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Thread: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

  1. #201
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Finished Wizard of the Crow, one of Ngugi's more popular books and, clocking in at 768 pages, by far his longest. And honestly? It was good but not great.

    Unlike some other mammoth novels, the plot never gets dull and you never have to force yourself to push through. The basic premise is that the dictator of the fictional African country Aburiria gets wrapped up in plans to build a modern day tower of Babel, only this time succeed. Lots of political machinations among his ministers trying to get his favor take up the bulk of it. There's also a beggar, Kamiti, who meets a mysterious girl, Nyawira, and through some playful banter, desperation, and mistaken identities, they set up a sorcery stand, with Kamiti pretending to be the "Wizard of the Crow," which of course gets out of hand and has some amazing consequences. It's a satire on African dictatorships and at times is quite funny.

    I've heard this African novelist, in his other works, has quite a lyrical style. Unfortunately, that is not at all present here. Ngugi himself translated this from his native Gikuyu, but some puns have clearly not translated well and I wonder if there are a lot more. (Just looked up some stuff about the book online: the currency of Aburiria is called the Buri, which in Gikuyu means worthless.)

    The length is pretty annoying as well. Looking back, I'm surprised the author got so many pages out of that plot. Some editing definitely would have helped. It's one of the annoying books, too, where not only is it too long, it's too short as well. By this I mean there a ton of other things that needed more depth to them. The freedom fighting squad, bent on defeating the dictatorship, plays a big part in the book behind the scenes, but readers aren't introduced to it until the last 8 pages, where Ngugi talks about everyone coming together and ignoring racial identity to join the fight. Yeah, you might've wanted to bring that up in one of the other 760 pages.

    Characters are iffy, too. One character in particular, Tajirika, is exquisitely done. It would've been very easy to paint him as a monster, but instead he comes out as a complex figure, straddling the line between some unsavory African traditions and a new world. Nyawira and Kamiti have no such luck. Despite being the ostensible main characters and the ones the reader roots for, they often remain enigmas. I would've liked to have seen more from their perspective.

    If I had to give it a star rating, it'd be somewhere between 3.5 to 4 out of 5. It's not bad, but for such an ambitious novel it does fall short in a bunch of areas. Nobel-worthy? Maybe. For me, he's not one of those "must-win" writers, but everywhere else I look it I see people loved this book, so maybe I'm just being a curmudgeon.

    But also, a few years ago in a class I read an old play of his, The Trial of Dedan Kamathi, and I found it rather simplistic in many aspects: themes, plot, especially characters. It's one of those works that put politics before everything else and suffers for it.

    I'll probably read one of his early short novels at some point, but for now I've had my fill. Given his fame and acclaim, I wouldn't be surprised if he won, but in the works I've read so far he doesn't do much for me, and honestly if I were a part of the academy I wouldn't vote for him.

    I've read a bunch of other books by Nobel possibilities, will try to write about them later tonight.

  2. #202
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Now that the list is rather large at Ladbrokes there are two names surprisingly does not appear on the list: Claudio Magris and David Grossman.
    I see them both with possibilities (more for Magris than Grossman because of politics) and worthy candidates to be listed. It's been a while now that an Italian hasn't win it, since Fo in 1997.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by DouglasM View Post
    Any chance of Eco being recognized for bringing genre literature to another level? His novels employ a very peculiar language and the man is a living encyclopaedia on many subjects, which make the readings, if not profound, at least very informative.
    The only thing we can say Eco took to another level was the study of semiotics. Maybe be fair, he took the Borges fanboyism to another level too, because he is a wannabe Borges that never discovered how to write well due to his academic formation.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    I sincerely don't even know how to start responding to this.

  5. #205
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by redheadshadz View Post
    The length is pretty annoying as well etc.
    Nice text about the book, redheadshadz! I enjoyed it a little less than you, but I agree with each one of yours points - and the chances of Ngugi winning the prize...

