As it turns out, this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature went to Harold Pinter, the playwright. So much for the quasi-official speculation, circulated in the Swedish and Norwegian press (and eagerly passed on in this obscure corner of the world), that for the first time since Bertrand Russell and Winston Churchill two generations ago, the prize would go to a non-fiction writer. (Speculation, we are reminded once again, is most intense in closed societies, such as the Swedish Academy, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, or, let’s see, Malacanang or any branch of the military.)
I can’t help thinking the award, albeit deserved, comes almost half a century late. In contrast, the most recent deserved award, to J. M. Coetzee two years ago, came at the height of the author’s powers. (Have you read Coetzee’s wonderfully idiosyncratic Nobel Lecture? He returns to the Robinson Crusoe theme, which he had worried in previous books.) Or if not at the peak of his powers, then at least at that stage in the writer’s life when you know he still has a few more good books left to write.