First things first: here at the Roundup, we’ve been speculating about the Nobel Prize in literature for weeks—at one point or another, we had pitted Japanese surrealist Haruki Murakami and Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o as the two heaviest hitters—but the 2014 Nobel Prize is an upset (isn’t it always?), going to French writer Patrick Modiano. The committee cited Modiano’s “art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”
Not even in the discussion this year was American standby Philip Roth, who seems to have resigned himself to perennial snubbing: “I wonder if I had called ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ ‘The Orgasm Under Rapacious Capitalism,’ I would thereby have earned the favor of the Swedish Academy.” Hah. This sort of snub comes as no surprise, as a famous Nobel judge claims that Western literature is being laid to waste by the big business of creative writing courses and the general tendency toward “professionalization” in literature.