The 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature:  Week Two

By Susan Harris

Resuming last week's conversation, the speculation continues. Britain's suspiciously accurate Ladbrokes is yet to weigh in, but  Unibet has posted odds for candidates both familiar (Adonis) and ludicrous (Thomas Bodström), with Paraguay's thirty-year-old Néstor Amarilla the inexplicable favorite at 4:1.  Other sources mention Ismail Kadare, Milan Kundera,  Javier Marias, Amos Oz, and Tomas Tranströmer. So far WWB readers have suggested Haruki Murakami, Elias Khoury, and Harry Mulisch, as well as Philip Roth. (Meanest literary practical joke: call Philip Roth at 6 a.m. next Thursday and speak in a Swedish accent.) Your thoughts? Vote early and often. And for a Polish take, enjoy this extract from the graphic novel Essence, in which a scientist invents a drinkable form of novels ("I could do with a swig of Lolita to warm me up") and scores Nobels in both chemistry and literature. Update: Ladbrokes favors Tranströmer at 5:1, followed by Adam Zagajewski, Ko Un, and Adonis at 8:1.



Peter Carey has won two Bookers. Edward Albee has received three Pulitzers. But has any contemporary writer mastered as many different styles and genres as Margaret Atwood? I don’t know if a Canadian has ever been awarded the literature prize.


are authors suggested here because they are prolific? Murakami & Kundera?


Kamau Brathwaite: From The Arrivants to Born to Slow Horses, Brathwaite has illumined the disparate narratives of the Atlantic holocaust.

Walcott and Naipaul were the easy choices…let’s see if the Swedish Academy will nominate a poet and scholar who has carried the weight and music of history in his verse.


The Ladbrokes odds are up: Ladbrokes


Ernesto Cardenal ought to get it.  Otherwise, I’d love for Zagajewski to snag the honor.  In my dreams, Nicanor Parra wins hands down.


It’s time for Philip Roth - he’s been turning out excellent work for over 40 years.


In no particular order, my contenders are Ismail Kadare, Ivan Klima, Philip Roth, and Margaret Atwood. . . I’ve probably just cursed them all.


Reposted from the earlier thread (just realized that it continued here):

My favorite would be American poet Rita Dove, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate. I’m surprised her name hasn’t come up yet in all the discussions I googled—probably because of the same ignorance that I would have displayed myself a mere week ago, before I attended her spectacular reading at Smith College (Sylvia Plath’s alma mater) last Tuesday, and hadn’t Smith’s Afro-Am lit professor Kevin Quashie, in his brilliant introduction, proclaimed that he expected Rita Dove to win the Nobel Prize someday.
So: Impressed beyond words by her reading, I’ve immersed myself in her work over the past five days, from her first book (“The Yellow House on the Corner,” 1980) via her third, the Pulitzer winner “Thomas and Beulah,” to the most recent, “Sonata Mulattica” (2009), and most everything in-between, plus her stunning verse drama “The Darker Face of the Earth.” While nearly all her poems, and her verse drama, are clearly among the best American writing of the past decades and proof that not all contemporary American poetry is insular, “Sonata Mulattica” is a singular achievement, as close to a novel as poetry can get, and in a language of a condensed timeless beauty that prose, by its very nature, can never achieve. It is world literature at its best.
I’ve been contemplating why Rita Dove, although certainly recognized (and, her website says, also translated into a number of languages), has not been mentioned at least as an against-the-odds contender for the Nobel Prize, despite her wide recognition among American poetry aficionados. She seems to fulfill all the “requirements” many people are asking for: She’s a poet, she’s American… (Not only that, she’s African-American—but maybe that enables some people to cubbyhole her out of sight.) May I point out that, by my count at least (please correct me if I’m wrong), no American poet has ever been graced with the Nobel Prize for Literature? In my estimate, and after reading nearly her entire oevre to date, she’d be the perfect First.


Ismail Kadere will win
im sure for that
good luck from Germany

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