An Assessment of Every Single Nobel Prize Winner Ever, Excluding Laureates of Chemistry, Physics, Economics, Medicine and Peace — Introduction

You know what interests me most? Me.

With that established, I think it’s time to unveil another new feature (Feel free to write complaining about how many new features get started around here without ever being seen again: I might run a feature based on the correspondence). To celebrate Elfriede Jelinek’s triumph, we’ll be running a series called “An Assessment of Every Single Nobel Prize Winner Ever, Excluding Laureates of Chemistry, Physics, Economics, Medicine and Peace” (I will try to deal with the prize in Phrenology, awarded between 1901 and 1907, but Literature needs doing first.)

I understand if you prefer the wieldier titles “Who the Fuck Is Selma Lagerlof?”, “Parade of LNRBD’s Ignorance”, or “A Guide to Generating Hate Mail from Continental Europe”

I was going to divide this up into decades, but instead settled on a more me-based system: each part will contain as many names as I can handle before I get bored. Me!

As you know, the Nobel Prize goes to the best person at literature in the world who hasn’t won it before and isn’t dead. I gather they use a points-based scoring system to establish who is the best, based on the following criteria:

  1. Number of Books Written
  2. Dignity
  3. Size of vocab
  4. Usefulness to the economic and political interests of Sweden
  5. Length of sentences
  6. Likelihood of doing anything worthwhile before death (inverse)
  7. Swimsuit round
  8. Interest in Totalitarian Government (point allocation varies according to period and item 4, above)
  9. Beard and Spelling

Therefore I’ve set up my own simplified system, based on the following categories, all scored out of ten:

How Well Do I know You? Zero for an author who I’ve only ever seen on Nobel Laureate lists. Ten won’t be reserved as a platonic mark: it’ll represent Yeats. Interested readers can write in for details of how much knowledge that actually means. Bear in mind that I’ll think you a loon if you do ask, and may mock you in public.

How Much Do I Like You? If an author gets over five in the previous category, they’re scored here.

How Likely Am I to Give Enough of a Shit About You to Find out More About You or Read One of Your Books Before I Die? An author scoring under 5 in the first category is marked here. In some cases, such as Bellow, where my knowledge is less than a 5, but I have read at least one novel, understand ‘another one of your books’. An author scoring exactly five can be judged in either category, depending on my mood.

Beard and Spelling ‘Spelling’ in most cases will be based on how easy the author’s name is to spell. Points will be deducted for accented letters and transliterations from foreign character sets that could lead to confusion; however, foreign authors will score more points for having an easy-to-spell name than anglophone writers, because it’s harder for them. I do recognise that using ‘Beard’ as a criterion is idiotically patriarchal, so I’ll grade female laureates on hotness.

In summary: everyone gets a score out of thirty, based on three categories: two subjective, and one empirical. This will allow me to establish who is the best writer in the world since 1901, which I think we’ll all agree is a valuable critical service, and should settle a lot of arguments once and for all.

We begin later, or tomorrow.