No No Nobel

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Excerpts from works by novelists who didn’t even get a look-in at this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, won by Romanian-born German novelist and poet Herta Müller.

Eric thought nothing of knocking out a couple of dozen portraits a day. Lenin. Bruce Lee. Archbishop Makarios. JFK. Rolf Harris. What frustrated him was how easily it came to him. It wasn’t like he was autistic and so had some compensating social ineptitude to redeem his talent. On the contrary, he was socially ept. More ept than most, truth be told. That was one of the reasons why he received so many commissions: People loved him and they loved to buy his paintings. It had reached the stage where he could do them with his eyes closed, just name a celebrity, even a fictional one: Lolita, Oblomov, James Bond, Mister Darcy. He could come up with a convincing portrait in half an hour and not only would the buyer gratefully cough up the dosh but she’d practically insist that the likeness was uncanny, swear that this indeed was how the subject looked, even in the absence of a description in the text.

It like a form of alchemy. He was producing gold from base metal, giving flesh where before there wasn’t even the Word. And they adored him for it.

Why, then, did they continue to keep him in the cage with all the other chimps? That was what he wanted to know. Somehow it felt so . . . demeaning.

(From Lady Chatterley’s Hoover, by R. Goss-Kattallogg)

As she trod on it, it emitted a high-pitched whine and oozed a lilac-coloured gel. She recoiled instinctively and resumed her hectoring.

“And you expected me to eat THAT?!”

“Not at first, no,” he said. “The idea only suggested itself to me after I saw the lecture you gave to those Bedouin kids smashing the wing mirrors of your truck. Something you said to them about Aristotle’s Golden Mean.”

“Not, ‘Do as you would be done to’?”

“Well, yes, that too, obviously.” Was he beginning to have second thoughts about her? “It was more your manner. Given that you knew they couldn’t understand a word you were saying, you still refused to use universal gestures or concede any ground to their otherness. Although I did see you give them the finger behind their backs as they wandered off. Whose benefit was that for?”

She shrugged.

“Who can say? God’s? He made the fuckers foreign in the first place. He should see how I feel about all His works.”

“Ah! So you would have eaten it!”

He clapped, delighted.

(from Christ Stopped by Ebola, by Lasse Viren)

Few are the times I’ve needed better English than German when conversing with royalty, but the dragomans were bearing kettles on their heads of such consequence and design that I simply had to pass comment on them to the field marshall.

“I can’t imagine the caliph taking this sort of humiliation lying down.”

His response astounded me. Maybe it was the heat, but what he said for all the world sounded just like

“Swallae alla mae come.”

I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant. Was this an instruction? An order? An account of his morning’s activities? Or perhaps just a simple observation. I felt it best to interpret it as the last. We were already on rocky ground.

“Yes. Yes. I think he probably will,” I said.

He scowled.

“I wasnae speaking to you, Idiot!” he snarled.

The caliph was standing right behind me. My nads were his, for certain.

(From Welcome to My Nightmare, by Robert Fisk)

In despair she tore out her fingernails and cast them into the cold, unwelcoming hearth. The cats scrambled after them.

“Stop saying that!” she cried. “You aren’t making any sense.”

She reached for the molten candlewax and tried to fill her ears with it, but if anything it only made things worse. She resorted instead to inserting the candles themselves, which afforded her some slight relief, but still not enough.

“Stop it! Stop it!”

But there was no stopping him. Even after she took a nutcracker to the mirror in the hall and used the broken shards to slice down her arms, the proper way to do it, she’d been told, as she lay in a lake of her own blood, life ebbing from her body, she could still hear him

” . . . and after all, you’re my wonderwall.”

(From The Devil Rides Nowt, by Harley Davidson)

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