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Thread: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

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    Award Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Last year we created a thread speculating on who could potentially pick up the Nobel Prize in Literature and, despite a multitude of names, it went to J.M.G. Le Clezio, someone only barely mentioned by Patrick Murtha (although it seems he deleted his list of over 130 'potentials').

    So, with the 2009 announcement only just over two months away, I think it's about time we started pondering who may be in the running this year. Will one of the Americans finally get recognised before they join Updike? Will the Academy get over the 1974 incident and give it to a homegrown writer? Is it time to cement the status of a poet once more, or is there some lesser known author out there in need of celebration?

    Let the speculation commence...

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Stewart View Post
    ........ despite a multitude of names, it went to J.M.G. Le Clezio, someone only barely mentioned by Patrick Murtha (although it seems he deleted his list of over 130 'potentials')...
    I hate to pull the blanquet here but among the wagonload of nonsense i pour regularly on this unfortunate forum,for once,out of two i got one good.(actualy a tip of my Mum)

    I don't think Andrei Makine was mentioned?Big big fan here !
    I heard talk about J M Le Cleziot.Just talk but made me feel like reading some more.
    Unfairy.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Apologies, Thomas. To my shame, I skimmed over the thread.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    having read inherent vice I want pynchon to have it.

    but generally I expect and demand a poet.

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    Award Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    They ought to give it to a religious conservative to counter accusations of leftist favoritism, .


    I was SO bummed out that Oriana Fallaci never got it while she was alive.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    I'm guessing non-European this year. There was a lot of talk about Le Clezio, a cosmopolitan of sorts, being "a bridge out of Europe" and all that. So I'm gonna continue with last year's suggestion and say Ngugi wa Thiong'o. (Which should also keep the conservatives happy, since they can point to him and say "See? Another filthy commie!")
    Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    I was SO bummed out that Oriana Fallaci never got it while she was alive.
    Not sure she would have deserved it more than Primo Levi. Never could make out why they gave it to Imr? Kertsz for lit. and Elie Wiesel for Peace, if you please. If they felt they had to give it to Holocaust lit., it should most definitely have gone to Primo Levi.

    That being said, I know he is European and very much so, but that other brilliant Italian, Umberto Eco, is as worthy as many other living writers who have received it. (Not mentioning any names here but - Eco compared to Le Clezio or Jellinek!)

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Since I've been discussing this online for a few years now, and the same questions keep coming up, I thought I'd collect them together in:

    The Nobel Prize for Literature: A Slightly Irreverent FAQ

    (Oh, and there's a proper one here.)

    What is it?

    The Nobel Prize for Literature is one of 5 annual prizes awarded since 1901 according to the last will of industrialist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), also known for inventing dynamite. (The others are chemistry, medicine, physics and peace; the Swedish National Bank invented an economics prize "in memory of Alfred Nobel" that sort of piggybacks on the others.) The money (currently about 10 million SEK or US$1.5 million) comes from Nobel’s will. Yes, still. Nobody ever lost money by inventing good ways of destroying things.

    It's not awarded for any one piece of literature but for an author's collected works.

    For some reason, it’s considered one of the most important literary awards. This is not an official title in any way.

    Who gets it?

    Well, first you have to be nominated. Here’s a list of who is allowed to nominate; basically, lots of people from all over the world. About 350 writers are nominated each year, including great and well-known novelists, poets you’ve never heard of, a couple of non-fiction writers, and Bob Dylan. The list of nominations, and the decision-making process itself, is confidential for 50 years. The Academy has no obligation to take all nominations seriously, there is no official short list, and all but 18 of the people doing the nominations have no say whatsoever in who gets it. In other words, being nominated is a bit like buying a lottery ticket; you can't win without it, but your chances are still pretty slim.

    So who gets it?

    The winner of the Literature prize is, in keeping with Nobel's will, chosen by the Swedish Academy, an organisation founded in 1786 to “further the purity, strength, and sublimity of the Swedish language,” which mostly means publishing dictionaries and critical studies of 19th century literature. In other words, the Nobel is a comparatively new hobby for them. The Swedish Academy has 18 members (on paper, see below), mostly writers and literature scholars, each of whom is elected for life by the other members.

    Note that each of the Nobel prizes (literature, chemistry, medicine, physics and peace) is decided by a different organisation. Who gets the Literature prize doesn't (or at least shouldn’t) have anything to do with who gets the other ones, and vice versa.

    Right, so stop waffling, who gets it?

    "The person who has produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency."

    …What the hell does that mean?

    See, that's the thing: nobody really knows. That's what Nobel wrote in his will, and it’s up to the Swedish Academy to decide what he meant. The interpretation has changed several times over the last 100+ years.

    Fine, fine. Who’s gotten it?

    These guys. (And occasional gal.)

    Doesn’t it only go to authors nobody’s ever heard of?

    It’s rarely awarded to the latest best-sellers, yes, and the Academy has a well-earned reputation for not picking the most obvious choices. It’s not intended to reflect popular taste.

