Like every year, when October arrives, the Swedish Academy meets and chooses the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Then his permanent secretary comes to the fore and, to the expectation of millions of readers from all corners of the globe, publicly pronounces his identity. This has been the case since 1901, when the French poet and essayist Sully Prudhomme won the first award. Since then, except in the years when wars shook Europe, this operation has been repeated.
Names like Sigrid Undset (1928), Hermann Hesse (1946) or Albert Camus (1957) will always remain in the memory of all of us who still attach value to print, to those imaginary journeys that Louis-Ferdinand Céline spoke of in the first page of his «Journey to the end of the night», to transits through universes that do not exist in matter, but many times more authentic than the daily and iterative vigil.
And it is that literature, unlike the contents of Netflix, is not mere entertainment. It is not, as some say, the bond boosters, a common consumable product and therefore disposable. Literature, the real one, is much more. It is the food that free men and women need to wake up from the lethargy in which today’s society has plunged us. It is the weapon we have to combat the unique thought that those who have set themselves up as our masters want to impose on us.
Literature, therefore, must distance itself from established power and promote, using metaphors of all kinds, the conception of a world, often utopian, in which dreams and vain hopes manage to become reality. Thus, literature must call for revolution. But not to a vulgar revolution of flags and slogans, but to the only one that deserves to be called in this way: the revolution of consciences, the self-liberation of the prevailing moralism. Perhaps it was this reason that, in 1964, led Jean-Paul Sartre to reject the laureate. “The ties between man and culture – he said – must be developed directly, bypassing the institutions established by the system.”
In any case, the years passed and the awards continued. Excellent writers or poets such as Samuel Beckett (1969), Octavio Paz (1990) or José Saramago (1998) were awarded the highest distinction to which a man of letters can aspire. His works, translated into dozens of languages, give a special light to the libraries, public or private, that exhibit them.
But everything has changed. Political correctness has broken into our lives destroying bodies and souls. And literature, staunch enemy of contemporary oppressors, has been killed and buried in a deep dark hole. And from her tomb a ghost has emerged, a specter that, although it has the form of her corpse, lacks her free spirit and her most inherent essence.
Proof of this are the latest prizes awarded. 2021, Abdulrazak Gurnah, a virtually unknown Zanzibari writer who has been awarded, according to the Swedish Academy, “for his compassionate and uncompromising insight into the effects of colonialism and the fate of refugees in the chasm between cultures and continents.” In Spain, Julieta Lionetti, his editor, laughed when she heard the news and even admitted that the writer was (and is) so unknown that his publisher, Poliedro, which published one of his novels, no longer exists, had to to close.
And this year 2022, for the French writer Annie Ernaux, in whose works and outside of her she talks about what we have to talk about today, about the canons imposed by the woke “culture”, that is: neofeminism, indigenism, defense abortion, hijab or positions contrary to the State of Israel.
Meanwhile, renowned writers, poets of the word such as Milan Kundera, Haruki Murakami or Michel Houellebecq continue on the bench waiting for something that will never come, because still, and I hope it never will, they have not knelt before secular dogmas, before clay idols that those in power have placed on the altars and that they want us to worship without question and, above all, without thinking.
I do not know if there is salvation or if it is already too late. But as the saying goes, hope is the last thing lost. So, let us entrust ourselves to the muses and wait patiently for next year, the still distant 2023, to see if the Swedish Academy rectifies or if, on the contrary, it decides to change the name to the Nobel: first prize for literary activism.
Jose Maria Asencio Gallego. judge and writer
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JOSÉ MARÍA ASENCIO: Nobel Prize for literary activism