Musings on the Nobel Prize for Literature

Maryse’s Condé Ségou
Now that the day when the Nobel Prize for Literature might have been announced is well past and not only did we not get it this year, we may not get it next year, and now that we have had the Murakami-less, heavily Scandinavian weighted Alternative Nobel literature prize, interestingly and deservedly won by the non-Scandinavian Maryse Condé, an author I have long admired, is it time to look ahead again?

Lee por Gusto has suggested a list of possible Latin American and Spanish winners. Many of these are poets, whom I have never heard of and never read and, unless you read Spanish, you probably will not have heard of either. However, there are a few interesting and, indeed, likely suggestions, including the Spanish novelists Javier Cercas, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Juan Marsé, Javier Marías and Enrique Vila-Matas

César Aira’s latest

When the issue of giving the Nobel Prize to a woman came up on Twitter, I proposed, only slightly tongue in cheek, six women, all Mexican: Carmen Boullosa, Rosario Castellanos, Elena Garro, Margo Glantz, Elena Poniatowska and Cristina Rivera-Garza. Three make the list. I would be happy to see any of these win, though were I to pick my ideal winner, it would be César Aira, who is not a woman, not Mexican and who does not make the list.

The current issue of Le Nouveau Magazine Littéraire has a section on the Nobel Prize, with various critics giving their choices. We start with Éric Fottorino who states If there are no more rules and we can speak to the dead as if they were alive, I shall choose Philip Roth To which I would respond If there are no more rules and we can speak to the dead as if they were alive, I shall choose William Shakespeare, a far superior writer to Roth I think everyone would agree. There are rules. Roth is dead and would not, in my view, even have been close, even if he were still alive.

Murakami’s latest

There are some more sensible suggestions. Amélie Nothomb goes for what might be considered the obvious choice: Haruki Murakami. Obvious maybe, but still a sound choice. The two French writers proposed are Annie Ernaux and Jean Echenoz. Other proposals include Ludmila Ulitskaya, proposed by Geneviève Brisac, Milan Kundera, whose time has surely gone, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a bit too soon, I think, Haitian-Canadian writer Dany Laferrière, an interesting choice, Ismail Kadare, a choice I would agree with, Joyce Carol Oates, certainly a worthy choice, and Russell Banks, a decidedly odd choice. Richard Malka concludes by nominating The One We Do Not Name, a writer who does not exist but who has opposed authority, been in prison and writes in different genres. If he existed, says Malka, he would deserve it.

There are certainly some interesting choices there for the Nobel Prize Committee, be it the Swedish Academy or someone else, and for amateur critics like me. As I said, I would choose César Aira and I would think Murakami would be the favourite. And yes, I have noticed that there are no Africans on this list, so I will mention Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Alain Mabanckou as two other contenders.

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