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Naipaul Does Not Deserve His Nobel Prize

896 words - 4 pages

What makes an individual worthy of a Nobel Prize in a category as broad as literature? Is it an immense knowledge of writing procedures that other authors have not begun to attempt to use? Or is an appropriate representation of the author's subject that is solely objective, and lacks all personal opinions? If that was the case, several Prizes should be taken away from some authors and handed to other more deserving writers. V. S. Naipaul, who received a Nobel Prize in Literature for Miguel Street, falls into the former category. Naipaul may have filled the technical requirements for a Nobel Prize for his mastery of several difficult techniques, yet his writing neglects to explain the merits of Trinidad while highlighting the negatives found in every culture.
Among the five prizes provided for in Alfred Nobel's will (1895), one was intended for the person who, in the literary field, had produced "the most outstanding work in an ideal direction". These statutes defined literature as "not only belles-lettres, but also other writings which, by virtue of their form and style, possess literary value". At the same time, the restriction to works presented "during the preceding year" was softened: "older works" could be considered "if their significance has not become apparent until recently". The statutes also provided for a Nobel Committee "to give their opinion in matter of the award of the prizes" and for a Nobel Institute with a library which was to contain a substantial collection of mainly modern literature.As guidelines for the distribution of the Literature Prize the Swedish Academy had the general requirement for all the prizes ? the candidate should have bestowed "the greatest benefit on mankind" ? and the special condition for literature, "in an ideal direction". Both prescriptions are vague and the second, in particular, was to cause much discussion. What did Nobel actually mean by ideal? In fact, the history of the Literature Prize appears as a series of attempts to interpret an imprecisely worded will.
A comparison with "Porgy and Bess" has been suggested. (C. Pierre) The parallel has at least the merit of reminding us that the whole world is one. In that hospitable mood we might also remember Mark Twain's tales of life on the Mississippi. But Miguel Street, in Trinidad, is not really very much like Catfish Row, nor are reminders of nineteenth-century Missouri prevalent. What is true and, if you will, significant about Mr. Naipaul's book is that it presents a world of its own excellently. Vivid characters with tenuous means of support populate the place. They sing the latest Calypso songs and interest themselves in cricket matches and collect junk and talk about migrating across the narrow sea to...

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