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America’s dismay as ‘obscure’ Herta Müller takes Nobel

Once more America is shocked there is a literary world away from the land of Uncle Sam. The dismay at Herta Müller, a Romanian-born German citizen, being named this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature is clear and follows on from the dismay at Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s victory last year. Müller is very well respected in Germany – the nation that publishes more books than any other each year. Clearly, there are many folks who respect her work.

The Entertainment Weekly book blog did not hide its feelings after the Americans were snubbed once again….

“But does the Nobel imprimatur really compel me to pore through the works of Müller — or last year’s comparably unfamiliar laureate, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio? I think not. The Nobel ranks are cluttered with writers who’ve sunk into obscurity and irrelevance, sometimes deservedly so. Do Swedes still read the work of 1916 laureate Verner von Heidenstam? Does anyone think 1938 winner Pearl Buck was one of the top 100 writers of the 20th century?”

Obscurity is relative, of course.

I had to laugh when I saw this blog posting from The L Magazine – Herta Müller, Who Even People Who Had Heard of J.M.G. Le Clézio Have Never Heard of, Is This Year’s Nobel Laureate in Literature

The Baltimore Sun book blog said

Today’s award seems to reinforce the notion that the Nobel is a sort of literary archeological dig, in which judges scour the world’s libraries and academies for an obscure author, in the hopes of creating a broad, worldwide audience and righting wrongs. The judges liberally slather on their political values, as the winning authors often are known for social commentary that hits at authoritarianism and racism.

I’m sure there will be a lot more analysis and debate about the Nobel judges and whether they have an anti-American bias in the coming days.

The crazy thing is that there are lots of people who want English translations of Müller’s books. Since the announcement, Muller is the most searched for author on AbeBooks and translated copies are running very short. Forget about trying to find signed copies right now.

When Oprah announces a Book Club pick, the publisher is tipped off and there is plenty of stock when the announcement comes. Now publishers are scrambling to get Müller’s book republished and into the shops.

Posted by on October 8, 2009.

Categories: author, awards, blog, books, literature, music, reading

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