Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Nobel season

Another blizzard of Nobel prizes is upon us. The science and medicine prizes are interesting in a way but mostly don't mean much to me since I can't really appreciate, certainly not at a deep level, the achievements for which the prizes are awarded. The economics prize means a little more, sometimes more than that if I've heard of and know something about the recipient(s) (e.g., Sen, Schelling, or Ostrom, to take three from fairly recent years).

That leaves the prizes for peace and literature. Putting aside the former for now, what about the literature prize (which is apparently due tomorrow)? If you ask me who won the literature prize last year, I don't think l could tell you without looking it up. (Chinua Achebe, maybe? No. Just checked Wiki. But he died earlier this year, which perhaps is why he came to mind.)

I think the only effect of the literature prize on my reading recently was a year or two ago, when I took J.M.G. Le Clézio's Desert  (in translation) out of a library. It's haunting and poetic, particularly the parts set in the North African desert itself, and I'm quite sure I wouldn't have read it had he not won the Nobel prize (he got it in '08). But that was unusual for me, since I don't generally rush out and read the work of whatever author has just won.  

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