophet in their own lifetime. See: Kafka, Franz; Proust, Marcel; and others.
  • People, on a whole, read an awful lot of crap and keep expecting the Academy to validate their reading habits. Not gonna happen (see above under snobs, literary).
  • The Academy has really boring taste sometimes. Fortunately, the older members are dying off.
  • People like to speculate, and they seem to think that the longer they speculate about an author, the better his/her chances of getting it. Whether the Academy gives a damn about how often a certain author has been mentioned by people who are not them is unknown.
  • Authors die. The Nobel can’t be given out posthumously. Good thing, or they’d have to start with Homer and Gilgamesh.
  • Authors live. Not getting it one year doesn’t disqualify you from getting it next year or 20 years from now. See: Lessing, Doris.
And so some writers, for various reasons, end up without a Nobel prize. Funnily enough, we keep reading them despite their non-Nobel status. Putting it succinctly: if Tolstoy, Woolf, Joyce and Twain didn’t get it, there can be no shame in NOT getting a Nobel prize.

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