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Thread: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

  1. #261
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Damian Kelleher View Post
    Everyone knows the insularity issue with American writers, and I do wonder what that will mean for current and future generations of writers if it continues.
    I have always found the insularity argument to be completely idiotic. Most literature is insular, in that the writer writes through his/her personal viewpoint shaped by his/her personal time and place. I am not really sure how universal Mo Yan's novels of communist China are. Is Transtromer's poetry really "universal"? Jelinek? Would a reader in Mumbai be really able to relate to the works of Boll and Grass? Many of Soyinka's novels/plays are set in Nigeria; Muller's deal with the struggles under the communist regime in Romania; Coetzee and Gordimer's works are exclusively set in South Africa and, often, deal with the apartheid regime; Kertesz's works deal with the suffering of Hungarian Jewry under the Nazis; etc. What is so universal about their works? Is it because the deal with oppression, racism, suffering? Using Roth and Delillo as two examples, Roth's works deal with antisemitism, racism, the political landscape of post-war America, women's issues (I Married a Communist, The Plot Against, America, The Human Stain, etc.), albeit, one could argue, the issues are dealt with in more subtle ways, often masked by his dry (and at time perverse) sense of humor. Delillo's works have covered subjects as diverse (and universal) as nuclear war, the advent of the digital age, and global terrorism, etc. Of course, most of their works/short stories/plays are set in America, a place familiar to both, so in that sense they are insular, but so are the work's of many great writers, and to say that their works do not cover/deal with universal issues (racism, war, antisemitism, persecution, etc.) is stupid. Just because Roth and Delillo set their novels within american suburbia, it does not mean that the human condition is any less translatable.
    Last edited by Hrabal78; 28-Sep-2013 at 20:02.

  2. #262

    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Cheikh Hamidou KANE will be maybe the best choise... but he's now 85 year hold...
    Another good name coul be Abasse NDIONE...[/QUOTE]

    I really need to improve my French so I can read more of these writers.

  3. #263
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Hrabal78 View Post
    I have always found the insularity argument to be completely idiotic. Most literature is insular...
    Thank you, Hrabal78, for a well-argued and eloquent response, . I couldn't agree more.

  4. #264
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    I have always found the insularity argument to be completely idiotic.


    That's fair enough, and your argument is fine as it stands. However, I am specifically referring to the comments made by
    Horace Engdahl in the past, as we are discussing the Nobel Prize and not What Literature We Like.

    "The US is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining." - Horace Engdahl.

    Thus I believe my line of inquiry is reasonable and valid, given the topic.

  5. #265
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Damian Kelleher View Post
    That's fair enough, and your argument is fine as it stands. However, I am specifically referring to the comments made by Horace Engdahl in the past, as we are discussing the Nobel Prize and not What Literature We Like.
    Damian:

    My apology. My retort was not direct at you per se. I should have qualified it by saying I find Engdahl's insularity argument idiotic. I find his intellectual pomposity especially ridiculous since this is a guy that writes about Swedish ballet and things exclusively Swedish (yeah Engdahl, you and your ilk are definitely the center of the universe). Not to pick on Transtromer, because I like Transtromer, but I am not sure how a guy that writes poetry about the Swedish countryside and nature "participate[s] in the big dialogue of literature. I am not sure how Transtromer is any different from W.S. Merwin, who writes beautiful prose about nature. And Engdahl's "Europe still is the centre of the literary world" could not sound more arrogant/pretentious. Says who? I am sure that the Latin American poets/writers would take issue with that, for example.

  6. #266
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Hrabal78 View Post
    And Engdahl's "Europe still is the centre of the literary world" could not sound more arrogant/pretentious. Says who? I am sure that the Latin American poets/writers would take issue with that, for example.
    It could make a certain amount of sense, I suppose, if we consider the very rich diversity of literary cultures and languages found in Europe.

  7. #267
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    OK, let me play devil's advocate for a moment here. Let's see who won the last 5 times the Nobel prize to try to figure out what the Swedish academy, and by extension mr. Engdahl, thinks are writers not too insular.


