I never know who the Nobel Prize for Literature award winner is. Ever. It’s always some person I’ve never heard of, and definitely never read for that matter. But this year. This year I thought I was on to something.
A few names kept popping up that I had actually heard of. I’d even read some books by a few of the people mentioned. Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Mario Vargas Llosa, names I’d actually heard. Granted I’ve only read stuff by Roth and McCarthy but still. It was a start. It was obvious that I’m just very well-read.
Nope. I was wrong. The award went to some 87 year old women from Britain. She has a pretty interesting story, some intrigue from a run-in with the Nobel committee. She never finished school, held all kinds of different jobs, she even has a very international heritage. She’s stood up for racial issues, feminist issues, and written quite a bit. But I’ve still never heard of her.
With her win Doris Lessing became the oldest person to ever win. Yay! I’ve never heard of her, never read anything by her, never even heard of anyone who has read something by her. Maybe she is a glorious writer. Maybe she is just misunderstood and because of it, not famous. Maybe the committee just wanted to award a really old lady something special before she dies. Or maybe they felt bad for being mean to her a long time ago and telling her that they just didn’t like her. I don’t know.
I do know that with this announcement, I go back to my illusions of well-readedness and my book shelf full of books not written by a Nobel Prize winner.
In other exciting Nobel news, another old person won. Gerhard Ertl, who turned 71 on the day of the announcement, won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Mogli has a nice post about this, and clearly has a better understanding of the topic than I do! Ertl works with surface chemistry, which as far as I can tell basically just helps people understand why the o-zone layer is thinning. No word yet if he’s an Al Gore fan.