And the Nobel Prize in Literature Goes to…

Were you aware that the Nobel Prize in Literature was just announced a couple of days ago? No? Well then you should follow some bookish people or websites on Twitter so you can be in the know. Let’s talk just a little about the prize before I tell you all who was awarded what many consider the most prestigious prize in literature.

The award, as I’m certain you know, is given out annually. But unlike other major literary awards, it is based on the author’s entire body of work. So you won’t be seeing any 25-year-olds winning this bad boy. And let me tell you, I was almost certain that Haruki Murakami was going to take it home. That isn’t to say that the other finalists weren’t deserving, but that I have first hand knowledge of the greatness that is Murakami’s body of work. Have I read everything he’s written? No. But what I have read cannot be understated. This man can write with anyone out there. I was introduced to some of his work during my last semester of college.

So a day or two before the announcement I happened to read an article that placed Murakami and one other finalist at the top of the pile. He was the joint favorite with just hours left before the official announcement. But he didn’t win. And neither did the other favorite. So what happened? One might answer that nothing happened and it was simply awarded to someone else, but there could be something a little fishy going on.

Eight of the last 11 winners have been from Europe. And only five countries outside of Europe have won more than once. I’m not here to proclaim that there’s some conspiracy going on, but that’s a lot of awards going to countries in and around the Swedish Academy. I don’t have any issue with the inherent bias that exists, but perhaps it’s been taken just a bit too far. Perhaps. 77 of the 111 laureates were Europeans. No. The bias that exists is obviously something that needs to be addressed.

There are deserving individuals all over the world, not just Europe.

The 2014 award was given to Patrick Modiano of France. The country that has been awarded a record 15 times. I’ve never read any of his work or even heard of him before now. I won’t say he’s undeserving, but I will say that too many of these awards are being awarded to one region of the world. And sure there’s a lot of recognition that comes with winning the award, but he also received about $1.1 million. Not bad.

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What do you think? Think that academy needs to open its eyes a bit or just keep giving the award to Europeans?

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5 thoughts on “And the Nobel Prize in Literature Goes to…

  1. Unfortunately the Nobel prize in all categories has become a political statement and does not reflect reality. I can not speak to this particular award, as I do not follow french literature, but I have seen the results of the peace prize, economic prize and science prize used a political pawns. Sadly, I no longer pay any mind to the award and give no additional respect to those that are awarded it. And it really is a shame, the idea of the Nobel prize was worthy of respect.

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  2. I think this may be slippery slope. Most English departments in Western universities have decided to stop teaching much of the canon produced by “old white men” and have turned toward teaching works according to who the author is and not the work itself. As a result a lot of sub par work is more prominent than it should be. Identity politics should never be a determining factor in the merit of writing.

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    • It’ll turn on the objectivity of the judge. Guillen’s not suggesting the Nobel prize folks ignore western European writers, but that they should take a fair look at work coming from elsewhere (whether they’re already doing so or not, I don’t know enough to comment on myself).

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  3. Back in the day, I used to watch the Miss America pageant. One day, as I was waiting for my home state to be announced in the Top 10 for yet another year (happened only once in all my years of watching), my mom pointed out that Texas was in the Top 10. She told me that Texas is almost always in this category, since Texas does a lot for the pageant.

    Not saying that Miss Texas doesn’t deserve to be named as a top competitor. But every year after that, I noticed when Texas was announced in the Top 10.

    Sadly, politics plays some sort of role in things like this. It shouldn’t, but it does.

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