    Personally, I’d submit that if you’ve never heard of the likes of Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner, Camus, Solzhenitsyn… or to take some of the more recent ones, Pamuk, Lessing, Pinter… are you sure you’re as interested in literature as you think you are, if these names are completely unfamiliar to you? And if they really do pick someone you’ve never heard of, hey, now you’ve heard of him/her. You have gained knowledge. Is this a bad thing?

    Also, I’ve never heard of the guy who won the Nobel Prize for medicine last year. Boo! Hiss! Elitists! Give it to the guy who plays House!

    Why isn't Author X on the shortlist?

    As previously mentioned, there is no shortlist. Ladbroke's have no more idea than you or me who's actually being discussed.

    Why didn’t/doesn’t Author X get it?

    A lot of people claim to know exactly why certain authors get or don’t get the prize. Which is funny, considering the aforementioned confidentiality. Truth is, until 50 years have gone by, we usually have no way of knowing if they were even nominated.

    Pick a reason:

    • There’s one award to give out each year, and on average, more than one deserving author. New books are published each year. Do the math.
    • The people who decide on it are a bunch of literary snobs. They’re not necessarily politically conservative (by US standards) or raging communist revolutionaries (by European standards). They’re just snobs, elected by other snobs for the specific task of being anal about language and literature.
    • See above re: changing interpretations of Nobel's will. Tolstoy was considered too radical, for instance.
    • Not everyone is a prophet in their own lifetime. See: Kafka, Franz; Proust, Marcel; and others.
    • People, on a whole, read an awful lot of crap and keep expecting the Academy to validate their reading habits. Not gonna happen (see above under snobs, literary).
    • The Academy has really boring taste sometimes. Fortunately, the older members are dying off.
    • People like to speculate, and they seem to think that the longer they speculate about an author, the better his/her chances of getting it. Whether the Academy gives a damn about how often a certain author has been mentioned by people who are not them is unknown.
    • Authors die. The Nobel can’t be given out posthumously. Good thing, or they’d have to start with Homer and Gilgamesh.
    • Authors live. Not getting it one year doesn’t disqualify you from getting it next year or 20 years from now. See: Lessing, Doris.

    And so some writers, for various reasons, end up without a Nobel prize. Funnily enough, we keep reading them despite their non-Nobel status. Putting it succinctly: if Tolstoy, Woolf, Joyce and Twain didn’t get it, there can be no shame in NOT getting a Nobel prize.

    It only goes to Scandinavian authors.

    Except for how not one Scandinavian author has gotten it since 1974. And only 14 before then. Which is still more than the total number of African and Asian (or for that matter, female) winners, true.

    Why do they hate America?

    So far, 11% of the winners have been from the US. Not too shabby for an international award. Feel free to compare it to the international spread of the Oscars.

    But they said no American writer would ever get it!

    They said no such thing. The former secretary of the Academy said that American literature as a whole was "insular" and "ignorant" regarding non-US literature, but that there is "powerful literature in all big cultures." (He's said similar things about literature in other countries too; see above re: snob, literary.) Stupid, perhaps, but that's what he said. A hundred angry US bloggers concluded the rest, then to prove him wrong, promptly responded to Le Cl?zio getting it with "Le who?"

    Half the Academy quit in protest of Jelinek getting it!

    One (1) member, Knut Ahnlund, quit. A year later. And he’d already quit the Academy ten years earlier and hadn’t taken part in its work since then (see above under life, elected for). At this point, it's a bit like George Lazenby announcing that he's leaving the James Bond franchise.

    For the record, the other two vacant seats are Kerstin Ekman's (she, and two others, left the Academy in 1989 after they failed to condemn the fatwa against Rushdie as much as she wanted) and Sten Rudholm's (who died recently), bringing the total number of active members in this year's Nobel discussion to 15.

    Everybody knows that it's just political.

    Do they now? Well, it's apparently supposed to go to authors who deal with idea(l)s. Those tend to touch upon political subjects. And again, Tolstoy didn't get it because he was considered too politically controversial – does that seem right to you?

    Shouldn’t we have a say in this?

    Not unless you’re willing to contest Nobel’s will in a court of law, no. It's private money, handed out by a non-government organisation. It's really none of our business what they do with it.

    Why should we care, then?

    I don’t know. Who said you should? If you don't, don't.
    Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.
    - Umberto Eco
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Clarissa View Post
    Not mentioning any names here but - Eco compared to Le Clezio
    Well you do mention names and i don't think Eco and Le Clezio can't be compared at all.They are on completly different literary planets.
    As a matter of fact i prefer Eco and writing,if complexe,is easier for me to grasp than the often onirique prose of le Clezio.
    I notice in last thread on the nobel a lot of " ..he didn't get it but he was much better than ...." and a list of great writers who obviously deserved it.
    I must say that from all the nobelized authors i read,i never thought that one didn't deserved it.Even if i did not like their work much(Coetzee,Naipaul) i can see the quality in them.
    Which is not what i would say of a lot of literary prizes.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    It?s rarely awarded to the latest best-sellers, yes, and the Academy has a well-earned reputation for not picking the most obvious choices. It?s not intended to reflect popular taste.
    That list has quite a few bestselling authors in their time... Hemingway, Pearl S. Buck, Thomas Mann, Wlliam Golding etc. They were hardly 'obscure' writers when they were awarded the Nobel Prize for Lit.

