The Nobel prizes are a crock — and I’m not saying that because I haven’t won one yet. They just are.
I’m not talking about the prizes for physics, chemistry and medicine. They may be a crock too, but I am not qualified to judge. The prizes for economics certainly must be a crock, because economics is not a science. Two distinguished economists can differ radically on a single, basic economic theory, and they often do. They can make widely different predictions about an economic outcome, and both be wrong. People in the real sciences scorn the Nobel committee for even offering an economics prize. The economics awards should be included in a multi-disciplinary category that also includes astrology and necromancy.
However, what bothers me most are the Nobel prizes for literature. There are some exceptions to the rule, but by and large the Nobel committee tends to award the literature prize to writers who are unfamiliar to 99.999 percent of the world’s population. The prize for literature should actually be called the prize for obscurity.
Look at these names of Nobel literature prizewinners, snatched at random from the historical listing helpfully provided by the World Almanac: Bjornstjerne Bjornson, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Verner von Heidenstam, Henrik Pontoppidan, Grazia Deledda, Wladys Reymont, Erik Karlfeldt, Frans Sillanpaa, Johannes Jensen, Halidor Laxness, Saint-John Perse, Wole Soyinka.
Go ahead, tell me that these authors were staples in the literature courses taught at your colleges. Tell me that they all command a place on the eye-level shelves of the most prominent bookcase in your living room.
Should one be suspicious because so many of the prizewinners are from the Scandinavian countries? The home of the Nobel Prizes, after all, is Oslo, Norway. One of the better-known prizewinners for literature was Knut Hamsun, a Norwegian, who won in 1920. He would be well-known today if only because he was an outspoken Nazi sympathizer. He once had a private meeting with Hitler, and apparently he was so insistent and obnoxious that even Hitler couldn’t stand his company.
As with the economics prize, perhaps there should be no prize at all for peace, although of course there is one. The winner in 2009 was Barack (“I Got Bin Laden”) Obama, orchestrator of our wars in Libya and Yemen. When Obama received this award, during his very first year as president, there were some silly naysayers who thought it was too early for such a selection. How could they be so wrong?
How can there be a peace prize, really? Does anyone recall any time in the history of the world when there was peace? Why not rename it the Nobel Prize for futility? I would be willing to give that prize to Obama.