The Nobel Prize occupies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Life and nothing else , one of Bertrand Tavernier’s great films, narrates the adventures of Commander Delaplane (Philippe Noiret) to, after the First World War, lead carry out a particular mission: find a corpse that can safely occupy the monument to the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées. By all guarantees it means someone unidentified not claimed by any family. DNA tests would take a long time to arrive.

It goes without saying that the commander’s job is as difficult as the one carried out each year by the Swedish Academy to award the Nobel Prize for Literature. Why? Because, despite what has been said these days about Abdulrazak Gurnah, there is no unknown writer who can win such an award. Could it be an author who has published 10 novels in English and has been a finalist for the Booker, the most important award for the most spoken language in the world? Has someone already translated into another linguistic power such as Spanish?

For reasons of weight as it did not appear in the Twitter bets or in the of Ladbrokes – so reasoned always -, was added the satisfaction of confirming the literary joke of every autumn: the Swedes reward an African with an unpronounceable name. Eighteen years after JM Coetzee won it, we still can’t get his last name right. Being white has served him little. The day an author is finally awarded in Basque, they are going to laugh in Stockholm. The allusion to a minority language is not trivial: all the awarded Africans – apart from the Egyptian Naguib Mahfuz – write in English. Swahili and Yoruba await the opportunity that Isaac B. Singer’s jidi had. Like Soyinka before, Gurnah chose not to write in her mother tongue.

When they received the most coveted medallion of universal letters, Wislawa Szymborska was only known in Spain for having published a handful of verses in an anthology of Polish poetry, Derek Walcott was being translated for the first time, Herta Müller was a cult author – that is, of minimal sales – in Siruela and Patrick’s catalog Modiano had just landed in Anagrama after making a pilgrimage for stamps in which he had not lasted because he did not sell. Examples such as these would be enough to trust the reading nose of the Nobel Committee. Or put another way: in addition to being Tanzanian, immigrant and black, Abdulrazak Gurnah runs the serious risk of writing well.

Unknown is a qualifier that says more about the person who pronounces it than about the person to whom it is attributed. In 2016 Cervantes Eduardo Mendoza won. The ruling coincided with the Guadalajara Book Fair (Mexico), the most important in the world in the Spanish language, and in neighboring hotels, full of writers, it was difficult to find someone not born in Spain who knew the title of any of their books. novels. Of course, those who had met him in a gig instantly remembered “how nice” he is. Among the 400. 000 volumes for sale could only be obtained the planetarium ―for the another jackpot― Cat fight . Upon hearing the news from Cervantes, most sellers responded with a question: “Eduardo Men… what?”

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