Nobel Prize 2012

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August 4th, 2012, 2:37 pm #1

ludi incipiant...

How about another poet? How about a non-European author for a change, even though we all know that Europe is still the centre of the literature world ;) How about one from those insular United States of America?

I would bet some money that we will see a Hungarian winner this decade, the number of high profile authors coming from this tiny country is so amazing: Nadas, Esterhazy, Krasznahorkai, Konrad, Bartis, Bodor etc. (Kertesz already got it)

Some of the higher profile international literature awards and their winners of the last few years:

-- Franz Kafka Prize
-- Prince of Asturias Awards
-- Neustadt International Prize for Literature
-- Man Booker International Prize

two additional awards that have a good profile in my opinion:
-- Peace Price of the German Book Trade (even though not only awarded to authors, I removed winners that do not fall into the Nobel regime)
-- Austrian State Prize for European Literature (even though this is only Europe)

Year/ Kafka/ Asturias/ Neustadt/ Booker/ Peace/ Austrian/

2012/ Hodrova/ Roth/ Mistry/ xxxxx/ Yiwu/ Modiano
2011/ Banville/ Cohen/ xxxxx/ Roth/ Sansal/ Marias
2010/ Havel/ Maalouf/ Duo Duo/ xxxxx/ Grossman/ Nizon
2009/ Handke/ Kadare/ xxxxx/ Munro/ Magris/ Enquist
2008/ Lustig/ Atwood/ Grace/ xxxxx/ xxxxx/ Kristof
2007/ Bonnefoy/ Oz/ xxxxx/ Achebe/ xxxxx/ Kennedy
2006/ Murakami/ Auster/ Alegria/ xxxxx/ xxxxx/ Semprun
2005/ Pinter/ Pinon/ xxxxx/ Kadare/ Pamuk/ Magris
2004/ Jelinek/ Magris/ Zagajewski/ xxxxx/ Esterhazy/ Barnes
2003/ Nádas/ Sontag/ xxxxx/ xxxxx/ Sontag/ Nooteboom
2002/ Klíma/ Miller/ Mutis/ xxxxx/ Achebe/ Hein
2001/ Roth/ Lessing/ xxxxx/ xxxxx/ xxxxx/ Eco
2000/ xxxxx/ Monterroso/ Malouf/ xxxxx/ Djebar/ Lobo Antunes

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August 4th, 2012, 3:24 pm #2

this, well. took out winner and dead people.
wrote:OK let's be systematic. Here's a different way to break the contenders down. 1 Laureate a year is really too few, I got really OCD about concretely visualizing my personal canon so I made my own list and eventually had to expand it to more like 3 a year and give quotas for different languages-of-origin (give one to someone writing in English every three years, give one to someone writing in Spanish every 3 years, a French-language writer every 3 years, a German-language writer every 3 years, a Russian- or other Slavic-language writer every 3 years, a Greek/Hebrew/Arabic/Eastern/etc writer every 3 years, and a Portuguese/Italian/Hungarian/other European language writer every 3 years).

That said, I think the major candidates to actually win, among living writers, are or should be:

French-language writers:
Poets- Either Jaccottet or Bonnefoy, both really major figures and really deserving and really old. (Btw anyone think Jaccottet's influenced Handke's prose of the last few decades? I read some theory about this a while ago.)
Prose writers- None will win. Guyotat too avant-garde. Pierre Michon's output maybe too small. Houellebecq too controversial. Volodine probably carries too much "genre baggage," not even previous awards for the Committee. Maybe Pascal Quignard gets a look one day. Actually, there are two with a shot right now: Assia Djebar and Aamin Malouf. Haven't read either, though.
Non-fiction/other- Cixous would be a great choice. Wonder if they'd consider Rene Girard?

English-language writers:
Poets-Ashbery and Hill are the leading contenders. Hill is a living classic and Ashbery would be a "non-political" way of giving it to an American. Kamau Brathwaite would not be a non-political choice but has a shot. Paul Muldoon has a shot and would be deserving for his earlier output although the last few books weren't as great. I have a soft spot for (85-year-old) Christopher Logue but he has no shot.
Prose writers- There are of course the four elephants in the room, Pynchon, Roth, McCarthy, and DeLillo. I have to think they'd have given it to Roth or DeLillo already if they wanted to, while Cormac perhaps carries too much pop culture baggage after the movies of his disappointing recent books and Pynchon is too avant-garde, plus he'd either no-show or mock the prize.
From the UK: Hollinghurst hasn't written enough yet (new book just his 5th). Banville would be a great choice, genius stylist and many great books.
Others...Chinua Achebe? but I think Thiongo or Nuruddin Farah will get it instead, either now or soon (Ayi Kwei Armah's output perhaps too low? The African writer I'd have most like to see honored died too young- Christopher Okigbo).
Non-fiction/other- None will win, but John Berger would be an intriguing choice- you guys find him deserving? Stoppard is a very good playwright but sort of a lightweight compared to the true greats like Beckett and Pinter and Genet. Zizek would give a fun Lecture but too lightweight. Maybe Judith Butler one day??

Poets- Several possibilities but I doubt any ever get it. IMO the leading contender is Clara Janes. Others- Juan Gelman, Antonio Gamoneda, Jose Emilio Pacheco, Rosenmann-Taub. Ernesto Cardenal perhaps? Parra probably too avant-garde.
Prose-Not this year, but there must be more to come for such a distinguished group, right? Javier Marias is a living classic and still relatively young. Daniel Sada is still young. Goytisolo getting old, maybe too avant-garde stylistically. Fuentes probably missed out when they chose MVL, but hey, they gave it to Gordimer and then Coetzee. Del Paso would be a great choice but his output is sort of low. Laiseca too much "genre baggage"? Mutis and Marse getting old, no shot. I think Munoz Molina could have a shot in the future but wouldn't be a great choice. The intriguing choice here would be the Catalan writer Miquel de Palol.
Non-fiction/other- Not this year but Eduardo Galeano has a great shot in my opinion (personally I wouldn't pick him but he'd be deserving). Arrabal perhaps, but I seriously doubt they ever pick him.

German-language (I obviously defer to Marcel here but this is who I think has a shot):
Poetry-I doubt they give it to him, but Volker Braun.
Prose- Handke is the elephant in the room who can't get it because of politics although widely recognized as one of the great authors of the past few decades. I'd say that leaves 85-year-old Siegried Lenz the front-runner. Patrick Roth is youngish and could have a shot, plus it would be HILARIOUS if someone named Roth won the prize while Philip was still alive, just imagine the US media. I bet Jirgl proves too avant-garde for the Committee but maybe I'll be wrong.
Non-fiction/other-Let's put Enzensberger in this category as the overall front-runner along with Lenz although after 2 of the last 7, and 3 of the last 12, winners being German-language writers I foresee no more winners who write in German for a little while.

Russian-/Polish-/Czech-/other Slavic-language:
Poetry- Zagajewski is a strong contender but the next poet won't be a Pole, so he'll have to wait for a real shot (he's only 65 though). By the way Tadeusz Rozewicz is still alive at age 90 right now.
Prose-They seem to have skipped a whole generation of Russian writers. The only one I think still has a shot is Voinovich, and he's 79. Sokolov too little output, Andrei Bitov (74), Makanin (73) are still possible but I strongly doubt it. Sorokin too avant-garde, Pelevin too lightweight, Petrushevskaya too much "pop culture baggage." Tatyana Tolstaya I doubt, they don't want to talk all over again about how they didn't give Leo the prize. Shishkin too young still, not enough output.
Among non-Russian writers, you'd think they would've already given it to Kundera if they were going to (although we've thought that before with Pinter, Lessing...but still). Albahari hasn't received enough other prizes. Mysliwski has a shot but he's 79 so it has to be soon. Tokarczuk has a great shot in future but still too young, barely 50.
Non-fiction/other- Havel is a strong contender.

Portuguese/Italian/Hungarian/other European languages:
Poetry- personally I think Goran Sonnevi has a good shot. Ferenc Juhasz is pretty old but has an outside shot. Salamun's younger but I doubt i.
Prose-Peter Nadas and Laszlo Krasznahorkai are two strong contenders, two geniuses..I guess Nadas is likelier to be picked at this point because he's received more prizes? Claudio Magris has a great shot. Lobo Antunes. Peter Esterhazy has a real shot. Nooteboom. Gudbergur Bergsson I doubt...Adam Bodor and Gyorgy Spiro outside shots, not high-profile enough. Eugenio Corti is still around at age 90 but they'd have given it to him already. Peter Hoeg too young at 54, same for Knausgard, same for Cartarescu but he's one for the future.
Non-fiction/other- Let's put Eco in this category but I doubt he ever gets it. Agamben with an outside shot, or perhaps even Roberto Calasso or Carlo Ginzburg?

