Once, years before a hyperbole-prone Graydon Carter pronounced “the end of the age of irony“, the more astute Tom Lehrer remarked that Henry Kissinger’s 1973 Nobel Peace prize rendered political satire obsolete.
One wonders what Tom Lehrer thinks of today’s announcement that the the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the perverted Austrian novelist Elfriede Jelinek. While not an act of cosmic irony on par with Kissinger’s Peace Prize, it is, if nothing else, the last nail in the coffin for kinky books. Even if you are inclined to enjoy nauseating, degenerate art-smut like this (and if you are, you should be ashamed), you have to acknowledge that the authors of these nasty things should not be rewarded for writing and promulgating them. Most of Sade’s horrid output was written in prison, and rightly so. Georges Bataille published the shockingly perverse “Story of the Eye” under a pseudonym and spent his wretched life as a creepy librarian, unwilling to face the well-deserved umbrage that even his fellow Frenchmen would have unleased upon him had he taken responsibility for his “work.”
Of course, we here at low culture regard this kind of cultural output as not merely beneath contempt, but in fact a danger to our American way of life and values, the sort of pernicious decadence that leads to the downfall of great civilizations. But even if we did care for this kind of thing, isn’t it a fundamental element of these naughty books that they and their authors are “transgressive”, that they are breaking the rules of society? And shouldn’t society respond to transgression with censure and condemnation, not fancy medals and prizes? Indeed, in a year in which the world was appalled by images of grotesquely sadistic acts, is it not poor timing — if not a bit perverse — for the Swedish Academy to award its Literature prize to a pornographic writer who celebrates perversity?