  6. #206
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Vazquez View Post
    Nice text about the book, redheadshadz! I enjoyed it a little less than you, but I agree with each one of yours points - and the chances of Ngugi winning the prize...
    Here's an interesting article in today's Guardian about how Ngugi was forced to flee Kenya many years ago.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...i-dictatorship

  7. #207
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    Now that the list is rather large at Ladbrokes there are two names surprisingly does not appear on the list: Claudio Magris and David Grossman.
    I see them both with possibilities (more for Magris than Grossman because of politics) and worthy candidates to be listed. It's been a while now that an Italian hasn't win it, since Fo in 1997.
    Yes, I thought the Magris thing was suspicious. Imagine someone like Svetlana Alexeivich disappearing a few years after being the front runner... I said it before but I'll say it again: The year Mario Vargas Llosa won, he started out with super low odds. Also, re: Eco, I'm surprised by how low his odds are. I know people are debating about his quality, but he's certainly much better than some others on the list and has a lot of fans.


    And Vasquez, glad to see I'm not the only one who wasn't wowed by the book. Vastly overrated.

  8. #208
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    Post Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Also, here are some thoughts on some other books I've read recently but haven't gotten around to posting about:

    Cees Nooteboom- The Following Story: Good writing and an interesting take on a cliche subject are not enough to save it. A retired classics teacher/turned travel writer wakes up one day far away from his Dutch home in Lisbon, where he once shared a night with a married woman. Wherever you think the story might go after that synopsis, I assure you, you're wrong. If this is one of the best of one of the best Dutch writers, no wonder they don't have a Nobel.

    Antonio Lobo-Antunes- The Land at the End of the World: I loved this. It's more of a rant than anything about the war Portugal waged trying to retain its colonies, but the humor and short length prevent it from getting out of hand. He has a way with language I love, although I also like Faulkner and Claude Simon. It's not perfect, but it touched me more deeply than better put together reads. Have already ordered more of his books. Before, someone said that his both his narratives and his language are complex, and having them together in a book can be bad, but I disagree. If Faulkner can be forgiven for deliberately fucking with the reader (and no one can convince me that wasn't part of the reason he put in two characters named Quentin in TSatF), I don't see what's so bad about Lobo-Antunes. +

    Mia Couto- Sleepwalking Land: I think something was lost in translation. I've heard about Couto breaking down language and using it in new ways, but I did not get that at all from this. It was written very beautifully, but not in a groundbreaking manner. Can't believe the twist at the end caught me off guard, it should've been so obvious! Very good book, but when I mentioned well put-together books above, this is what I referred to. It gets a higher rating than the Lobo-Antunes, but it'll be a while longer before I read more Couto.

    Hwang Sok-Yong- The Guest: Damn. Kenzaburo Oe is my favorite novelist and has spoken very well of Mo Yan. I read Mo Yan and he might just be my second favorite. I'm surprised it's taken me this long to get around to the other east Asian novelist Oe raves about. One of the best I've read for quite a while. A powerful book about the North-South split in Korea and coming to terms with the past. I already have another one of his other books. As much as I liked Ko Un, I'd be disappointed now if he won: I want Hwang to get it. I know he's not on betting sites, but I hope his international reputation can continue to grow until he's a serious contender, he deserves that recognition, if not the prize itself. +

    Les Murray- Killing the Black Dog: Murray's always mentioned as a contender but I feel like no one actually reads him. This is half-memoir, half poetry about a period of serious depression he faced in the 90's and the resulting poetry. He's good, but I wasn't wowed. He's not the worst Australian candidate possibility (Carey...) but far from the best. I've heard his politics are a little conservative for the Nobel, but stuff I've read online hasn't seemed too bad.

  9. #209
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    [QUOTE=redheadshadz;141725]Also, here are some thoughts on some other books I've read recently but haven't gotten around to posting about:

    Cees Nooteboom- The Following Story: Good writing and an interesting take on a cliche subject are not enough to save it. A retired classics teacher/turned travel writer wakes up one day far away from his Dutch home in Lisbon, where he once shared a night with a married woman. Wherever you think the story might go after that synopsis, I assure you, you're wrong. If this is one of the best of one of the best Dutch writers, no wonder they don't have a Nobel.

    Antonio Lobo-Antunes- The Land at the End of the World: I loved this. It's more of a rant than anything about the war Portugal waged trying to retain its colonies, but the humor and short length prevent it from getting out of hand. He has a way with language I love, although I also like Faulkner and Claude Simon. It's not perfect, but it touched me more deeply than better put together reads. Have already ordered more of his books. Before, someone said that his both his narratives and his language are complex, and having them together in a book can be bad, but I disagree. If Faulkner can be forgiven for deliberately fucking with the reader (and no one can convince me that wasn't part of the reason he put in two characters named Quentin in TSatF), I don't see what's so bad about Lobo-Antunes. +

    Hwang Sok-Yong- The Guest: Damn. Kenzaburo Oe is my favorite novelist and has spoken very well of Mo Yan. I read Mo Yan and he might just be my second favorite. I'm surprised it's taken me this long to get around to the other east Asian novelist Oe raves about. One of the best I've read for quite a while. A powerful book about the North-South split in Korea and coming to terms with the past. I already have another one of his other books. As much as I liked Ko Un, I'd be disappointed now if he won: I want Hwang to get it. I know he's not on betting sites, but I hope his international reputation can continue to grow until he's a serious contender, he deserves that recognition, if not the prize itself. +

    redheadshadz, complete agreement on these three; even though I haven't read Os Cus de Judas I've read enough Lobo-Antunes to know what you're saying.
    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

  10. #210
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by DouglasM View Post
    I sincerely don't even know how to start responding to this.
    If I answered the suggestion Eco took literature to another level with average books, not original, disguised by pseudo-intelectualism (because Eco is a good intelectual. Everything he writes about literature or textual interpretation is better than his fiction), then you could try too. He is just not that good. Barthez, Derida, Borges, Calvino all dealt with the same themes, concerns, philosophies, but did better. Eco is in the end just a "translator" of those writers to the popular taste. Enough to be in magazines or papers for a non-academic reading those days. Give status, but originality? Another level? Menos.

  11. #211
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by redheadshadz View Post
    Finished Wizard of the Crow, one of Ngugi's more popular books and, clocking in at 768 pages, by far his longest. And honestly? It was good but not great.

    Unlike some other mammoth novels, the plot never gets dull and you never have to force yourself to push through. The basic premise is that the dictator of the fictional African country Aburiria gets wrapped up in plans to build a modern day tower of Babel, only this time succeed. Lots of political machinations among his ministers trying to get his favor take up the bulk of it. There's also a beggar, Kamiti, who meets a mysterious girl, Nyawira, and through some playful banter, desperation, and mistaken identities, they set up a sorcery stand, with Kamiti pretending to be the "Wizard of the Crow," which of course gets out of hand and has some amazing consequences. It's a satire on African dictatorships and at times is quite funny.

    I've heard this African novelist, in his other works, has quite a lyrical style. Unfortunately, that is not at all present here. Ngugi himself translated this from his native Gikuyu, but some puns have clearly not translated well and I wonder if there are a lot more. (Just looked up some stuff about the book online: the currency of Aburiria is called the Buri, which in Gikuyu means worthless.)

    The length is pretty annoying as well. Looking back, I'm surprised the author got so many pages out of that plot. Some editing definitely would have helped. It's one of the annoying books, too, where not only is it too long, it's too short as well. By this I mean there a ton of other things that needed more depth to them. The freedom fighting squad, bent on defeating the dictatorship, plays a big part in the book behind the scenes, but readers aren't introduced to it until the last 8 pages, where Ngugi talks about everyone coming together and ignoring racial identity to join the fight. Yeah, you might've wanted to bring that up in one of the other 760 pages.

    Characters are iffy, too. One character in particular, Tajirika, is exquisitely done. It would've been very easy to paint him as a monster, but instead he comes out as a complex figure, straddling the line between some unsavory African traditions and a new world. Nyawira and Kamiti have no such luck. Despite being the ostensible main characters and the ones the reader roots for, they often remain enigmas. I would've liked to have seen more from their perspective.

    If I had to give it a star rating, it'd be somewhere between 3.5 to 4 out of 5. It's not bad, but for such an ambitious novel it does fall short in a bunch of areas. Nobel-worthy? Maybe. For me, he's not one of those "must-win" writers, but everywhere else I look it I see people loved this book, so maybe I'm just being a curmudgeon.

