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Holland Park Press

Remember the Name

12 October 2011 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

It’s Monday 10 October and within the next few minutes they’ll announce the winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics. Strictly speaking economics isn’t a science otherwise things would have been going better by now.

Economics can describe what has happened, in that case it should be called the Nobel Prize for History, but this doesn’t exist. Economics can also deal with the actual figures, but then it is more like a Nobel Prize for Mathematics. Unfortunately there is no Nobel Prize for Mathematics, Alfred Nobel didn’t fancy establishing one for personal reasons.

Ha, they’re announcing the winners: two Americans, Sims and Sargent, for ‘their empirical research on cause and effect in the macro-economy’. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that they can predict things as well.

Even classifying economics leads to confusion; in the Netherlands it is listed under social sciences but in Belgium it’s part of behavioural sciences.

Actually, the Nobel Prize for Economics isn’t strictly speaking a Nobel Prize, it is a prize that was awarded for the first time in 1969 by the Swedish Central Bank.

Alfred Nobel did establish the Nobel Prize for Literature. Obviously, it’s also a very subjective prize and being local helps as there are no less than six Swedish Literature Nobel Prize laureates. This year the prize was awarded to Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. A wonderful poet but his books were no longer in print from his Dutch publisher.

In 2005, Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for Literature. This was a bit late and Pinter was already very ill but it was influenced by his criticism of the war in Iraq.

Printer received the prize at a point when his political believes were fashionable. Yet, he wasn’t a writer who wrote about big events, instead he was a master at describing a ‘little war’, disputes between individuals.

In 1958, Harold Pinter’s first major play The Birthday Party was panned by London critics, and nearly caused the end of his career as a playwright. In due cause the play became a classic.

It was Harold Hobson, then the drama critic of The Sunday Times, who, in 1958, was the only one to see The Birthday Party’s greatness, and to acknowledge Pinter’s writing skills.

Recently, a young Dutch actor of Moroccan descent won a major Dutch film award: the Golden Calf. In his acceptance speech he said: ‘I’m Dutch, I’m proud of my Moroccan inheritance, I’m a muslim and I’m standing here with a Golden Calf’. He received a standing ovation.

That’s the odd thing about prizes, first a few people have to decide something is good before the rest will follow, and even then. Would President Obama still be glad about having received the Nobel Prize for Peace? At the moment he, together with his spouse, is featured on ‘best-dressed persons’ lists.

This makes me think of a poem by Dutch writer Gerard Reve (1923-2006).

True Belief

If a cardinal farts they say,
‘My god, what a lovely smell,
just as if someone is frying liver with onions.’
I’m not so keen on this type of Catholic.

I have the same feeling about royal personages. People proclaim: ‘What a wonderful dress!’ Whereas everyone can conclude that the personage is dressed in what looks like a curtain. So that I mutter in front of the TV, ‘You can’t actually go out dressed like that.’

I love the Harold Hobson’s of this world, people who make up their own mind.

Six months ago my publisher asked if I could read a manuscript. I was immediately taken with it.

Today the printed book arrived and I wish I could establish a prize, one for the best collection of short stories I have read in a long time. The writer is aging but it is not yet too late.

The stories belong together; they describe a small community in the Midlands in the sixties, they’re about a world that has disappeared and which had a firm belief in a better future. They are funny as well as moving. Top of the Sixties by David Ayres. Remember the name, or make up your own mind.

© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press

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