    Mo Yan, clearly influenced by magical realism, Apuleius, Kafka, etc.
    Transtromer, clearly influenced by French surrealism and Asian poets.
    Vargas Llosa, clearly influenced by Faulkner, Flaubert, Levi-Strauss, et al.
    Hertha Muller, clearly influenced by Faulkner, Paul Celan, et al.
    Le Clezio, I haven't read him, so I don't know, but on his Nobel acceptance speech he mentioned:


    Don Quijote, La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes, Gulliver's Travels; Victor Hugo's great, inspired novels Quatre-vingt-treize, Les Travailleurs de la Mer, and L'Homme qui rit, Balzac's Les Contes drolatiques, Marco Polo, Stig Dagerman, Cicero, Rabelais, Condorcet, Rousseau, Madame de Stael, Solzhenitsyn, Hwang Sok-yong, Abdelatif Laabi, Milan Kundera, Dante, Shakespeare, Aime Cesaire, Euclides da Cunha, Primo Levi, Kafka, Colette, Joyce's Finnegans Wake, Peter Matthiessen, William Faulkner's Sanctuary, Lao She's First Snow and many others.


    All these writers, no matter what locale they set their work at, or what topic they write about are clearly engaged in a multicultural conversation, at least when it comes to those who influenced their writing.
    To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations, such is a pleasure beyond compare.
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  8. #268
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Hrabal78 View Post
    And Engdahl's "Europe still is the centre of the literary world" could not sound more arrogant/pretentious.
    It IS pretentious, because it does not account for the various literary (both written and oral) traditions of Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and the Pacific: i.e. societies whose notion of "the literary world" might not correspond to the European idea of it; but if he had only put that last bit using other words, something like "Europe is still the centre of Western literary tradition," I don't think I would disagree much.

  9. #269
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Engdahl may be pretentious, I don't know, but he was quite right about the way the insularity of contemporary American writers weakens their work and makes most of them unlikely candidates for the prize the body he is a member of awards. Participating in the "big dialogue" of literature doesn't necessarily mean setting your work internationally or alluding to books from all over the world rather than, say, writing about the Swedish woods; in fact, work that stays within sight of the village bell-tower, as it were, is often, by reason of its parochial nature, the most universal. The problem with Americans, as Engdahl rightly said, is that we don't translate enough; as a result, we don't learn from the best that's been done elsewhere, even if some of us (Dean R. Koontz, for instance) have a native narrative genius that would exempt us having to learn from a foreigner.

    For all that, I think some of the Swedish Academy's recent choices have been questionable, if not downright appalling. I also think some of the laureates have been chosen precisely because they were largely unknown in the United States and in the English-speaking world more generally. It's the Swedish Academy's way of thumbing its collective nose at a country and culture whose dominance it resents.

  10. #270
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba View Post
    It's the Swedish Academy's way of thumbing its collective nose at a country and culture whose dominance it resents.
    This would, if it were true, be a rather petty reason to award the Prize, don't you think?

    I was happy about some of their choices in recent years, primarily with the poets: Walcott, Heaney, Transtromer, Szymborska, etc.

    Novelists would naturally draw a stronger line between agreement and disagreement: Coetzee, Gordimer, Jelinek, Lessing, Saramago.

  11. #271

    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba View Post
    The problem with Americans, as Engdahl rightly said, is that we don't translate enough; as a result, we don't learn from the best that's been done elsewhere
    Ugh. This is an example of making statistics say whatever you want them to say. Yes, the US translates less by percentage than many other countries, but that does not mean that the US publishes less books in translation than those countries. Nor does it mean that Americans are being denied a huge portion of relevant world literature. Go to any bookstore in the US and you'll find Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Orhan Pamuk, Jose Saramago, Gunter Grass, Javier Marias, Kenzaburo Oe, Milan Kundera, and Naguib Mahfouz. Nor is it hard to find Muller, Jelenek, Le Clezio, Djebar, or Krasznahorkai. Further, English being one of the most widely spoken languages on earth means we don't have to translate the likes of Naipaul, Gordimer and Coetzee, Anita Desai, Achebe and Soyinka, Banville, or Lessing.

    I also don't see why the reading habits of the average American should impact the Nobel chances of American authors. Frankly I think there are authors out there who deserve the prize more than Roth or Pynchon or Delillo (Kundera tops my list), but the Academy's position against Americans for no other reason than that they are American is wrongheaded, and does a disservice to literature.

    And since this is a speculation thread, I speculate that Ngugi wa Thiong'o will be taking home the Nobel this year.

  12. #272
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Not sure when it happened but Jon Fosse went from the 100/1 pile to 25/1. My next question is, who the hell is Jon Fosse? I mean, there is nothing hard to believe watching Marias or Thiong'o with huge leaps, but this guy, really?

