Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio...Who Dat?

The Nobel Prize for Literature Is Awarded to a Frenchman; America Scratches Its Head

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The Nobel Prize for Literature was handed out to Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio of France, and the one day Americans feign some minor interest in literature was spent trying to figure out who Le Clezio is. By one count, only 12 of his 40-plus books have been translated into English. He's also gotten so little attention in book-review pages that one blog had to resort to reviews from the 1960s and '70s.

(My favorite excerpt was from the Times Literary Supplement:" Fever is obviously not a book to be read straight off, because it is repetitive. (...) What is ultimately disappointing about M. Le Cl├ęzio is his self-indulgence.")

He's an interesting choice given the firestrorm created last week when a Nobel official dumped all over American authors for being too insular and too swayed by mass culture. Horace Engdah told the Associated Press: "The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining." (Here's a good rehashing of the situation.) That's an interesting statement, this notion that literature should somehow be above or separate from the rest of culture -- and, of course, completely idiotic. I can't say whether Le Clezio's oeuvre is more chatty with literary tradition because I haven't read him. Or heard of him before today. But I'm sure that will all change soon.

Surely, American publishers will rush Le Clezio's books onto shelves, giving us all a chance to see whether he is indeed, as the committee opined, an "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization."

After all, how many of you can say that about yourselves?
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