Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature

The Nobel Prize for Literature is to be awarded this week.  I generally enjoy the run up to the prize more than the awarding of it.  It is great fun to sort through the contenders but then it becomes not so fun when a strange foreigner whose work is not widely available wins.

This year, the top contenders are thought to be:

Adonis 4/1
Tomas Transtromer 6/1
Haruki Murakami 8/1
Peter Nadas 10/1
Assia Djebar 12/1
Ko Un 14/1
Les Murray 16/1
Thomas Pynchon 18/1
Philip Roth 20/1
Nuruddin Farah 20/1
Mircea Cartarescu 25/1
Cormac McCarthy 25/1
John Banville 25/1
Joyce Carol Oates 25/1
Amos Oz 25/1
Antonio Lobo Antunes 25/1
Bob Dylan 25/1
K. Satchidanandan 33/1
Colm Toibin 33/1
Don DeLillo 33/1
Claudio Magris 33/1
Adam Zagajewski 33/1
Antonio Tabucchi 33/1
Alice Munro 33/1
A.S. Byatt 33/1
Milan Kundera 33/1
Cees Nooteboom 33/1
Ismail Kadare 33/1
Ngugi wa Thiong'o 33/1
Rajendra Bhandari 40/1
Christa Wolf 40/1
Maya Angelou 40/1
E.L Doctorow 40/1
Margaret Atwood 40/1
Ernesto Cardenal 40/1
Juan Marse 40/1
Bei Dao 40/1
Patrick Modiano 40/1
Vaclav Havel 40/1
Yves Bonnefoy 50/1
Michel Tournier 50/1
Viktor Pelevin 66/1
Ian McEwan 50/1
Salman Rushdie 50/1
Javier Marias 50/1
Carlos Fuentes 50/1
Umberto Eco 50/1
Elias Khoury 50/1
Louise Gluck 50/1
Samih al-Qasim 50/1
Peter Handke 66/1
Gitta Sereny 66/1
William Trevor 50/1
Shlomo Kalo 66/1
Chinua Achebe 66/1
Anne Carson 66/1
A.B Yehoshua 66/1
Juan Goytisolo 66/1
Luis Goytisolo 80/1
David Malouf 80/1
Paul Auster 80/1
Per Petterson 80/1
Jonathan Littell 80/1
Jon Fosse 80/1
Mahasweta Devi 80/1
Peter Carey 80/1
Marge Piercy 80/1
Mary Gordon 80/1
William H. Gass 80/1
Yevgeny Yevtushenko 80/1
Vassilis Alexakis 80/1
Eeva Kilpi 100/1
Michael Ondaatje 100/1
Kjell Askildsen 100/1
Julian Barnes 100/1
Atiq Rahimi 100/1
F. Sionil Jose 100/1 

I got this list from Ladbrokes, the English oddsmakers.  Apparently, they give odds on anything.

I spend an inordinate amount of time reading about literature and I still don't recognize maybe 40 percent of these writers.  And some of the names I only know because I've seen them before on other lists of Nobel contenders.  I admit to having a western bias and only reading in English so I know a huge chunk of the world is beyond my purview.  But it is weird to have a Syrian poet and a Swedish poet top the list.  Even if they are richly deserving of it.  Which they very well may be.

Of the names on this list, my clear favorite is the Irish novelist and short story writer William Trevor.  His only serious competition should be from Philip Roth - but Roth is said to have alienated some of the Swedes who award the prize so he is unlikely to win even though he deserves to. 

I am also rooting for A.S. Byatt, Alice Munro, and Don DeLillo.  I've already ordered Haruki Murakami's new book so it would be nice if he were to win.  I like Paul Auster and Ian McEwan and have read most all of what they have written but I just don't see it happening for them.  And now that John Banville writes crime novels in addition to the serious (and difficult to read) fiction that made him famous, he would be a fun choice.  It would be great to have Benjamin Black show up in Stockholm to accept the prize.

As far as names not being mentioned by Ladbrokes but still meriting consideration?  John le Carre would be a nice choice (I've only recently started to read him but I suspect many would recognize that he is a great writer who happens to write about espionage and is not just a writer of spy novels).  Mavis Gallant, the Canadian short story writer - I think she's worthy.  My 'I know it is crazy to even suggest it' choice would be Stan Lee.  His body of work is simply amazing and I suppose there are other writers of comics who write better dialogue but the fecundity of Lee's imagination trumps all in my view.  Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, the Hulk, X-Men, Daredevil, Thor, Iron Man and so many others.  Really, just Spider-Man alone should be enough.  I know he hasn't written everything these characters have done and that Jack Kirby probably has an equal share in many of them.  Still, to be a major creator of what (in another one of my crazy, best not said aloud theories) is our modern equivalent of the mythology of Greece and Rome, I think that deserves the Nobel.