A prize about the civilised arts goes to Europeans

This seems a curious assertion in light of the successive awards for 2018 and 2019 to Olga Tokarczuk (from Poland) and Peter Handke (from Austria). Whatever the merits of these writers – and Handke is certainly a controversial choice – or the congratulations due, the decision fails to demonstrate the widened perspective that Olsson promised. Taking him at his word, it invites questions about how diligent their search can have been, how knowledgeable the jury, and indeed how global a literary prize the Nobel can claim to be.

How terrible, eh?

But, you know, The Guardian. Both sides of the mouth, always:

Afterwards she is whisked away for photos, handshakes, congratulations, the heady stuff of success. Only the following day does she discover what else happened that night. Following her speech, the head of the organisation returned to the stage and made an off-the-cuff comment about this award really ticking “all the boxes”. It was nothing really, just a lighthearted joke, more at the expense of funders and their infuriating rules than the writer who happens to be Indian, English, bisexual, a woman, the daughter of first-generation immigrants.

Damned if you do box tick and damned if you don’t.

8 thoughts on “A prize about the civilised arts goes to Europeans”

  1. Newsflash: White heterosexual male doesn’t grok why Ramaswamy felt belittled. And, I know, neither will _any_ of the other white heterosexual males who form the bulk of the commentariat here.

    I don’t usually go a bundle on intersectional microaggression theory, because it is mostly inadvertent, and excessive penalties are called for by those who have made a cottage industry of seeking to be offended. But, in this case, an apology is rather called for.

  2. Hey, BiG, you can add ‘white heterosexual females’ to that as well.

    She can whistle for her apology. There’s nothing to apologise for.

  3. Großer: cottage industry

    Ah, those were the days when you might occasionally happen across some vicarious victimhood but what might previously have only be found in the odd artisan niche is now ubiquitous and all-pervasive with raucous tweeting nests on every branch of every tree.

  4. I can see why she felt belittled.

    It’s one of the many criticisms of box-ticking and affirmative action that their beneficiaries can never be confident their advancement is deserved.

    The problem is solved bot having the box-ticking and affirmative action.

  5. “Newsflash: White heterosexual male doesn’t grok why Ramaswamy felt belittled. And, I know, neither will _any_ of the other white heterosexual males who form the bulk of the commentariat here.”

    Oh, I understand entirely why she might feel belittled. Who wants to be told their achievements are not down to their efforts but to their box ticking credentials of race and sexuality instead? No one of honesty and integrity for sure.

    And who exactly has created the situation whereby this woman cannot now tell whether her work is actually being lauded for what it is, or just because of who she is? Is it all us gammons who have been decrying the box ticking behaviour of the racial/sexual quotas brigade for decades, or the identity politics Left?

    The other question that arises, had she lost out to a middle aged white straight male, would she have been quite so happy to assume he’d won on the merits of his work as she was when she won?

  6. BiG – Sure, it was impolite.

    However, it’s probably also true that she won her minor literary award for being a diverse token, rather than because she’s amazingly great:

    Expecting takes the reader on a physical, emotional, philosophical and artistic odyssey through pregnancy.

    Sounds riveting, eh?

    So I dunno. Brown women, so long as they’re acceptably middle class and learn the right proggy platitudes, are not infrequently showered with unearned baubles in modern Britain. Baroness Warsi, anyone? Shami Chakrawhitewashy? Ms Batmanjelly?

    Is it morally wrong for people to point out that tokenism is tokenism? Perhaps we should be more upfront and honest about our racial spoils system.

    She was given the Saltire Award in 2016. Doesn’t seem like she’s set the literary heather ablaze since then. A whole 3 years later, she’s crying about being oppressed by the presumably gammon-faced Scotsmen who maliciously gave her a trophy.

    Cynical me thinks the timing here is more about boosting her profile than still being emotionally scarred by some offhand and possibly alcohol-enhanced comments three years ago – comments they almost immediately apologised for. Though of course it could be both.

    Back in prole world, yet another Pakistani sexual slavery gang was sentenced in Glasgow yesterday. Yet another dusky chap went on a possibly terrorism inspired stabbing spree in Manchester yesterday. Yet another child was stabbed to death in London.

    Meanwhile, Chitra solemnly invokes the failings of “straight, white, middle-class men”.


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