Cultural Revolutions

A Running Gag

The Nobel Peace Prize is by now a running gag—or rather a running sore. Like the Prize for Literature, given nearly every year to an untalented anti-writer as obscure in his own country as he is in the rest of the world, the Peace Prize is generally awarded to failures, like the 1998 winners from Northern Ireland who are no longer speaking to each other, or to complete cynics like Henry Kissinger who consigned an allied and dependent nation to devastation and slaughter. In 1906, the prize went to Theodore Roosevelt, the bullying imperialist who once opined, "What this country needs is a good war"; the 1919 recipient was Woodrow Wilson, who had just dragged his country through an unnecessary European war whose conclusion would set the stage for the rise of the Nazis and round two of the European bloodbath.

Occasionally the prize for literature has gone to authentic writers (Eliot, Mauriac, Camus, Andric), and—less frequently—the Peace Prize is given to some genuinely humane person like Albert Schweitzer and (unless I am mistaken) Ralph Bunche. This year, however, is not one of the exceptions. Günter Grass, leftist activist and propagandist, received the Prize for Literature, and the recipient of the Peace Prize is Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). Grass, a self-described "Spätaufklärer" (illuminatus-come-lately) who hates his country...

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