Why the Nobel Prize is crap

Exhibit A: Barack Hussein Obama’s Peace Prize for Not Being George W. Bush

Exhibit B: When you hear the name “J.R.R. Tolkien” odds are very good your face lights up with recognition and delight. But when you hear the name “Anders Osterling” your face rightly and properly remains a blank.

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  • Jordan

    It’s just as well…they wouldn’t have liked giving it to a Catholic anyhow. A member of the Nobel family came to my high school once and after getting on the subject of population control made some comment about “if certain religions would relax their restrictions regarding reproduction”…I suppose he figured as it was a school for advanced students that we would be “enlightened” (read: atheists) and agree. That’s not really related to your post, but that’s what always comes to mind when I hear the name Nobel.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    The Nobel epitomizes elitists elitizing fellow elites. In other words: Folks that no one will remember in 200 years.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    I’m sad that Graham Greene also didn’t win it. Truly a fantastic novelist who deserves more praise.

  • astorian

    Never mind Tolkien. Even if we stick to 20th century authors who were acclaimed by secular critics, you’ll STILL find that the Nobel Prize is a joke.

    Among the greats who never won a Nobel Prize:

    James Joyce
    Marcel Proust
    Vladimir Nabokov
    D.H. Lawrence
    Aldous Huxley
    Booth Tarkington
    Theodore Dreiser
    John Dos Passos
    George Orwell
    Virginia Woolf
    Tennessee Williams
    Henry James
    E.M. Forster
    F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Evelyn Waugh
    Thornton Wilder
    Joseph Conrad
    Arthur Miller

    • Michael J. Lichens

      You know, in the back of my mind I knew that. However, seeing your list just drives the point home a bit more. Cheers and thank you!

    • math_geek

      It makes me happy that James Joyce and Joseph Conrad didn’t get it.

  • math_geek

    I think the Nobel prize is fine in fields that assess what is true and what is untrue (like Economics or Physics) but in fields that assess what is good and what is not good (“Peace” and literature) it definitely falls into a subjective elitist trap.

    • Judgments about good literature, peace, etc, are not essentially subjective, and there is nothing wrong with elites. There are elites in every area of human practice. The best people able to judge a football performance are people who know the most (have played, studied, coached, and watched the most) football. I.e. the elites. Most of us are not among them, but quite a few are.

      The problem is not elites, per se, but rather that these elites are no longer part of any meaningful community of which I am a part. When they say “good” they don’t necessarily mean what I mean when I say “good”, and these subtle differences in language and philosophical assumption disable our communication and their ability to judge what I’m doing when I read literature and compare it with what they are doing when they read literature (even assuming they’re not actually bad at judging literature, which I have absolutely no way of knowing).

  • Dan C

    I confess to being no fan of the popular taste or artistic leanings of the common man, including his ignorance, and his prejudices. I have no time for dismissals based on “elitism” and find a lot of people-who-should-know-better mocking intellect and intelligence because they don’t like the person or the conclusions of the writer or speaker.

    I do think that art has become so esoteric as to have lost its value to a larger audience than that actually very large audience of art afficionados. The number of these folk is enormous mainly because the number of people in the whole world is large.

    The market drives the consumption of books and films so that those focused on “art” can enjoy their Oscar awarded film, but the rest of us can look forward to lots of good reruns of the undervalued “Groundhog’s Day.”

    • John C

      Dan, whatever the media happens to be pushing is not the real deal, you can be sure of that. Authenticity is usually found on the margins, and it always creeps up on us.

  • Dan C

    John C:

    I think you are confused between media and art establishment folks. There are many “judges”- think of the pietist type of elitists who went bananas loving “Passion of the Christ” which has probably been viewed as often as the miserable movie “Hurt Locker” in the years after its release.

    What survives? A good story. Passion of Christ, Hurt Locker- not great stories. More “arte

  • Dan C

    “arte.”. With an “e.”

    There is enough of a huge audience of any subtype to promote a piece of “arte.”

  • SWP

    Hear, hear! As one who has been describe by friends as ‘elitist’ I’m learning it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. God prefers humility.

  • MarylandBill

    I have to admit, I have always found the Nobel Prize in Literature to be something of a puzzel. How can one reasonably compare books written in different languages. Even assuming I spoke every language represented by a particular year’s nominee, I doubt I would be so fluent in all of those languages to really fairly evaluate all the books. If I read them in translation, am I not then judging the translation as much as the book?

    Up until recently the Peace Prize was awarded to people who were often worthy of it; I doubt any of us would have problems with the awards for Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu or Lech Walesa. But clearly by the time of President Obama’s win, something has clearly gone wrong with the selection process. Even the most ardent Obama supporter has to admit that the current president has not had achievements worthy of the award.

  • Rover Serton

    I think not being George W. Bush is reason enought to win. Notice how many the herd of Republicans mention his name….crickets……

    Obama 2012.

  • SOS

    After living in totalitarian Sweden and experiencing the state-controlled media and the wretched inhumanity of the Swedish “healthcare” system, I think the world should boycott the Nobel prizes, especially the prize in medicine.