A Lesbian from Asia

David K. Israel

The title of a new indie film opening at Sundance next year? Nope. A new novel working its way up the best-seller lists? Closer, but still no. "A lesbian from Asia," is, according to Swedish literary critic Mats Gellerfelt, "the ideal candidate for the Nobel Prize [in literature] today." Or so he said in a New Yorker article on the prize.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times had an interesting piece on the influence of a politics on nominations and awards.

Is the prize for literature or for politics? (It's a dessert topping! No, it's a floor wax!)"¦ More and more"¦ the prize "has gone to a person who has the correct sex, geographical address, ethnic origin and political profile — 'correct' being determined by the commissars at the Swedish Academy."

But as the Times article also points out, didn't Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz win in 1980, the year the Solidarity movement formed? Didn't William Butler Yeats win in 1923, just after Ireland won independence? Couldn't a case be made that the Nobels in literature, as with so many other awards, are, and have always been politicized?

I bet they have. Oh, and speaking of betting, check out Ladbrokes.com if you're interested in placing one on Nobel Literature nominees. Philip Roth is there at 10-1, Paul Auster at 100-1, and, get this, Bob Dylan at 50-1! Come to think of it, doesn't Bob have a song called "A Lesbian from Asia"? No? Well he might, soon.