The Charlotte News



Swedish Prize-Money:

Nobel Prize to Pearl Buck

--A Comment by W. J. Cash

THE bestowal of the Nobel Prize for Literature on Pearl Buck is one of the most curious and interesting awards ever made by the Swedish committee. So far as I recall, the honor came to her more quickly than it has ever come to anybody else. The lady is 46 years old, but it was not until 1930 that she published anything, and it was not until 1931 that she leaped into fame with the publication of "The Good Earth." Seven years. Even Sinclair Lewis had to write twenty years before the bays was placed on his head. And most of the recipients have been old men before they fell heir to the glory. Several of them, indeed, have not had it until they were in their grave and past all knowing and caring--and quite unable to spend the fat sum that goes along with the honor.

Another curious thing is that the lady is so far really a one-book woman. She has indeed published several--"East Wind, West Wind," in 1930, "Sons" in 1932, "The Mother" in 1934, "The First Wife, and Other Stories" in 1933, "All Men Are Brothers" (a translation from the Chinese) in 1933, "A House Divided" in 1935, "The Exile" in 1936, and "Fighting Angel" in 1936. But These are either very slight performances, or simply further embroidering of the theme of "The Good Earth." That book is her sole performance of indubitably first-rate quality. And most of the winners of the prize have been men of many books like Thomas Mann or Galsworthy. Often, indeed, they were most notable for one particular, as Mann's "The Magic Mountain" or Reymont's huge four-volume "The Peasants." But almost invariably they have been the authors also of other books fit to be rated definitely as first-rate, as Mann's "Buddenbrook" or Reymont's "The Promised Land."

Let no one imagine, however, that I am out to slate the committee or sneer down the lady's right to the honor. I think she roundly deserves it. For the one really good book she has written is so pre-eminently good as to merit any sort of reward all by itself. The lady may have learned her style, as is sometimes alleged, by long conning of the St. James version of the Holy Bible. But I seem to remember that a great many other people--Coleridge, Blake, Dunsany, not to say John Milton and Shakespeare--learned a lot from the same source. The St. James version is of course the most beautiful writing in English. And its simple and moving eloquence is the best model anybody could have. Certainly, the Lady Buck has known how to capture it in what is the best single tale published in America in our time.

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