The Nobel Prize in Obscure Literature

Another year in which the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to a writer I’ve never read—and I’m beginning to despair. Is the Swedish Nobel committee setting out to show me up as a philistine? I ask myself that question even as I declare that I’m a hungry reader and have what might be called an elite education. So a detachment from the matter at hand—fine (even difficult) novels and poetry—is not what ails me.

At least this year’s winner—Abdulrazak Gurnah, an Anglo-Tanzanian novelist from Zanzibar—has been on my to-read list for years. I’ve given priority to other, probably better African novelists, including some, such as Ngugi wa Thiongo, who haven’t yet found favor with the Swedes. At least I’d heard of Mr. Gurnah, unlike last year, when Louise Glück, a very recondite American poet, was foisted on an unsuspecting world as the lit laureate. Even in her own country, yawps of consternation were heard. (My biggest gain from the episode was to chance upon the German word Glückschmerz, which means sadness—or, in my case, indignation—over someone else’s success.)

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Source:" WSJ "

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