I’ve been thinking that the Nobel Prize for Literature should probably be renamed as the “Honor for those Unknown to most Humans” (HUH) simply because I’ve used that acronym whenever a Nobel laureate’s been announced in recent years.

modianoThe Nobel Prize for Literature seems, for the most part, to be reserved for obscure figures from Mitteleuropa with cigarette-stained fingertips.  Most newspaper critics have repeatedly faced the challenge of quickly writing a good, authoritative column after the Nobel announcement  even though they haven’t had a clue who the winner is — even though they were hoping it would be Murakami, maybe, or Philip Roth.

(Nothing a little Wikipedia-diving can’t remedy.)

But with the announcement of this year’s recipient, Patrick Modiano, the fault is purely mine.  He’s a tremendously intriguing figure I haven’t read, and I turned not to the newspapers for their potted wisdom, but to Kai Maristed’s commentary on Modiano’s win at her blog, Point De Vue: Paris.

What I’ve always relished about her work  — as a book reviewer and essayist — are the deft turns of phrase that infuse her writing with a unique voice.  And the concision.  In this latest post you have another chance, my good friends, to learn not just about Modiano but also how to write about him in a short amount of space.

Enjoy.  (I know I did.)


  1. You’re so right, so often the winners are little known (not sure if this is good or bad, the publicity is a good thing for these authors, I suppose). Being French, I was familiar with Modiano, but know few people outside France who are.

    p.s. I wasn’t able to open the link to the other blog (perhaps my computer’s fault but you may want to double-check that. I will try again later this week as I”d love to read it).

  2. Thank you for the reply, and for pointing out the link problem to Kai’s page. I’ve fixed it. It should work now. Hope you enjoy it. And I hope Modiano’s victory marks a change in Nobel decisions: Maybe they’ll start making selections of people with real significance, like Modiano!

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