You may have noticed that Doris Lessing won the £765,000 Nobel Prize for Literature a couple of weeks ago. According to the exchange rate this morning, the prize is worth $A1.76m. That’s phenomenal; Australian writers think they’ve hit the jackpot if they win the $42,000 Miles Franklin. However, it is worth noting that the Nobel Prize is a lifetime achievement award, unlike the £50,000 ($A115.432) Man Booker, which hinges on the success of a single publication.
I’ve never read a Doris Lessing work, but I admire her for being the oldest person ever to win the Prize (she’s 88) and only the eleventh woman to win in its 106-year history. She’s also won 16 other major international awards for works on topics as broad as communism, psychology, science fiction and Sufism (mystical Islam). I also admire her for her remarkable acceptance speech. Unlike Gwyneth Paltrow’s tearful Oscar script, or Günter Grass’s ‘Writers have always spat in the soup of the high and mighty’, this is what Doris Lessing said to reporters:
‘I can’t say I’m overwhelmed with surprise. I’m 88 years old and they can’t give the Nobel to someone who’s dead, so I think they were probably thinking they’d probably better give it to me now before I’ve popped off … I’ve won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I’m delighted to win them all. It’s a royal flush.’ (here and here)
I think she’s a bit of fun. She even has a MySpace profile.
In other prize news, Walt Crawford’s Cites and insights (PDF) drew my attention to an Australian librarian who has won the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize for Literature. The Ig Nobel Prize rewards (or shames) research that ‘first make[s] people laugh, and then make[s] them think’ (here). Glenda Browne was recognised for her article in ‘The definite article: acknowledging ‘The’ in index entries’, which appeared in The Indexer. Crawford notes that her work addresses a ‘legitimate’ concern, particularly in the case of online collections using sorting algorithms, but I can see that it might have limited appeal. For those who are interested, you can find the article here (PDF). For those who prefer a rollicking good read, I recommend the Thursday Next chronicles.