A list of unknown, undistinguished, leftist fanatics

by Chris Bertram on October 11, 2004

I’d come across Stephen Schwartz as TCS’s resident ranter against “Islamofascism” and producer of _ex post facto_ rationalizations for such wise decisions as the Tariq Ramadan exclusion and the Cat Stevens deportation. Now I see that “he’s turned his hand to literary criticism”:http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/746mjtym.asp?pg=1 . Apparently, the Swedish Academy “have returned to their habit of awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to an unknown, undistinguished, leftist fanatic.” At one point he interrupts himself, mid-rant, to write

bq. But the Nobel Prize is bestowed for writing, and one must therefore address Jelinek’s publications.

Before going on to make clear that his only knowledge is based on a film adaptation of one of Elfriede Jelinek’s books!

Anyway, that list of unknown, undistinguished leftist fanatics ….

bq. scolding lefty turned Nazi-nostalgic Gunter Grass, in 1999; Jose Saramago, a vulgar enemy of religion and former Communist censor in revolutionary Portugal, in 1998; and the repellent Dario Fo, an Italian playwright specializing in denunciations of capitalism, in 1997…. Other Nobel stars have included Claude Simon (1985), a Stalinist who defamed George Orwell; Castro-lover Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982); Pablo Neruda, Stalinist secret police agent (1971); and Soviet plagiarist and propagandist Mikhail Sholokhov (1965).

Incidentally, is “Nazi-nostalgic” Schwartz’s take on _Crabwalk_ ?



PZ Myers 10.11.04 at 10:56 am

Look closely: his only knowledge is based on a review of a film adaptation of one of Elfriede Jelinek’s books. He doesn’t seem to have actually seen the movie.


Chris Bertram 10.11.04 at 11:57 am

Good God, you’re right. He hadn’t even seen the film!


G. Svenson 10.11.04 at 12:15 pm

Ah, what a lovely argument he pursues: arbitrary nationalist attacks and an outrage over that the Academy follows its own (apparently broad) tastes rather than worrying about wheter Stephen Schwartz finds them to be ideologically pure enough.


rea 10.11.04 at 12:53 pm

We all know the winner should have been that immortal essayist, David Horowitz–unless our dear leaders’s speaches qualify him for the prize . . .


Olle Jansson 10.11.04 at 1:55 pm

That Stephen obviously missed to mention the oh so progressive communist Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn that also got the prize! [/sarcasm]

(I do love Solzhenitsyn, however. Whatever I might think of some of his political ideology)


John Isbell 10.11.04 at 2:05 pm

I did find Saramago’s “Blindness” disappointing. Other than that, I guess we’ve got another live one for the huge Tedious Bombastic Fool tank. Toss him in.


Sandriana 10.11.04 at 3:15 pm

Hey, *I’m* a unknown, undistinguished, leftist fanatic. Those listed, however, are not. Perhaps they are known unknowns?


Anonymous 10.11.04 at 3:27 pm

And I’m the unknown unknown.


g. svenson 10.11.04 at 3:30 pm

I think a lot of the Nobel lit. prize winners in fact classify as unknown knowns…


fyreflye 10.11.04 at 5:06 pm

The right’s still seething over the fact that Ayn Rand never got it.


Robin 10.11.04 at 6:12 pm

Notice that the prize to Ezra Pound, fascist collabortor and propagandist, isn’t denounced. I’m not saying it should be; I don’t think that literature should be by politics.

The whole thing does remind me of a stanza from the first version of Auden’s “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”, later excised.

“Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,

Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honours at their feet.

Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.”

But then it’s the Weekly (No)Standard(s).


Randy Paul 10.11.04 at 7:10 pm

Christ, I’ve known a number of Pinochet defenders who love Neruda’s poetry. Chile recently honored the Centenary of Neruda’s birth.

Schwartz apparently is unaware of Saramago’s public break with Castro’s Cuba last year.

Perhaps he needs to unwedge his head from somewhere.

Oh, he also left out former Franco toadie, Camilo José Cela. You gotta love a selective memory.


