The 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature: Our Office Pool

By Susan Harris

Between the World Cup and the World Series comes high season for world literature: time to place your bets on this year's candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature. You can read two of the usual suspects, Adonis and Ko Un, right here, as well as 1988 laureate Naguib Mahfouz and, of course, any number of contenders. The Nobels will start rolling out with Physiology/Medicine on October 8 through Economics on the 15th; as always, Literature brings up the rear, at a date to be announced later. In the meantime, we invite your speculations, nominations, dark horses, wild cards, and longshots from now till Stockholm breaks the news (and a dozen writers' hearts).



Best literary prank of all time: Call Philip Roth this time of year at 6 in the morning and speak in a Swedish accent ...
COMMENT: I’ve been gunning for Philip Roth for a few years now.  I think his 90s books (American Pastoral, The Human Stain, etc) have put him in a pretty strong spot to win.  However, if he doesn’t, then I think-


Harry Mulisch - He is European, prolific, old, distinguished.  Somewhat arrogant, however.  Refers to god as a ‘colleague’.  Hmmmm.



Carlos Fuentes - I’m not sure how relevant he is today, but he has certainly written some good books.



Milan Kundera - I think his middle works are the best, and he seems to have changed focus to non-fiction in recent years, but there’s still a chance.
COMMENT: philip roth desreves for a lifetime of incredible novels not to mention all the work he did during the cold war to bring attention to a host of forgotten eastern european writers.
COMMENT: Pynchon probably deserves it, but the chances of him accepting or accepting it in person are slim.



Roth is overdue this award more than anyone I’d say. How much more curmudgeonly will he get if it isn’t his turn this year? God only knows…
COMMENT: Pynchon certainly deserves it—he’d be my first choice if my name were Nobel—but I very much doubt he’s in the mix.  Roth might be, but it hasn’t been long enough since the US last received the award.


The most surprising thing about Pamuk’s win last year was that he’s in mid-career.  If that’s going to be a trend (which I doubt), then I’ll say Javier Marias.



And what about Ismail Kadare? He’s established a worthy record, but aren’t his politics somehow suspect? I don’t really know, but I’ve heard it said that he was too close to the dictatorship in Albania.
COMMENT: If Roth doesn’t win, it’s because they

have decided they will never give it to


him and that will be the end of it.  By


all rights, he should be the obvious


front-runner.  His sexual politics aside (and I put them aside), the U.S.


has no greater writer.
COMMENT: I sure hope one morning Leslie Marmon Silko gets a call from Sweden for writing: Ceremony, Almanac of the Dead, Storyteller, Gardens in the Dunes and Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit.
COMMENT: It will be Harry Mulisch. He just turned 80 and it now might be one of the Nobel committee’s last chances to avoid being too late and performing the injustices they visited on Nabokov, Borges, etc.
COMMENT: I would say this year’s Nobelpriset i litteratur goes to Adunis.


It would be nice for poetry to be placed again in the limelight.



From The Funeral of New York, written in the early 1970s:



Picture the earth as a pear


or breast.


Between such fruits and death


survives an engineering trick:


New York,


Call it a city on four legs


heading for murder


while the drowned already moan


in the distance.


New York is a woman


holding, according to history,


a rag called liberty with one hand


and strangling the earth with the other.
COMMENT: Does Tomas Transtromer’s Swedishness disqualify him? He’d be my personal pick. Or else the Honduran poet Roberto Sosa.
COMMENT: Tranströmer is elegible. Sweden has produced six Nobel prizewinners in the past.


Being that the prize bends toward the political, Amos Oz (the first Israeli to speak in favor of a two-nation state) is a good bet.



Roth will be in foreground with the recent release of his book, “Exit Ghost,” and although the U.S. has taken the prize 11 times, it’s been awhile since the winner was an American.



Of course, countries like China have only one winner and Albania (native land of Ismail Kadare) have never produced a winner.



I love Roth and would be happy to see him win. But the person I find to be the most engaging writer of literary novels is Haruki Murakami.
COMMENT: This just in: the Nobel will be announced on Thursday, October 11, during the Frankfurt Book Fair. I’ll post the news (and any choice responses) from there.
COMMENT: If it were only for literary values, noone would deserve the Nobel prize more than Adrienne Rich. She’s the best American poet of the past fifty years. But i know it would not happen, still I hope so.
COMMENT: I’d love to see Carlos Fuentes get it or Ciaran Carson.  Is he too young?
COMMENT: I’m not surprised if Cees Nootboom gets it.
COMMENT: One of the requirements - as established by Nobel in his will - is that the prize should go to someone whose book has been written “in the last year”.
COMMENT: I think this year’s Nobel is between Roth and Murakami, with Claudio Magris also a contender, if they follow last year’s pattern with Pamuk


Then the usual suspects: Oz,Transtromer,Pynchon,Adonis,Ko Un, Vargas Llosa,Nooteboom, DeLillo,Kundera,Mulisch,Fuentes,Achebe,Kadare and Eco.



If the commitee decides for a female writer the obvious choices are Oates,Atwood,Djebar(My personal choice)and Munro.



Then again they can always pull a “Jelinek/Fo” on us.



What I don’t think they will ever do is award it to Rushdie, which is a shame(no pun intended, if only for Midnight’s children.
COMMENT: Not exactly a dark horse, but not mentioned among the frontrunners in our pool or others, Doris Lessing has carried off the Nobel. The Swedish Academy characterized her as íthat epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny.ë No word on how Philip Roth may be expressing his own skepticism, fire, et alia ... your thoughts?
COMMENT: I read one book of hers and really disliked it, so someone please recommend a better one than “The Fifth Child” so I might understand how this happened.
COMMENT: Fascinating that none of you referenced the eventual winner Doris Lessing. It’s always difficult though…



I’d try golden notebook…
DATE: 10/11/2007 11:26:41 AM

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