YARBROUGH COLUMN: No Nobel Prize for Literature again this year a bummer

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, October 11, 2022

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I just learned that I have been passed over for the Nobel Prize for Literature once again. Bummer. And that crowd over in Stockholm didn’t even have the courtesy to pick up the phone and call me with the bad news. I had to read about it in the paper. A person of my literary stature deserves better.

It seems they have given the award to French writer Annie Ernaux. Mats Malm, secretary of the Swedish Academy, which decides the prize, said Ernaux won it for her “courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.” Say what?

Along with a statue or medallion or something, Ernaux also picks up a check for 10 million Swedish krona, which equates to a little over $900,000. Frankly, I could have used the money more than the hardware. I’m not having much luck with Powerball.

Ernaux has characterized her writings as “brutally direct, working-class and sometimes obscene.” Oh, like you are the only person who can write like that, lady? Go back and look at some of my past columns. Maybe I do lack courage and clinical acuity with which to uncover the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory. That is only because I have no idea what that means. But I can be just as brutally direct and obscene as your everyday run-of-the-mill Nobel laureate. Or Marjorie Taylor Greene, for that matter.

As for working-class credentials, my daddy worked for the railroad and my momma was a telephone operator and I don’t have 10 million Swedish krona in my bank account like Mme. Ernaux. I think we all know who the working class stiff is here.

“For me, writing was and remains a way to shed light on things that one feels but are unclear,” she said at the news conference after being named winner. Again, we have a difference in approach. 

I feel I am never unclear about anything upon which I shed light. I clearly enjoyed having liberals get their pantaloons in a wad over my recent column about migrants being shipped to uppity Martha’s Vineyard as much as I clearly enjoy getting a rise out of the Trump Harrumphs who couldn’t spell patriot if you spotted them the “p” and the “t.”

Where I am at a disadvantage is the type of subject matter that seems to turn on the Nobel judges. According to news reports, they were impressed that Ernaux wrote a lot about her confusion and ambivalence over her first sexual experience, her affair with a married foreign diplomat as well as an unwanted pregnancy and abortion and her uncertainty about marriage and motherhood. 

My goodness. That’s like the man who confessed to kissing a goat on the lips. I don’t think I would have told that. Not even for a pocket full of krona.

In the first place, I don’t know about a lot of that stuff Ernaux is talking about. And second, even if I did I don’t believe this is the place to be discussing it. (I think I can hear the editors vigorously nodding up and down in agreement.)

I’m pretty sure you would just as soon be spared the details, anyway. With our economy in the dumper and that nutcase in Russia threatening to use nuclear weapons at any moment, telling you my ambivalence concerning any hanky-pank that may or may not have occurred in my past life can’t be very high on your list of concerns right now. Mine, either.

So, the Nobel judges passed me over for a woman who seems as though she has never had a happy day in her life. As my sweet momma would say, “Bless her heart.”

If that kind of miserable existence is what it takes to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, no thank you. I would rather have a family I love and that loves me and the laughs and hugs that go along with that. Treasured memories of the beloved Woman Who Shared My Name. Wonderful friends that care about me. A church family that sustains me. Watching a sunrise on St. Simons Island. Hearing Ray Charles Robinson, of Albany, Georgia, singing “Georgia on my Mind.” Barbecue and sweet tea.

And I have something else that Annie Ernaux doesn’t have and never will: The privilege of corresponding with you each and every week. For that, I am richer than all the krona in Sweden. Thank you.