Once Again Roth Is a Llosa

on Friday, October 8, 2010
The folks at the Swedish Academy sure love their South Americans. As you would all know by now, Mario Vargas Llosa, got the nod this year and joins such hallowed company as Elfreide Jelinek, Johannes Jensen and Henrik Pontoppidan in the Nobel Pantheon. All jokes aside, it was a relief to see a familiar name even if he wasn't one of the writers I was gunning for. At least people won't be raising their eyebrows and asking, "Who?" this time around. Not to take anything away from Herta Muller or J.M.G. Le Clezio - I think they are both wonderful, if somewhat obscure, writers - but Llosa's books are widely available around the world and many 'general' readers will have read at least one of them. I, reader of pretty much everyone ever, have read two: The Feast of The Goat and Aunt Julia and The Scriptwriter. And I enjoyed them immensely. Which means that I'm not complaining about this year's choice. Indeed, for the first time in a long while, I can say that the Academy has picked a 'people's laureate'. Llosa is not some stuffy intellectual. His writing is accessible to readers of all levels which sure makes for a nice change.

What then is to be made of the eternal Nobel bridesmaid, Philip Roth? The poor bastard is still writing brilliant novels. Indeed, Nemesis is among the best in his later canon. But here's the thing. He is at no risk of being forgotten. He will be read long after he has died and, frankly, does not need an accolade like the Nobel Prize to ensure his literary immortality. Once he reaches that great library in the sky, he'll be able to pull up a chair alongside James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Leo Tolstoy, Jorge Louis Borges and Marcel Proust - all of whom were denied the Swedish gong - and flick snotballs at Saint-John Perse. Who? Exactly! Until then, I guess it's time he donated that dusty tuxedo to his local thrift shop.


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