  13. #273
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    who the hell is Jon Fosse?
    Never heard of him myself, but looking at his Wiki page, I can see he's been very prolific.

  14. #274
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Cleanthess View Post
    OK, let me play devil's advocate for a moment here. Let's see who won the last 5 times the Nobel prize to try to figure out what the Swedish academy, and by extension mr. Engdahl, thinks are writers not too insular.


    Mo Yan, clearly influenced by magical realism, Apuleius, Kafka, etc.
    Transtromer, clearly influenced by French surrealism and Asian poets.
    Vargas Llosa, clearly influenced by Faulkner, Flaubert, Levi-Strauss, et al.
    Hertha Muller, clearly influenced by Faulkner, Paul Celan, et al.
    Le Clezio, I haven't read him, so I don't know, but on his Nobel acceptance speech he mentioned:


    Don Quijote, La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes, Gulliver's Travels; Victor Hugo's great, inspired novels Quatre-vingt-treize, Les Travailleurs de la Mer, and L'Homme qui rit, Balzac's Les Contes drolatiques, Marco Polo, Stig Dagerman, Cicero, Rabelais, Condorcet, Rousseau, Madame de Stael, Solzhenitsyn, Hwang Sok-yong, Abdelatif Laabi, Milan Kundera, Dante, Shakespeare, Aime Cesaire, Euclides da Cunha, Primo Levi, Kafka, Colette, Joyce's Finnegans Wake, Peter Matthiessen, William Faulkner's Sanctuary, Lao She's First Snow and many others.


    All these writers, no matter what locale they set their work at, or what topic they write about are clearly engaged in a multicultural conversation, at least when it comes to those who influenced their writing.
    I have seen interviews with Roth and he seems like he is a very well read chap and has likely been influenced by other writers. He was the General Editor (for 15 years) of the Writers From the Other Europe series and oversaw publication of Eastern European writers relatively unknown to American readers, including guys like Danilo Kis, Milan Kundera, Ludvik Vaculik, Bohumil Hrabal, Bruno Schulz, Jerzy Andrzejewski, and Tadeusz Borowski.

  15. #275
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    To continue with Roth, it appears that the French government doesn't think he is "insular" at all. He's just been named Commander of the Legion of Honor.

    http://frenchculture.org/about/press...-citys?geofind.

  16. #276

    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    It's well-established that Engdahl was speaking about the overall literary culture and the publishing industry in the US, and later specifically noted that his remarks were in no way a reference to the insularity or lack thereof of America's greatest writers.

  17. #277
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Hrabal, Stiffelio you raise very good points. As I see it, the main issue against Roth's viability is the fact that in 1976 the academy already awarded the Nobel Prize to Roth 1.0 (see Ravelstein for details). It's the same issue that haunted Carlos Fuentes, AKA GGM 2.0. Once Claude Simon had won the Nobel, most other nouveax romanciers were SOL. When Quasimodo won the Nobel there was an outcry because many assumed that better Hermetic poets like Montale or Ungaretti would never get the prize; luckily Montale lived into his eighthies, just long enough for the academy to consider another Italian Hermetic poet; sadly this was not the case for the author of L'Allegria.

    Pynchon, Coover, Barth and other American 'Fantastic' writers have a similar problem with the wining of the prize by Beloved's author.

    To end on a happy note let me quote a great poem by Ungaretti. One that I learned by heart when I was young.

    When the night has come, and the lights are gone,
    and my thoughts are the only light that I see
    a certain Eve covers my eyes
    with the cloth of a lost paradise.

    Quando ogni luce e spenta
    e non vedo che i miei pensieri,
    un’Eva mi mette sugli occhi
    la tela dei paradisi perduti.
    Last edited by Cleanthess; 30-Sep-2013 at 06:11.
    To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations, such is a pleasure beyond compare.
    Yoshida Kenko

  18. #278
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by thomas27 View Post
    WW2 didn't make things easier for the Dutch:
    Who's that older lady?

  19. #279

    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Liam View Post
    Never heard of him myself, but looking at his Wiki page, I can see he's been very prolific.
    So Jon Fosse is this year's Nobel laureate? I suppose that they already have their winner - it's (probably) only 10 days to announcement and Vargas Llosa was chosen even earlier, so...

  20. #280
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Liam View Post
    Never heard of him myself, but looking at his Wiki page, I can see he's been very prolific.
    Fortunetly three of Fosse's novels are translated into hungarian so I know his works very well. I think Fosse is a very great writer but most of people don't like him and can't read him easily.

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