The Nobel Prize for literature has been awarded to former president Jimmy Carter for his apparent novel, "Keeping Faith," the prize committee announced today. In an accompanying statement, the committee said: "Seldom has a work of fiction expressed the world class struggle so intensely as has this bitter tale of a backwoods saintly eccentric who strides forth to conquer the world, only to be ridiculed, rejected and forgotten. The characters are exaggerated and unreal, the language unbelievable and the events impossible, but as symbolism it works as brilliantly as last year's prize winner, 'The Goat in My Ear' by Manuel Garbonza-Bomba of Ascencion Island."

Count Smorgasbok Ingmarbergman, Nobel committee chairman, defended the choice of Carter while conceding that the committee had passed over two more critically acclaimed works, "Thumb," by crazed Serbo-Croatian mass murderer Milo Prznchzlchnkzpc; and Garbonza-Bomba's latest work, "The Goat in My Other Ear."

"You in the press are always complaining that we keep giving the prize to obscure Third Worlders with no following in the West," he said. "So, this year, we are giving it to an obscure American with no following in the West." Meanwhile, the Pulitzer Prize board in New York announced that "Keeping Faith" had been awarded the coveted prize for best news photograph of the year.

Herkimer (Herk) Agate, publisher of the prestigious Dredgeville, Ohio, Herald-Amazer and spokesman for the board, said Carter's book had originally been entered in the category of best biographic work with a theme of public service or patriotism, but failed to get any votes.

"We felt we couldn't treat an ex-president that way, no matter how crummy his book," said Agate, "so we switched it to most distinguished international reporting until someone pointed out that Camp David was in Maryland.

"Then we tried best editorial, but it really wasn't equivocal enough. Best poem wouldn't do, because someone pointed out all the lyric passages were lifted from the Bible. We finally settled on best news photograph because all the photographers entered had already won Pulitzer Prizes, and Carter does have a photographic memory."

In Paris, the Comedie Francaise announced it had accepted "Keeping Faith" for its next performing season, calling Carter, Hamilton Jordan, Gerald Rafshoon and Bert Lance characters bouffe rivaling MoliMere's most outrageous parodies. A spokesman said the scene in which President Carter tried to convert Korean President Park Chung Hee to the Baptist faith should prove the funniest in the theater's history.

In New York, the conservative magazine, National Review, accorded Carter's book its coveted Buck, a gold replica of editor William F. Buckley's front teeth awarded every year for the best attack on Democrats. The citation noted that, "though he spared himself, Carter savaged members of his administration more effectively than any Republican ever dreamed of doing."

Carter was on a book promotion tour of radio talk shows in northwest Arkansas and could not be reached for comment.