Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich has won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” Alexievich’s writes prose, but from a journalist’s perspective. She collects personal stories, giving a voice to previously unheard subjects in her nonfiction books.
Ultimately, though, the Nobel committee doesn’t know a thing about writing. They’re busy giving awards to chemists, physicists, and parasitologists. The real arbiters of taste and quality are Amazon commenters. Fortunately, Alexievich has only one 1-star review for her 1992 work, Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War.
Alexievich is not alone. There is a very long, very proud history of esteemed Amazon commenters declaring prize-winning authors’ various works subpar.
French novelist Patrick Modiano won the award in 2014 “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.” He followed the Prize with a novel released just this year, So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood. Apparently, he knows nothing about “the art of memory.”
Morrison was the last American author to win the award, way back in 1993 as someone “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” But in 1987 Morrison committed a major crime: not recording an comprehensible CD version of Beloved. Heinous.
The good thing about Amazon is that the site is kind enough to even sell books written by dead hacks. T.S. Eliot won the Nobel Prize in 1948 “for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry.” Nevertheless, 1922’s poem The Waste Land is just, like, really depressing. “I don’t get it.”
I guess you can buy one of Svetlana Alexievich’s books if you want. Just realize that she’s just as bad of a writer as the rest of ’em.