Greek/Hebrew/Arabic/Eastern languages:
Poetry- Bei Dao is a very strong contender and wld be a great pick. I guess Ko Un has a shot too, esp with no previous Korean winners, but I wouldn't pick him. Adonis has a strong chance but it has to be soon, he's 81. Aharon Shabtai outside shot? But they should've picked Amichai or Dan Pagis
Prose-They have to pick one of these Israelis at some point, right? I'd say either Oz or Grossman, Yehoshua or Appelfeld also have legitimate shots. Elias Khoury has a strong shot, still relatively young. Ibrahim Nasrallah outside shot. Murakami...who knows really. I'd bet against it, though, perhaps too "pop" for the Committee plus he really doesn't need the sales bump. I think Hwang Sok-yong has a better shot actually and that he'll get it rather than Ko Un.
Non-fiction/other- Liao Yiwu is only 53, difficult to see him getting it before Bei Dao but I think he has a real shot in future.

Deleted User
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August 4th, 2012, 4:59 pm #3

Someone at the other place had an interesting suggestion:
wrote:The Nobel Library is the public library of the Swedish academy instituted to assist the evaluation of Nobel laureates to the Prize in Literature and other awards granted by the academy. Since its foundation in 1901, the primary task of the library is to acquire literary works and journals needed for the evaluation of the laureates, a task achieved by collecting works mainly in other languages than Swedish. As of 2007, the collection encompasses some 200,000 volumes and is thus one of the largest libraries devoted to literature in northern Europe.
one can check online how many books they have from each author:
Tolstoy: 234
Tranströmer: 126
Goethe: 121
Handke: 95
Wells: 75
Lem: 71
Adonis, aka Ali Ahmad Said : 57
Ashbery: 51
Philip Roth: 46
Patrick White: 39
Golding: 34
Cormac McCarthy: 12
Murnane: 12
William Gibson: 5

Obviously it is not possible to derive any straightforward conclusions with respect to the Nobel chances from this, but it is interesting nevertheless.

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August 4th, 2012, 5:32 pm #4

Marce Beyer 13
Pynchon 16
Boris Strugatsky 16
Genet 20
Auster 49
Coetzee 58
Kafka 60
Burgess 69
Nabokov 82
Fuentes 111
Oates 138


Deleted User
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August 4th, 2012, 6:04 pm #5

well, there#s a lot of oates around. she has to be one of the most prolific literary novelists of the past 50 years.

Literary lunatic
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Joined: September 29th, 2011, 1:16 am

August 5th, 2012, 7:04 am #6

Well, here are some facts that make me think this years winner will be an author who writes in English:

- In the last 25 years, a writer in English language has been selected 9 times, represented more than any other language
- This gives an average of a English language writer awarded every 2.7 years (let's leave it at 3)
- If this year a non English writer is selected will be the 5th without one.
- Longest streak without was 5, between Heaney (1996) and Naipaul (2001)
- However, this English language drought was preceded by a period 5 years (1991-1996) with 4 of 5 winners coming from the English language speaking world (Gordimer, Walcott, Morrison, Heaney) therefore the need to have a space between winners.
- Now going to countries, don't think UK will be selected as the previous two English language winner comes from there (Lessing & Pinter).
- Still see an anti United States feeling in the Swedish Academy, commanded by the powerful figure of Engdahl.
- Don't see a big name coming from Ireland. So I think winner will come from Canada, Africa or Australia.

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August 5th, 2012, 9:48 am #7

DDR wrote:- Still see an anti United States feeling in the Swedish Academy, commanded by the powerful figure of Engdahl.
Just a quick comment about the alleged resentments of Engdahl and the Nobel academy towards the US. I think that was a big misunderstanding based on a few badly chosen statements of him. I think, and it was also clarified shortly afterwards but nobody wanted to listen anymore, that he only meant to express his concerns about the insularity of the US publishing business, the press coverage of foreign literature there and the reading attitudes of the US audience. It was never about the quality of the top level literature there (at least that is how I got it). It is a fact that translated literature makes only a small percentage of the published books in the US and that translated books only rarely appear in mainstream papers like the New York Times for example (check regular comments of the Literary Saloon about this). I am not an expert on such questions (so those from the US, please correct me if I am talking bullshit), I just follow several blogs and other pages by Americans (or people living there) that regularly comment on such issues and try to improve the situation, like the Literary Saloon/Complete Review and Three Percent for example, the agenda of the latter:
wrote:Unfortunately, only about 3% of all books published in the United States are works in translation. That is why we have chosen the name Three Percent for this site. And that 3% figure includes all books in translation—in terms of literary fiction and poetry, the number is actually closer to 0.7%. While that figure obviously represents more books than any one person could read in a year, it’s hardly an impressive number. An even greater shame is that only a fraction of the titles that do make their way into English are covered by the mainstream media. So despite the quality of these books, most translations go virtually unnoticed and never find their audience.
This situation is completely different from many European countries where translated literature takes a huge fraction of the book market and where international literature is lively discussed in academia and mass media.