    But also, a few years ago in a class I read an old play of his, The Trial of Dedan Kamathi, and I found it rather simplistic in many aspects: themes, plot, especially characters. It's one of those works that put politics before everything else and suffers for it.

    I'll probably read one of his early short novels at some point, but for now I've had my fill. Given his fame and acclaim, I wouldn't be surprised if he won, but in the works I've read so far he doesn't do much for me, and honestly if I were a part of the academy I wouldn't vote for him.

    I've read a bunch of other books by Nobel possibilities, will try to write about them later tonight.
    Thank you for the summary. I just picked this up and was looking for an opinion. Good to know that there is some narrative propulsion to keep me going.

  12. #212
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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    I'm not well read in contemporary Italian lit, but forgetting the argument about Eco's quality, I think just based off of profiles, Dacia Maraini or Claudio Magris are more likely.

    Also, I know he hasn't come up much this year, but I got Vila-Matas's Portable Literature. What are the "prerequisite books" for it? I read some of his others, some knowing a lot about the writers he wrote about, others not so much, and he is endlessly more rewarding if you're already familiar with his subjects.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by redheadshadz View Post
    Also, I know he hasn't come up much this year, but I got Vila-Matas's Portable Literature. What are the "prerequisite books" for it? I read some of his others, some knowing a lot about the writers he wrote about, others not so much, and he is endlessly more rewarding if you're already familiar with his subjects.
    Well, last Monday he was announced as winner of the Premio FIL 2015. A prize that has had for winners Yves Bonnefoy and Claudio Magris last two years has to be an important step to get international notoriety.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    Well, last Monday he was announced as winner of the Premio FIL 2015. A prize that has had for winners Yves Bonnefoy and Claudio Magris last two years has to be an important step to get international notoriety.
    What do you think of him compared to other Spanish writers perhaps in contention? Marias, Goytisolo, Aira, Piglia, etc

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Interesting article (relevant bits at the bottom) saying over 20 years ago Lobo-Antunes was already considered a potential candidate:

    http://storberose.blogspot.com/2012/...ins-nobel.html

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by redheadshadz View Post
    Interesting article (relevant bits at the bottom) saying over 20 years ago Lobo-Antunes was already considered a potential candidate:

    http://storberose.blogspot.com/2012/...ins-nobel.html
    Quite interesting! On one hand, I wouldnīt trust a Brazilian journalist... Anyway, Lobo Antunes has started his carrer in 1979 - maybe from 1979 to 1994 itīs a too short of a time to give him the prize... but it would not be unrealistic to think he was on the final shortlist.

    The comments Saramago made about the prize and so on are very clever.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    It feels like Thiong'o to me this year. Many factions were sated with the Modiano choice, so an African writer would make some sense. Thiong'o has been featured in the Ladbrokes odds for years it seems, so I don't think it's a huge stretch to say he's been shortlisted before. If he doesn't win in the next couple years his time may have passed.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Quote Originally Posted by DB Cooper View Post
    It feels like Thiong'o to me this year. Many factions were sated with the Modiano choice, so an African writer would make some sense. Thiong'o has been featured in the Ladbrokes odds for years it seems, so I don't think it's a huge stretch to say he's been shortlisted before. If he doesn't win in the next couple years his time may have passed.
    many factions of what, of whom?
    Personally, I think Wa Thiongo's time has passed long time ago. I already mencioned some african names that could be taken into consideration.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    Among spanish writers, in my opinion, Marias and Muņoz Molina are much better than Vila-Matas.

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    Default Re: Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 Speculation

    By factions I think he means within the Swedish academy, and yes, some were definitely sated: a Frenchman who's not really well known outside of France. They like to switch between someone really well known and someone little known so that the prize brings attention to smaller writers who would not be read otherwise. Since lately they've been filling quotas in a good way (awarding it to writers for where they come from/what language they write in, but usually with someone who really deserved the prize, unlike, say, Jelinek) and Modiano was in no way a writer like that, I think it's fair to say it'll go to an African writer. Ngugi's ship may have set sail though, Farah is a mixed bag and lately hasn't been great, and Mouto is fairly young. I'm not sure who else it would go to if they do Africa this year, as after Modiano I think they'd want to pick someone with a bigger reputation, and those seem like the biggest ones at the moment.

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