The 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature has gone to a non-American—a Frenchman, in fact: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, author of Le procès-verbal, Désert, and other novels we’ve never read because we’re “too isolated, too insular,” too far removed from “the center of the literary world.” The news that America has been stiffed for a fifteenth straight year confirms the keen literary insight of Horace Engdahl, who said last week that our authors (all of them!) suffer from the shortcomings quoted. But he’s only the secretary of the prize committee; surely that didn’t mean we shouldn’t get our hopes up?
In all fairness, from what we’ve read the new laureate seems deserving and the choice less politically motivated than in previous years. Of course, we won’t know until we pick up Le Clézio’s novels and judge for ourselves, which we plan to do as soon as…well, as soon as we finish a bunch of American novels first. At any rate, even Engdahl seems to have been embarrassed by the flap over his remarks, so we predict that within the next two years the committee will finally honor an American again, albeit while wearing quintessentially European expressions of ironic detachment and bemused pity. Too bad Abbeville doesn’t have any serious contenders for the prize…except for Armin Brott and his epic multi-volume portrayal of the experience of fatherhood.