So to cut a long story short, I do not think that the chances of an US writer on winning a Nobel prize were ever affected by this. I think it was explicitly said by the academy that the US has worthy writers. Personally I would like to see an American win it as long as it is not the 'great man' himself, that would be the most boring nobel prize ever. Unfortunately I fear the worst as he already took practically all of the other awards mentioned above :)

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Joined: September 28th, 2011, 8:53 am

August 5th, 2012, 10:20 am #8

^^ What Birne said. Of course, now they're stuck in the situation where any prize not given to Philip Roth will prove that they still hate America, and any prize that is given to Philip Roth will be seen as backing down from a policy they never had in the first place. So, the debate will continue.

Just a thought: Ngugi will probably be getting a lot of press this autumn over here, with two of his books coming out in (new) translation. That shouldn't mean anything, but...
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August 5th, 2012, 11:09 am #9

Bjorn wrote: Of course, now they're stuck in the situation where any prize not given to Philip Roth will prove that they still hate America, and any prize that is given to Philip Roth will be seen as backing down from a policy they never had in the first place. So, the debate will continue.
Can't they just pick another American writer? :( I really hope Roth is not in contention. That the fact that he hasn't gotten it yet is somehow a fortuitous sign that he won't get it at all.

Literary lunatic
Literary lunatic
Joined: September 29th, 2011, 1:16 am

August 5th, 2012, 8:24 pm #10

If Europe is the center of the literary world as petulant Birne claims let's stay aside of the big names that always appear and let's focus on four European countries that for some reasons they don't have a laureate so far. Three of them have a good chance for next years as they have very solid writers.

The Netherlands: It's one of those incredible cases, probably the most surprising along Argentina and Canada, not to have a winner after a very long and solid literary tradition. In previous years, Mulisch was the obvious choice where the prize should have landed, however, after his death, Cees Nooteboom has a very high profile that could lead him to end the curse of The Netherlands. He has a lot of characteristics that the Swedish Academy appreciate on a candidate; he is a citizen of the world, just like Le Clezio, has lived in many countries, can speak several languages and have translated for some too. He has a very wide range of works including novels, short stories, essay and even poetry.

Albany: We don't know a lot about many Albanian authors, but Ismail Kadare is for sure, the author in Albania. He is always under scrutinize and has very strong group of works that are more than enough to award him with any literary prize. He has also has created a link to reintegrate the history of the Balcans, blending together Albanian, Serbian, Croatian, Turk and Italian heritage. His prose always has this epic feeling of a forgotten and savage land full of towers and rhapsodes. They myth gets together with the fiction and start creating a profound meaning where he tries to heal the wound created by many atrocities occurred during history in these bruised lands.

Romania: Although lot of people claimed Müller's prize for Romania, it was evident that despite the inspiration given to Frau Müller's came from Ceaucescu's dictatorship, the language in which se wrote and her Swabian origins made this more German than Romanian. Now they have the chance from now to many years to have a laureate on their own in the person on Mircea Cartarescu. I'm the less indicated to talk about him as I barely have read him, but I find him a very interesting figure in the international literary overview. Probably he is too young now right now at 56 years old, but he's got everything in favor to eventually win the Nobel prize.

Russia: I know everyone will say the Russians have inherited the USSR laureates and literary tradition but reality is that since the Sovietic Union dissolved they haven't have a winner on their own; frankly there hasn't even been a name that sounds strong to get it. The difference from Russia to the other three countries is that I don't see a clear figure that can stand above the rest and have a real chance to be back at the top of the literary establishment. Please feel free to show my ignorance on this field as probably I'm missing a big name in here.