P. Boukalas: The prize plethora has an upside

The problem has remained unsolved since the time of Aristophanes, who asked in his play «The Frogs» for a just measure by which he could decided indubitably who was the best poet, Aeschylus or Euripides. How can the subjective convince that it is objective? By changing geometry, we can square the circle. We can’t use the same trick in literature. Our reading and our assessments remain subjective, which means they must continue to fight against their own dogmatism and arbitrariness, striving for transparent arguments. I think that the increase in the number of prizes has a good side. The more prizes there are, the more relative their value; in other words, the more that value inclines toward the real value we should ascribe to them, if our only concern is writing and not performance. And that might eventually lead us to relinquish our pet conspiracy theories. In the end, even Homer was beaten (by Hesiod) in a poetry competition, a lesson which ancient myth has usefully preserved for us. And to go from myth to history, Euripides’ masterpiece «Medea» only managed to get third prize in 431 BC, which is some consolation.