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10.09.2009

The Winner Is...


Nobel Prize season is always fun. People place bets and argue over who should win. College professors and researchers try to go about their daily routine, but it's in the back of their mind: did I do anything worth $1.4 million? And then comes the final moments, when the awards are announced, and the words are always unexpected. Partly because we teeter on not understanding the thick Swedish accents and in disbelief. This year, of course, the disbelief is the Peace Prize, awarded to President Barack Obama. Accepting the award, Obama himself said he did not deserve it and will use it as a call to action into the 21st century; it has also been said that he will be donating that money.

On the literature side, the award again has been unexpected. Herta Muller, the bestselling author of 1989's Reisende auf einem Bein, the major literature event Heute war ich mir lieber nicht begegnet, and her most recent Atemschaukel, is taking it home to Germany. While not as controversial as Obama's award, many were expecting to see Amos Oz win, others were looking at Indian writers, such as Salaman Rushdie, and everyone wanted to see Joyce Carol Oates win because her pictures always looked so sad and perhaps she might stop writing already—but American literature is not Nobel material enough...just like Obama is stuff of Nobel Peace Prizes.

I have always dreamed of winning a Nobel Prize, yet this brings it all down. What does the Nobel Prize mean if it is simply the intention of something. Obama won in the intention of making the world a better (nuclear weapon free) place. Mr. Obama who was only in office for 12 days when the nominations were due. Maybe I could win because I have the intention of writing the best goddamn novel there is as well. Perhaps we must question if Herta Muller actually had any good writing or just had the intention of writing really really well. Alfred Nobel had said that  the prize should be given to bodies of work “in the direction of an ideal.” But it comes down to whose ideal, and as a recent article Laura Nathan explains, it is the ideal of five Swedish academy members. Meaning the award winner must please the ideals of these five Eurocentric, upper-class, most likely men. And what kind of an ideal is that truly?

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