Today's award seems to reinforce the notion that the Nobel is a sort of literary archeological dig, in which judges scour the world's libraries and academies for an obscure author, in the hopes of creating a broad, worldwide audience and righting wrongs. The judges liberally slather on their political values, as the winning authors often are known for social commentary that hits at authoritarianism and racism.
Not that Meyer and Brown -- or any other wildly popular mass market writer should win the Nobel. And many past winners (V.S. Naipaul, Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, are utterly deserving) But the prizes risk becoming a parody of themselves if they routinely exclude American writers and others who have generated a following with serious works.
Mueller, who was a member of Romania's ethnic German minority, was honored by the Swedish Academy for work that "with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed." Most of her work is in German, but some works have been translated into English, French and Spanish, including "The Passport," "The Land of Green Plums," "Traveling on One Leg" and "The Appointment." (Here's a New York Times review of "The Appointment," in which "the thuggery of the government is a backdrop to the brutality and betrayal with which people treat one another in their everyday lives.")
"I am very surprised and still can not believe it," Mueller said in a statement released by her publisher in Germany. "I can't say anything more at the moment."