13 October 2005

Nobelesse Oblige

Congratulations to Harold Pinter on the deserved award of the Nobel Prize for Literature. If the criterion for awarding the prize is not just mere excellence, but excellence over an extended period—that is, this is no longer an award for one or two islands in a sea of mediocrity, like some past laureates—then Pinter is (and has been for at least fifteen years) an obvious candidate.

This particular award, though, has the potential to confuse and isolate Americans. Pinter has been uncompromising (and perhaps even unreasonably strident) in his opposition to Gulf War II. His acceptance speech should be interesting, because Pinter's political discourse of late has resembled a voice crying in the wilderness far more than it has an effort to actually change opinions.1 Given the abyssmal state of literary awareness, and miniscule valuation of literature, in this country—as a whole, in the so-called "educated classes" (which, sadly, includes too many lawyers who can't recognize Shakespeare2), and even in the arts and the publishing industry—nobody will pay much attention to a "mere" author's criticism of hard-nosed political realism during an award ceremony taking place in a furrin' country. On the other hand, calling anything coming out of Washington these days "realism" stretches the word beyond breaking.

  1. Yes, this Biblical allusion is deliberate; far-right fundamentalists might well benefit from asking themselves why I chose this particular rhetoric. Merely because they might well do so, though, does not mean that they would, as fundamentalism requires a certain closed-mindedness and inability to spot and understand metaphor. Hint: Who is the "Prince of Peace"?
  2. Who tells a tale "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"? What character is speaking? And why does this (or at least should this) matter to lawyers? What is its relationship to the aphorism "If the facts are against you, argue the law; if the law and the facts are against you, pound on the table"? Suggested time: It better be instantaneous.