It has been confirmed that a Nobel Prize winner in the area of literature will be announced on Thursday, October 8th at 1 PM Swedish time. Most recent winners of this award have included French author Patrick Modiano (in 2014), Canadian short story writer Alice Munro (in 2013), Chinese novelist Mo Yan (in 2012), and the late Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer (in 2011). This year, the field of nominees is relatively large, which should not come as a shock to any. Of course, there are frontrunners, but the decision that is made by the committee remains a challenge to predict and project until the name has actually been announced. I know that in my case, Patrick Modiano was not a name I would have predicted to be the winner of the 2014 prize, but that may be due to the fact that his name is not too familiar to the American reader. I was able to pick up a book of his at Barnes & Noble during a trip following a filming session for Literary Gladiators. During the month of September, I read five novels that were written by nominees for this particular award and came out with mixed feelings. Of the five, there were two books I enjoyed, two that I felt were okay, and another that I am in the middle of completing. Nominees that I have read include Svetlana Alexievich, Ko Un, Philip Roth, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Joyce Carol Oates. I read Haruki Murakami earlier in the year.
Svetlana Alexievich and Haruki Murakami has been deemed the frontrunners according to many outlets that measure the odds that different nominees have in winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. In my mind, these statuses are rightfully so. Alexievich is a journalist from Ukraine known most for her Voices from Chernobyl, which capture statements and stories from individuals that were affected in some way, shape, or form by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred in 1986. I felt this was an amazing testament that was very well arranged so that heartbreaking stories were able to be shared next to some really witty accounts that occurred during an event that is important for people to be aware about. Murakami, a Japanese writer, is quite noteworthy in the English speaking world, which is fitting for someone whose works are heavily influenced by western culture. His novel, Norwegian Wood, has plenty of references and inspiration to The Beatles and the actions that are taken in the story reflect the title song. His elements of magical realism are recognized most to his readers, but I enjoyed reading Norwegian Wood, which did not really possess his common themes. Based on what I know and what I collect, Murakami should be the author that I would declare as the person that I feel should win the prize this year.
While I feel that Murakami should be awarded the prize, the writer I feel should receive the prize in this particular year is Ko Un, a Korean poet who was a political protester that was imprisoned during his time of doing so. Un's poetry is short, brief, but powerful. Much of what he writes reflects his Buddhist beliefs, as he was at one point a Buddhist monk. Un has been nominated on multiple occasions for this particular prize, but others were granted to prize instead. I feel that with an active life of such insightful writing on his resume, Un should be the person that is greatly considered for this particular year. Whether he receives the honor or not, I feel that he is a poet that everyone should check out.
I did mention that I read Philip Roth, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Joyce Carol Oates during the month. I felt that Goodbye, Columbus and A Grain of Wheat, written by Roth and Thiong'o respectively, were okay novels. They were very well written, but could have been better in plot structure and sequence (for Columbus) and strength of character (for Wheat), so I am not ready to declare that these would be my selections for the Nobel Prize in Literature. As for Oates, I am reading Wild Nights, which is a really interesting take on the last days of Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Henry James, and Ernest Hemingway in narrative form. Once I finish reading this, I need to allow it to sink in and then make a call regarding what I thought.
I am always interested in reading award winning or nominated writers, even if I feel that it is the individual's personal satisfaction that should determine what they decide to read and not read. I am sure that everyone will have a different opinion and I would be interested to hear the selections that other people may have. As for me, it was interesting to get a taste of what the great academy sees as top quality writing among those writers that are living and, in many cases, still writing. I may be interested in either doing this again or reading the works of writers that have already when notable prizes. I am definitely going to keep my eye out for the winners of these acclaimed prizes in the upcoming days and I encourage you to check out Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, and This Side of Time by Ko Un. Regardless of who wins the prize, it is just so remarkable what this acclaim and monetary prize does to deserving writers who may or may have not gotten the boost that comes with this honor.
Here is the odds site that I referred to in this post: