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Thread: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

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    Post Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Documents kept hidden by the Swedish Academy until now shed new light on what the members thought of certain writers, including Tolkien:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...ed-public.html

    He is regarded as the 'Father of Fantasy' who wrote one of the most famous fantasy books ever written.

    However, new documents have revealed JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings was once criticised by the Nobel prize jury for its poor prose and bad story-telling.

    A Swedish newspaper reporter has combed documents, previously classified until now, to discover that in 1961, experts in charge of deciding who should win the prestigious literature prize were not impressed with Tolkien's Middle Earth trilogy.

    The reporter discovered that jury member Anders Österling wrote that the novel 'has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality'.

    The documents have been kept under lock and key at the Nobel library in Stockholm for the past 50 years.

    Tolkien was nominated for the award by his friend and fellow fantasy author CS Lewis, who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia.

    A professor of Ango-Saxon history at Oxford University, he was not alone in being criticised.


    There're more in the article.

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    England Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Surely, it is not so very shocking that JRR Tolkien did not win the Nobel. During his lifetime, the Anglo-Saxon scholar published "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" - two books. The former of these is a grand and enjoyable quest story, nice for young people, but Tolkien was hardly the author of a long suite of novels or umpteen collections of poetry. "The Silmarillion" was published posthumously by his son.

    His background is interesting, though. Tolkien was born of English parents in the Afrikaner part of South Africa (Bloemfontein). His father was a bank manager. When he moved to England, and his father had died, he attended public school (what the Americans call "private school"). He also lost his mother at the age of twelve, after she had converted to Roman Catholicism. Tolkien's mother had promised he'd be brought up a good Catholic, and JRR also became a Catholic. He then married a Protestant (these differences meant a good deal back in 1914, but he then volunteered to fight in WWI.Later he worked on a dictionary and studied Anglo-Saxon. His WWII biography is rather vague but in 1945 he became the Merton Professor of Literature at Oxford University. And from the 1950s, his literary fame grew. But in later life he was not too keen on having become a cult figure.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Quote Originally Posted by Heteronym View Post
    Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate
    Right, because Pearl S. Buck is the pinnacle of sublimity, .

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Eric, thanks for the info; I didn't know his wife was a Protestant. I know he sometimes referred to her by the name of an elvish character he created--Lúthien--and to himself as Beren (Lúthien's lover in The Silmarillion) and even asked for these two names to be etched on their joint gravestone.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Quote Originally Posted by Liam View Post
    Right, because Pearl S. Buck is the pinnacle of sublimity, .
    The Academy has made many poor choices over the years; I don't think awarding Tolkien would have been one of their best ones. I considered the time reading his trilogy wasted time, actually. I'm glad we got three decent movies out of his work, but that's how far I'll extend my compliments to Tolkien.

    I was also hoping to see comments on this part of the article:

    Jury members were also not impressed by other well-known authors including EM Forster, Graham Greene, Robert Frost - deemed too old at 86 according to the documents - and Lawrence Durrell, who was said to have an unpleasant 'preoccupation with erotic complications'.

    Now I'm really curious to read Durrell, to see what those erotic complications were. Still, this only makes the Academy seem pretty conversative and narrow-minded.


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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    surely this doesn't realy come as a surprise to anyone. i reckon the only two reasons it's made the news at all are: a) the wording lets papers suggest it's an attack or controversy, and b) papers also know that tolkein fans will comment like crazy and get het up, bumping up page views and ad counters.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelS View Post
    surely this doesn't realy come as a surprise to anyone. i reckon the only two reasons it's made the news at all are: a) the wording lets papers suggest it's an attack or controversy, and b) papers also know that tolkein fans will comment like crazy and get het up, bumping up page views and ad counters.
    Exactly! Here are some interesting comments by Orthofer on this:
    http://www.complete-review.com/saloon/index.htm#zr8

    In particular: "[...] Is this what it's going to be like some five decades from now, when they open Nobel deliberations from the past few years and discover that some nutcase nominated J.K.Rowling for the prize (as is entirely possible) ? Will there really be reports that she was 'denied' the prize ? 'Snubbed' ? Come on -- Tolkien (like Rowling, at least based on her output to date) simply didn't have the slightest chance of being considered Nobel Prize-worthy. Why aren't discussions focusing on the interesting revelations ? Graham Greene as runner-up ! A 40-year-old Dürrenmatt already being considered ! Etc. etc. "

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelS View Post
    surely this doesn't realy come as a surprise to anyone. i reckon the only two reasons it's made the news at all are: a) the wording lets papers suggest it's an attack or controversy, and b) papers also know that tolkein fans will comment like crazy and get het up, bumping up page views and ad counters.
    Am I mean for admitting I was anxious to see some crazy, furious rants from Tolkien fans here? Alas, so far I've been disappointed.


