Steven Clifford, the New Jersey-born writer whose Flip Side columns explore the human condition with a visionary power and brutal honesty that compel us to confront the alienation of the individual in an unmoored society, is the surprise winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy described Mr. Clifford as a writer “who with a lyric flow of voices probes the depth of the human spirit struggling against the barbaric arbitrariness of the clash of interlacing cultures.”
The leading candidates for the prize were thought to have been the Uruguayan Casimira Romero Rodriguez, whose dark novels chronicle the power of resistance and endurance through moving and insightful depictions of the human experience; Prenk Mehmed Konitsa, the Albanian Playwright, an epicist of the human experience who with skepticism, fire, and concentration explores the subjecting power of the clichés of the reigning civilization; and Amadou Gon Coulibaly, from Cote d’Ivoire, whose poems unite perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny to depict the human condition in the landscape of the dispossessed in the quest for the melancholic soul of a culture gone astray.
The award surprised Mr. Clifford. “I don’t really deserve it. The Academy might better have chosen Katrín Júlíusdóttir the Icelandic Poet whose works unite perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny to depict the human condition in the landscape of the dispossessed in the quest for the melancholic soul of a culture gone astray; the Andorran novelist Susanna Vela Palomares, whose dark novels chronicle the power of resistance and endurance through moving and insightful depictions of the human experience; or the Malaysian short story writer who writes with his nose, Datuk Liew Vui Keong, an epicist of the human experience, who with skepticism, fire and concentration explores the subjecting power of the clichés of the reigning civilization.
“This award,” Mr. Clifford continued, “belongs not to me but to all of America. The money, however, belongs to me.” He plans to use the $1.4 million prize money to rebuild lives and institutions shattered by the financial meltdown. “I will start with my IRA, which held a lot of Lehman preferred stock. My Keough was also hammered. Can you believe I bought WaMu at its peak? What’s left over goes in the joint account assuming that Judith will sign a post-nup.”
Responding to criticism that Mr. Clifford has never published a single novel, play or poem, Per Wästberg, the Chairman Literature Committee responded: “Novels, schmovels. Poems, schmoems. He gets the award of what he might do in the future, assuming he reverses his decline into senility. And he is one hell of a guy.”
Mr. Clifford agreed. “I am one hell of a guy and it’s about time someone recognized it. For years the Gates Foundation has refused to fund my grant request to research if one can get a bad meal in Tuscany. And once again in 2009 the McArthur Foundation overlooked me and awarded fellowships to digital ornithologists using molecular phylogenetics and biostatistics to reconstruct the influences on population dynamics of severely challenged avian species."
Mr. Clifford hopes to be the surprise winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2010. “I mix a lot of ingredients when cooking and I got an A in high school chemistry,” he asserted. When confronted with the fact that he received a B-minus in high school chemistry, Mr. Clifford responded, “Maybe it was Health Ed. I am pretty sure a got an A in something.
“Anyway, I should be rewarded for what I might do in the future. I might mix cloves, cardamom, dried red chilies, nutmeg, mace, cumin, coriander, dried shredded coconut, blanched almonds, garlic, and turmeric in cooking Gosht Badami (lamb in almond sauce). Who knows what I may discover?”
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