    If Kertesz had not won the prize, I doubt if I would have read him. I did and found his writing less effective and less moving than Primo Levi (cf. above).

    However, I must be honest, if Mahfouz had not won, I doubt if I would ever have read him. I did and was completely hooked!

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Clarissa View Post
    That being said, I know he is European and very much so, but that other brilliant Italian, Umberto Eco, is as worthy as many other living writers who have received it.
    Definitely agree, as if my avatar didn't already give it away. Though as much as I think Eco is deserving - partly because it's been ages since it went to an author who's just as accomplished in non-fiction as in fiction - it would be nice if it didn't go to yet another European post-modernist. Just like some people think Soyinka walked away with Achebe's prize, I'm pretty sure Pamuk snatched Eco's.

    Quote Originally Posted by Clarissa View Post
    That list has quite a few bestselling authors in their time... Hemingway, Pearl S. Buck, Thomas Mann, Wlliam Golding etc. They were hardly 'obscure' writers when they were awarded the Nobel Prize for Lit.
    Absolutely. Like I said, they do occasionally come up with very well-known winners where the Academy's taste matches the public's. I just don't think they give much of a damn whether a writer is well-known or not. (When Pinter got it, his two former Swedish publishers complained that they'd given it to an author who wasn't even in print in Sweden; the Academy secretary responded "Oh, really? And whose fault is that, eh?")
    Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.
    - Umberto Eco
    Reading list

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Liam View Post
    I was SO bummed out that Oriana Fallaci never got it while she was alive.
    *snigger*
    yes! give it to a racist. that should settle all accusations of political voting.
    oh I love this idea. I want to drug the committee and then make them give the prize to some loony. just imagine the headlines: nobel prize in literature awarded to glenn beck!

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    Italy Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Mirabell View Post
    yes! give it to a racist. that should settle all accusations of political voting.
    Well, she wasn't really a racist. Not unless you think Muslims are a race unto themselves. She just hated Islam, period, and wrote about it. All in all, she was a brilliant journalist.

    But obviously, I was kidding. I don't care who they give the Nobel to, but Fallaci didn't fit the bill in ANY way. I admired her guts though, almost as much as I admired her beauty. When she was young--my GOD--the woman looked like a goddess.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Clarissa View Post
    Not sure she would have deserved it more than Primo Levi. Never could make out why they gave it to Imr? Kertsz for lit. and Elie Wiesel for Peace, if you please. If they felt they had to give it to Holocaust lit., it should most definitely have gone to Primo Levi.
    That does not make any sense. Do you think they planned for decades to give SOME shoah lit a nobel and planned to do it in the 00's, which is the reason why they snubbed Levi? Levi died in 87, around the time when Kertesz' work gained recognition. From reading the deliberations for some older prizes, I assume his name came up for the second or third time, and enough people were convinced he merited it then and there to give him the prize. Primo Levi can't of entered such a discussion.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Liam View Post
    Well, she wasn't really a racist. Not unless you think Muslims are a race unto themselves. She just hated Islam, period,
    it's the how not the what that counts.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Mirabell View Post
    it's the how not the what that counts.
    I think you ought to talk to my dad. In comparison to him, Fallaci was a Mother Theresa of journalism. (Let's just say, he wants to turn the Middle East into one big salt-lake, ).

    Still, she did a lot to be admired for. People accuse almost everybody these days of being a racist. Not cool. Perhaps I should open a thread on her so that we can take this elsewhere...


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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Yes, elsewhere.

    To get back to the topic.Yes it's interesting to propose a journalist.

    Eco should not get it as a writer of fiction but as a nonfiction writer. As much as I want a poet to get it, I also want a nonfiction writer to walk away with the prize. Magris, though he writes fiction, too, could get it for his largely essayistic books on teh Danube etc. He sounds as if he was made for the Nobel, really.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Mirabell View Post
    Eco should not get it as a writer of fiction but as a nonfiction writer.
    Why not both?
    Quote Originally Posted by Mirabell View Post
    As much as I want a poet to get it, I also want a nonfiction writer to walk away with the prize.
    Yes, a poet!
    Quote Originally Posted by Mirabell View Post
    Magris, though he writes fiction, too, could get it for his largely essayistic books on teh Danube etc. He sounds as if he was made for the Nobel, really.
    Never heard of him. Say more.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    because the prize is usually memorized with one sentence and I want this sentence to emphasize the nonfiction. his fiction will always be read, it's just very readable and popular. the same applies to his nonfiction, too, but who knows what fashion might knock that from public consciousness.

    which poet would you give it?

    there are the usual suspects, of course. bei dao, john ashbery, paul muldoon, adonis, adam zagajewski, ko un.


    magris? http://www.worldliteratureforum.com/...icrocosms.html

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Mirabell View Post
    As much as I want a poet to get it, I also want a nonfiction writer to walk away with the prize.
    To repeat another name I keep repeating every year, Gitta Sereny?
    Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.
    - Umberto Eco
    Reading list

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