Thursday, June 12, 2008

Former Montreal cabbie Hage scoops up IMPAC, world's richest novel prize

The only cabs he'll be taking from now on will be from airports in the backseat. Okay, I guess I'll have to read DeNiro's Game after all. Something had stopped me up to now. Probably a bunch of things, a combination of jealousy and... well, jealousy. I mean the guy's written this debut in his third language. Not first. Not second. Third! Most people don't even have a third language let alone could write a novel in one. I mean for me that's like writing a novel in Yiddish (or Hebrew, it's a toss-up.) But the other reason I haven't read it is that the exerpts I have read haven't drawn me to the book. Something about the prose seemed overwrought and faux-poetic in that annoying atmospheric Michael Ondaatje (see above) internationalist style. Without casting aspersions on a book I have yet to read, there is something about international war-torn settings and faux-poetic language that endears a book to prize juries. Maybe this is one way that the literary bourgeoisie can feel magnanimous, elevating the (artistic) suffering of the oppressed, the poverty-stricken and displaced, and in the process ennoble themselves. Or maybe, I'm full of crap and Hage's novel is just goddamn good and deserves all the accolades it received in Canada and abroad. Can so many "authoritative" people be wrong? One thing I love about this story is that Hage is not a product of any university creative writing program (he studied photography. My recommendation to writers: study agriculture, biology, ancient Greek, hell, study calf-roping, anything but creative writing.) It got me wondering about how many of the works of fiction that have been recognized internationally over the last number of years with prizes have actually been written by graduates of university creative writing programs. I expect, not many, if any. Though, I would expect that in poetry one would find many more academy-trained prize-winners, which if true, would attest to the insularity of that world, and perhaps the sorry state of poetry in general.

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