Tuesday 10 January 2012

Not as Black as They're Painted?

Over the past week, news of a literary award of fifty years ago have, for brief period, overshadowed the film news from the other side of the globe in the appearance of Tolkien's name in news items. In the bottom of this, I will provide links to some of the stories that have resulted.

The news started with an article in the Swedish paper Sydsvenskan by journalist Andreas Ekström, who reported that Graham Greene had been number two for the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1961, and further down in the article he also told that J.R.R. Tolkien had been nominated for the prize by friend and fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis, whose professorship had earned him the right to nominate candidates for the prize.

Anders Ekström reports that the committee member Anders Österling in the protocol ends the comments on Tolkien by stating that “resultatet har dock icke i något avseende blivit diktning av högsta klass” — “the result has, however, not in any respect become writing of the highest class.” The Swedish word dock expresses, as the English “however”, a contrast to the preceding, and I therefore set about to discover what may have preceded it — it would mean quite a difference whether it followed a general praise of Tolkien's accomplishment or a mere mention of the nomination. Ekström tells that Österling “says something more positive before this,” and though he doesn't remember the exact words, it is “something about him appreciating the imaginativeness or so, but then he objects to how it is told.”

So while Tolkien didn't make the top three (number three was the Danish author Karen Blixen, also known by her pseudonym Isak Dinesen), the Nobel Committee's evaluation of Tolkien's work, though clearly not as positive as mine would be, was not quite the snub it has been described as in some media.

- more is sure to follow . . .  ;-)



Please note that the references start with a three-years-old prescient thread on The Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza.
“Tolkien and the Nobel Prize for Literature”, thread on The Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza, January 11th 2008

Anders Ekström, “Greene tvåa på listan 1961” in Sydsvenskan January 3rd 2012.

Alison Flood, “JRR Tolkien's Nobel prize chances dashed by 'poor prose',” The Guardian, January 5th, 2012.

“Not Even Close - Tolkien and the Nobel Prize” thread on The Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza, January 5th 2012

John D. Rateliff, “Tolkien's Nobel”, January 5th, 2012
and follow-up, “Tolkien's Style (Nobel, con't)”, January 7th, 2012

BBC, “JRR Tolkien snubbed by 1961 Nobel jury, papers reveal”, January 6th, 2012

David Blackbourn, “The art of fiction: Tolkien edition,” Spectator Book Blog, January 6th, 2012

“Tolkien Rejected for Nobel Prize Because Of 'Poor Storytelling',” Huffington Post, January 6th, 2012 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/06/tolkien-lord-of-the-ring-noble-prize-rejection_n_1188684.html

Pieter Collier, “Why J.R.R. Tolkien was denied the Nobel Prize in 1961,” January 7th, 2012

Michael C. Drout, “Tolkien and the Nobel Prize,” January 8th, 2012

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