2 out of 4 stars
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The Nobel Prize by Mois Benarroch is a short, fictional novel about a struggling novelist who seeks out an old colleague who has been committed to a mental institution. The author finds inspiration in his old colleague’s madness, who is diagnosed with dementia and seems to suffer from a very peculiar form of multiple personality disorder. Every day, Jorge, the mentally ill colleague, believes he is one of the various characters from his books and assumes their personality and backstory. The main character of The Nobel Prize becomes fascinated by this and starts to visit Jorge in the psychiatric institution every day, believing it to be a great idea for his next novel.
The Nobel Prize was a fun read. The story was filled with amusing characters, from frustrated writers to eccentric psychiatric patients. There were also very grounding quotes and down-to-earth moments captured in the novel. For example, the internal thoughts and feelings of struggling writers were realistic and well painted, making me care for and find interest in the characters.
Just like in the other works by Mois Benarroch that I have read, the story progressed in a muddled and mixed up way—but there’s method in the madness. Not knowing what parts were fantasy and what parts were actually happening was one of the things that made the work engaging. Other reoccurring themes I noticed was the novel’s main character being a struggling writer, and moments where the story seemed to be making comments about itself.
While I enjoyed the novel, I also found that the story had many shortcomings. One issue, which is another common thing I find in Mois Benarroch’s works, was the lack of editing and the confusing way the dialogue was written. I found punctuation and quotation mark errors in several places. The lack of speaker tags also made it very hard to tell which character was talking.
The second shortcoming the novel had, which is a more subjective issue, is that one moment I felt grounded by the characters' realistic, internal worlds, and the next moment all realism was thrown out the window. More than once, I felt myself pushed out of the story and thinking “What the?” For instance, there is a very odd scene in the novel with the main character and one of the psychiatric patients, who believes she is an alien. Realism wasn’t just thrown out the window, it was sent hurdling to out of space. Another drawback that also pushed me out of the story was the sexist undertones. The major shortcoming of this novel was that it ended with a moment that was both outlandish, and somewhat sexist.
I give The Nobel Prize a 2 out of 4. While the premise of the book was interesting and the plot was unique, its shortcomings were very fatal and leaves the story with a very unsatisfying end. I would not recommend this novel to readers who like a strong ending or a story with an organized, concrete flow. I would also not recommend it to those who are sensitive about sexual assault. I would recommend this novel to those who like interesting, eccentric characters, character-driven stories, and short reads.
The Nobel Prize
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