There are lots of theories about Nobel “bias”, few of them involving the possibility that writers from non-English speaking countries, many of whom readers in the west have neither read nor heard of, might actually be quite good.
The Royal Swedish Academy’s appointed judges themselves say they don’t like the effects of the creative writing school battery farms on the New York publishing scene. More widely, the Nobel is seen as the perfect platform from which to counter US cultural hegemony; and there’s a notion that the snobbish Nobel judges don’t like to reward authors who actually sell.
New York Times book critic Dwight Garner rightly pointed out the other day that the judges’ blind spot in literature tends to be laughs – since they travel least well between cultures – but there’s one unexplored possibility: that the judges are, in fact, being extremely funny, albeit in the Swedish style, basing their choice around a single annual provocation: getting Philip Roth to say something about his perpetual failure to win."
I had this recollection after looking at a picture of my old dog Toffee. She came into our lives 10 years ago. She was a stray and I made friends with her. Our other dog, Jojo, loved playing with her. Toffee used to hang out in our garden, we would feed her and were on the fence about adopting her. One day she vanished and reappeared 48 hours later. She was, as my dad put it, “Walking like a drunkard”. It also looked like she was missing a patch of fur around the stomach area. My dad immediately decided against adopting her because she “seemed to have some kind of skin disease”. Upon closer inspection, the patch was a perfect rectangle and it looked like her fur had been shaved off. My mom was convinced that “some cruel and evil people had used her for a black magic ritual”. Since I was of the opinion that parents were wrong most of the time, I took a closer look at her. There was a tiny cut in her stomach and one of her ears had been clipped. The city corporation, as part of the Animal Birth Control program, marks spayed and neutered dogs by clipping off a small portion of the tip of the ear. I looked at Toffee and asked her, “Who fixed you?”. She wagged her tail and gave me this look that said, “Well done human!”. The vet confirmed my suspicion the next day.
— If I had a Dollar for every Indian person who said this to me, I’d have a house in the Hamptons by now.
Interview with Maryam Mirzakhani, the brilliant Iranian mathematician who was the first woman to win the Fields Medal
- Interviewer: What advice would you give lay persons who would
- like to know more about mathematics—what it is,
- what its role in our society has been and so on?
- What should they read? How should they proceed?
- Dr. Mirzakhani: This is a difficult question. I don’t think that everyone
- should become a mathematician, but I do believe that
- many students don’t give mathematics a real chance.
- I did poorly in math for a couple of years in middle
- school; I was just not interested in thinking about it.
- I can see that without being excited mathematics can
- look pointless and cold. The beauty of mathematics
- only shows itself to more patient followers.