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    England Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    I agree with MichaelS and others: it's another wind-up, calculated by bored cultural journalists to engender debate, which means, as is suggested, that the rabid Esperantist-like fanatics, whose growing up has been impaired by reading a fat a children's book, will foam at the mouth. Then the journalist can sit back and observe the gladiatorial contest, and not have to do much beyond a bit of editing.

    I would maintain that it'd be pretty barmy to give the Nobel prize to a man who has written only two kids' books. How many other Nobel candidates do you know who had published so little when being considered for the Nobel? And this man is a member of that kind of establishment that Tolkien fans would loathe, were any other writer to be a Catholic High Tory professor at an élite university. But for some reason, the dazzled fans managed to avoid examining the man too closely, for fear of finding flaws in his otherwise godlike status. His actual biography is interesting, but the man must be put in perspective.

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    England Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Another thing I remember, by the way, from reading "Lord of the Rings" decades ago, were there were hardly any sightings of the fairer or weaker sex in those three volumes, as the book once consisted of. These days, when some feminists are super-sensitive to women being snubbed or shunned, how come that those "Esperantists", many of whom are indeed female, still drool about such a masculinist book? Is it not a bad model for those jolly young chaps who are expected to treat women equally, if all they read about is men, boys, and male hobbits doing all the questing, singing, and fighting, while the females are left to cook the dinner at home and are thus left out of the story, except for one fay princess, as I remember?

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate


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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    I'm sorry for Ivo Andric, though. Now people who've never heard of him, never read him, are attacking him for having stolen Tolkien's Nobel Prize.

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    England Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Yes, Heteronym, there are loonies round every corner. The bit in the Telegraph article I like best sums it all up:

    I certainly find it hard to believe that millions of people will be queuing up to watch a blockbusting film trilogy of the works of Ivo Andric, the Yugoslavian writer who won the Nobel in 1961. (Not that I've read any Andric, so apologies if I'm doing his work a disservice.) Tolkien's work will probably outlive all his Nobel rivals of that year because it inspires such fervour among his fans. My friend Tony - a fellow Tolkien devotee - proved this when he invited nine hand-picked friends to see The Fellowship of the Ring when it opened at the cinema. To qualify for a ticket you had to have read the trilogy. Twice.
    Nothing like a bit of harmless Tolkien adulation and Nobel-bashing. He hasn't actually read Andric, but is prepared to put the boot in, in order to tell the world that he is a "Tolkien devotee" (read: fetishist). When will people like him enter the world of adulthood?

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Yes, Heteronym, there are loonies round every corner. The bit in the Telegraph article I like best sums it all up:



    Nothing like a bit of harmless Tolkien adulation and Nobel-bashing. He hasn't actually read Andric, but is prepared to put the boot in, in order to tell the world that he is a "Tolkien devotee" (read: fetishist). When will people like him enter the world of adulthood?
    Well, according to this guy from the Telegraph then George Lucas should win the Nobel too. I mean, after all he deserves it because of all of his fans right?

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    The same applies to the drooling fans of that lady Rowling-in-Dosh, whose invented posh school and pupils seem to attract the same type of mesmerised quasi-adults as Tolkien does, as well as the children and teenagers that the books are intended for.

    I'm not too snobbish to read a children's book, now and again. Indeed, I've just translated one, and loved doing it. But I am uncomfortable with those odd creatures that cling to childhood by not taking the daring step of starting to read books intended for grown-ups. I feel they are performing a kind of intellectual self-lobotomy, clinging to adventure stories and avoiding books that tackle things that adults do.

    I had never before focussed on the name George Walton Lucas Jr. But I now see what you mean.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    Well, children's books have their virtues, namely interesting plots. I love careful prose like everyone else who's a snob, but sometimes I just want a gripping, well-plotted, unpredictable story.

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    England Re: Nobel Prize Jury Considered Tolkien Second Rate

    It's almost 40 years since I read the huge epic. So, I can't remember whether it's well-plotted. That seems to be one of the points of attack right now, i.e. that the book maybe wasn't so well-plotted. But I still maintain that the key reason that I think Big T didn't get the Nobel is the fact that he wrote two kids books, rather than ten to fifteen works for grown-ups. He's not even the adolescent-adulation answer to Virginia Woolf or anyone else who wrote several novels and maybe deserved a bit of Swedish dosh. Just another British establishment figure, praised and worshipped by an odd assortment of "Esperantists", to name another cluster of weirdism.

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