Vance Maverick 10.11.04 at 9:59 pm

Pound never won the Nobel. There was some controversy when he won the Bollingen prize.


blah 10.11.04 at 11:24 pm

The Swedish Academy is indeed a poor judge of literary talent:

Kipling (1907) – apologist for imperialism

Rolland (1915) – communist

Hamsun (1920) – member of Nazi party

France (1921) – communist and outspoken atheist

Yeats (1923) – fascist sympathizer and member of eugenics society

Shaw (1925) – Soviet and Nazi sympathizer

Lewis (1930) – socialist, mocker of religion

Pirandello (1934) – fascist, supporter of Abyssinian genocide

O’Neil (1936) – socialist

Gide (1947) – communist

Eliot (1948) – fascist sympathizer, supporter of eugenics, anti-semite

Faulkner (1949) – slavery apologist

Russell (1950) – socialist, atheist

Hemingway (1954) – socialist

Camus (1957) – socialist, supporter of colonialism

Andric (1961) – communist

Steinbeck (1962) – socialist

Sartre (1964) – communist, Stalin apologist

Beckett (1969) – nihilist

Boll (1972) – Baader-Meinhof sympathizer

White (1973) – socialist


Nick 10.12.04 at 12:13 am

And don’t forget Churchill (1953), who relied on a vast army of ‘researchers’ to write his books.

Personally, I’d love to see Kurt Vonnegut win the prize, just to hear heads explode with indignation.


Anderson 10.12.04 at 12:20 am

Nick, Churchill did that more with WW2 than with The World Crisis or Marlborough, was my impression.

Besides, I think the reality is that he got the award more for his radio broadcasts. The only Nobel laureate whose merit was in public speaking.


drapeto 10.12.04 at 12:21 am

Oh, he also left out former Franco toadie, Camilo José Cela. You gotta love a selective memory.

damn, i was going to say that one. i guess i’ll say naipaul instead.


Robin 10.12.04 at 5:34 am

Vance, I stand corrected. But I do think that the larger points stand: (i) TWS has no interest in applying the standard symmetrically to supporters of brutal right wing regimes, and more importantly (ii) it’s doubtful that the politics of the author (as opposed to that of the work, with all the problems that phrasing entails) is a useful standard with which to judge literature. Kiplings imperialism doesn’t take away from his beauty of his poetry. Is Virgil a bad writer/poet because of his praise of Roman Imperialism? Certainly, if people who are moved by Cancer Ward suddenly judge the work to be bad upon learning of his defense of tsarism and apologies for pogroms, we would think that their faculty for judgement itself was off. This is problem with Blah’s list. I doubt that either Milosz or Brodsky, both good humanist, anti-communist liberals, with social democratic sympathies, would think that politics made their works or even those of the people they politically hated. (And by the way Blah, when did atheism become a political crime?!?!?)

Frankly, I actually do find in these reductions of literary talents to the politics of their authors echoes of both fascist and Stalinist aesthetic policy, which did excatly that, judge art by political standards.


Peter Murphy 10.12.04 at 6:01 am

C’mon: Hemingway might have shared a few drinks with Castro from time to time, but his “socialism” was pretty bland by historical standards. Boxing fights were his thing – not proletariat rights. If you’re looking for revisionist denunciations, file him instead under “Cruelty to Animals”.


clew 10.12.04 at 9:03 pm

This is a special case of the Achilles/Che/heroism argument. Writers may be remembered for their daimonic brilliance, however they applied it.


Harry 10.12.04 at 9:14 pm

Has anybody else noticed the part of the article where Schwartz implicitly gigs her on being less attractive than Britney Spears?

That suggests a likely candidate for Schwartz’s fantasy Nobel Prize. Which leggy blond essayist hates Islam even more than V. S. Naipaul?


Goddess of Swank 10.14.04 at 12:28 am

Someone should tell Mr. Schwartz that hate is not clever, no matter how cute he tries to get with phrasing and pop culture references.

Comments on this entry are closed.