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text 2017-10-05 16:34
Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature!
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

Today I awoke to the news that Kazuo Ishiguro has won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature.

 

I cannot convey how huge this news is to me. Never before have I read a book by a Nobel laureate before they won the prize, which was the one thing I thought I would never check off of my reading bucket list. Thanks, Nobel committee!

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url 2017-10-05 12:29
Kazuo Ishiguro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature 2017
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
When We Were Orphans - Kazuo Ishiguro
An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro
A Pale View of Hills - Kazuo Ishiguro
Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall - KAZUO ISHIGURO
The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro
The Unconsoled - Kazuo Ishiguro

   

Yey!  I wasn't totally enamored with The Buried Giant and Nocturnes (and I've yet to read The Unconsoled and An Artist of the Floating World), but I'm a fan of his on the basis of Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day, and When We Were Orphans alone.

 

Congratulations, Mr. Ishiguro!

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text 2016-10-13 15:56
So Bob Dylan

Interesting and out of the box choice, but I have to agree with the Nobel Committee bringing up the rich tradition of poetry being an oral (and aural) art from antiquity. We no longer listen to Homer and Sappho and hear Beowulf sung to us, but we still read them.

 

It's a choice that must have been helped along by the equally rich Swedish (or actually, Nordic) history of having a very blurred line between what is a song and what is a poem. From the Viking-era skalds, the poetic sagas like the Eddas, through post-Viking royal chroniclers who kept records of the early Swedish Kings in poetic form through the 11th to 13th centuries,Bellman in the 1700's (often set to music right through the current day), all the way to artists such as Cornelis Vreeswijk, more or less a contemporary of Dylan's, or Lars Winnberbäck producing bitter and barbed social commentary in poetry-masquerading-as-pop-song. Or from another tack, pop band Mando Diao having a monster summer hit in Sweden a couple of years ago by setting a poem by beloved Swedish Poet Gustav Fröding to music.

 

So yeah, a surprising and unexpected choice, but a very very Swedish one.

 

(I'd post videos for all the above, but they're all in Swedish. So have some Dylan instead :)

 

https://youtu.be/mYajHZ4QUVM (It's Alright Ma, I'm only Bleeding)

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text 2016-10-13 14:29
And the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to . . .

The Nobel Committee just announced that the 2016 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature is Bob Dylan.

 

To be honest I'm still wrapping my head around the news. I know that he has been mooted as a potential awardee for years, but most people have dismissed it as unlikely and even unwarranted, or that he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize rather than the literature award. Yet now it has happened. Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate.

 

I think this is definitely going to be a topic of discussion for a long while. Count me among those who think he is deserving of the award, but it definitely is a path-breaking decision. As far as I know, they have never given it to a person whose best-known writing is song lyrics. That certainly opens up the pool of future potential awardees.

 

As deserving as it is, though, I also can't help but feel a little bad for the other Americans who have been mentioned as potential laureates. I read recently that every year Philip Roth trudges to his agent's office and waits by the phone in anticipation of the announcement; if that is rue, then I can only wonder at his reaction to the news. Because Dylan's award means that it will be probably be awhile before another American wins it, as it's been twenty-three years since they last gave it to one. At least now Roth can sleep in on the announcement day, though he may have difficulty doing so since it's unlikely now that he will ever become a Nobel Laureate. Or maybe he's secretly working on a cure to the common cold, because at this point if he still wants one his best bet is to chase after one of the science prizes.

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text 2016-10-06 13:57
Some thoughts on the Nobel Prize in Literature

I teach for a living, and the place where I teach runs on a semester cycle, so I tend to have a fall/spring orientation in a lot of ways. One of the ways it manifests itself is that each year I get invested in two major sets of awards. In the spring its the Pulitzers, which to me are a signpost of all that is great and good (and sometimes not) in American writing, particularly (for me) in the history, biography, and general nonfiction categories.

 

It's fall, though, which means it's time for the Nobels.

 

Right now the Nobel Committee is announcing the science awards. I love those awards, as I feel as though they give us an opportunity for a few days every year to discover all of the amazing ways in which we humans are expanding our knowledge and understanding of our world. Reading Marc Raboy's recent biography of Guglielmo Marconi (Nobel laureate in physics, 1909) also helped me to realize that they also recognize discoveries that shape or will shape our lives, though this is probably more evident in with the Medicine award than the other science ones. On Friday they will announce the Nobel Peace Prize, which may be the biggest touchstone we have about our values and progress as a civilization.

 

Then next week they will announce the Nobel Prize in Literature, which is easily the biggest prize there is in all of writing. I like that they give it to an author for their entire body of literature, rather than just one work like most literary awards, and they've given it to a lot of great writers over the years (though the list of writers who never received one -- Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Émile Zola, Jorge Luis Borges, Chinua Achebe -- is even more illustrious). Lately, though, I greet the news of the award with a puzzled, "Who?", because they are some internationally-recognized author whose name somehow never gets mentioned in the media.

 

At least that was how I thought of it until I read this article about the odds of who might win it this year. At about the midway point one of those epiphanies-that-should-have-been-obvious-long-ago struck me, which that I am an American who knows diddley-squat about world literature. Yes, I can rattle off the names of some great American writers (Philip Roth, Dom DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates) and I can also identify a few prominent foreign ones as well -- Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Clive James, Haruki Murakami.

 

Notice anything that these writers have in common? If your answer is that they all write in English, you're absolutely correct (and yes, I know Murakami writes in Japanese, but his books get enormous play in the U.S. when they are released in translation). The reality is that my literary scope has some big damn blinders on it. Take the four authors identified in the article as having the best odds of winning the Prize this year: Adonis, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Jon Fosse, and Ko Un. Have you even heard of these four before this moment, let alone read any of their works? If the answer is yes, then you have my respect, but I suspect for most of us the answer is no.

This is when my appreciation increased for the challenge they have in awarding the prize. How do you recognize the best writers in all of world literature? Think of the scope: to do so requires knowing the contemporary literature of scores of countries, not all of which is translated into English, let alone Swedish. Then their merits have to be assessed relative to each other. Politics of various sorts undoubtedly comes into play, which if nothing else has to be a factor for the Literature prize to maintain the stature it possesses. And then they give out one award. One. Per year. Considering all of that, I should be impressed that I recognize any of the writers on the list of recent laureates.

 

All of this is not to say that I forgive the committee for their sins. To this day they have an understandable bias in favor of Scandinavian literature that they seem unwilling to overcome (and yet in spite of that the one Scandinavian author we would all be able to recognize -- Stieg Larsson -- never received one) and they often favor writers as much for their political leanings as for their works. But perhaps in the years to come I will spend less time complaining about the "obscurity" of the writer to whom they have the award and more time instead searching out some of their works so as to broaden myself. It really is what makes literary awards worth following.

 

Still, it would be awesome if Thomas Pynchon ever won it.

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