If this were a news site, I’d now add a couple of useless facts about Mo Yan. But this is not a news site, so if you want to read more, you can go here or here. But I’m going to tell you what I think about the Nobel Prize for Literature.
I haven’t read any of Mo Yan’s works, so I can’t say if he deserved to win the award or not. And I haven’t read any of his stuff because I’ve never heard about this guy.
What I do know is that the Nobel Prize for Literature has become the literary equivalent of Eurovision. Its aim is to give out the award to writers from every country in the world. And while they’re at it, give them a million bucks as well. It’s become just a marketing gimmick.
Like I said, my rant has nothing to do with this Chinese fellow. Until I read some of his stuff that is.
But I have to say that at least half of those who received the award in the past 20 years or so didn’t deserve it.
Yeah, you could say that art is subjective, and you would be right, but the thing is that we’re talking about critical consensus here, about cultural influence, and so on. The Nobel Prize stopped being the most prestigious award in the literary world when the Swedish Academy failed to honor Jorge Luis Borges, a man who practically changed the way we perceive literature.
Because this is what the Nobel is supposed to be, right? A lifetime achievement award, a testimony of the cultural impact of a writer.
Murakami was considered favorite to win this year. Brilliant writer, he’s at the top of his game. No arguments about that. But what other options were there?
Like Cormac McCarthy, who changed storytelling conventions and shattered grammar rules with great effect? Maybe he’s too bloody for the Swedish Academy. What’s wrong with John Updike then? The guy wrote one of the few truly great novels written in the present tense. Or Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Alice Munro? Amos Oz?
The more I think about it, the more I realize that they should have given the award to E.L. James and lose any and all credibility forever.