Discussion in 'J.R.R. Tolkien : The Creator of Middle-earth' started by Barliman Butterbur, Jan 6, 2012.
Read it and weep: http://tgr.ph/wwI5aV
This is such a piece of non-news that I'm surprised how much it's spread across the internet via blogs and such. Of course the article puts Tolkien in the title, even though he's such a small part of the overall story. Of course this is taken as some objective proof that Tolkien's prose was poor in the comments. It's a throwaway piece of trivia that amounts to The Guardian attention-whoring via a provocative title. No more, no less.
But for a thoughtful response, there's this:
I was reading this article today in one of our daily newspapers down here in
Apparently it was JRR Tolkien's good friend CS Lewis who nominated him for this award but Tolkien was denied the privilege due to what the article says his storytelling was not up to scratch.
I think Lewis was a bit premature in nominating Tolkien in 1961. The author who took the laurels that year, Ivo Andric, wrote his last praiseworthy novel in 1945 (the award speech itself alluded to the literary shortcomings of a later piece of work). Tolkien's first LotR volume was published nine years after this date, and was still in its first edition by 1961. Given that LotR spawned a fantasy genre of novels depicting an other-world on Earth; I doubt whether any of the 'worthy' gentlemen making the Nobel decision were qualified to rate Tolkien's work, being unable to see the wood for the trees. The subtleties of the language structures amongst the various peoples of Middle-earth were ignored in the face of a story about full-size fairytale characters and diminutive 'humans'. I expect they would have been bewildered, if they bothered to read the story at all before dismissing it.
Fortunately, Tolkien knew the type and would have expected as much - he worked alongside the likes in Oxford, where his peers were just as scathing that he had lowered himself to producing popular stories for the masses (and therefore inferior stories) instead of sticking to publishing his works on Anglo Saxon writings. They probably also disapproved of his translation of the book of Jonah in the Jerusalem Bible, given the prejudice at that time in England against Roman Catholicism.
Fortunately, the Booker Prize had not yet come into being; I think you have to write novels that offend at least one cultural group or institution to win that one!
The Booker was always a very good indicator of what books weren't worth reading in any particular year.
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