Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nobel Prize for Literature

Over the years the Nobel committee has weathered criticisms that the prize doesn’t accurately reflect the innovations of literature. Notably Joyce, Borges, Proust and Henry James were snubbed. Frequently Scandinavian authors seem to take a disproportionate slice of the pie (7%, which would be globally proportional if they were equal in population to, say, the U.S. and Nigeria combined, rather than that of Texas alone) while incredibly not awarding it to Ibsen. So I wanted to take a moment and review which Nobel-awarded authors I’d read, and which I wanted to read, while considering if they were, indeed, good choices. This is due, in part, to my lacking understanding of 20th century literature.

Due to the above considerations I have no desire to read all of the authors. A sampler would be in order. To be fair this means the final list should be somewhat skewed to reflect the realities of the Prize.

So far I have read works by:

Rudyard Kipling (1907). I’ve read his ‘Just-So Stories’ and poetry. I intend to read ‘Kim’.

Rabindranath Tagore (1913). I’ve read his book of prose essays ‘Nationalism’. I’d be interested to try his poetry.

William Butler Yeats (1923). I’ve read his collection ‘The Tower’.

George Bernard Shaw (1925). I’ve read ‘Pygmalion’, ‘St. Joan’ and ‘Major Barbara’.

Sinclair Lewis (1930). I’ve read ‘Main Street’.

Eugene O’Neil (1936). I’ve read ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ and intend to read more.

Herman Hesse (1946). I’ve read ‘Siddhartha’.

T.S. Eliot (1948). I’ve read his collections ‘Prufrock and Other Observations’ and ‘Ash Wednesday’ as well as ‘The Waste Land’.

William Faulkner (1949). I’ve read ‘The Sound and the Fury’, ‘As I lay Dying’, ‘Light in August’ and ‘Go Down Moses’ and the short story ‘A Rose for Emily’.

Bertrand Russell (1950). I’ve read ‘A History of Western Philosophy’ and the essay ‘Why I Am Not a Christian’. I intend to read ‘The Philosophy of Leibniz’.

Par Lagerkvist (1951). I’ve read ‘Barabbas’.

Winston Churchill (1953). I’ve read his speeches and intend to read ‘The Second World War’.

Ernest Hemingway (1954). I’ve read ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and the short story ‘The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber’ and intend to read ‘The Sun Also Rises’ and ‘A Farewell to Arms’.

Albert Camus (1957). I’ve read ‘The Stranger’, ‘The Fall’ and ‘The Plague’, and the essay collections ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ and ‘The Rebel’.

John Steinbeck (1962). I’ve read ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1964). I’ve read ‘Being and Nothingness’, ‘Nausea’, the plays ‘No Exit’, ‘The Flies’ ‘Dirty Hands’ and ‘The Respectful Prostitute’, the short story ‘The Wall’, and the essays ‘Portrait of an Anti-Semite’, ‘Self-Deception’, ‘Marxism and Existentialism’ and ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’.

Samuel Beckett (1969). I’ve read ‘Waiting for Godot’.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1970). I’ve read ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’.

Pablo Neruda (1971). I’ve read many various examples his poetry.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982). I’ve read ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, the short story ‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ and the essay ‘Word Are in a Hurry, Get Out of the Way’.

William Golding (1983). I’ve read ‘Lord of the Flies’.

So I’m a little familiar with 21 of 104, or 20%, and no one since 1980s (The most recent publication is Marquez’s ‘Cholera’ from 1985). I’d like to double the number. On my list to be read is a mix of non-English writers, famous names not yet gotten to, and a few losers to make it fair.

Knut Hamsun (1920). I want to read ‘Hunger’ and maybe ‘Growth of the Soil’.

Henri Bergson (1927). I want to read ‘Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic’.

Thomas Mann (1929). I want to read ‘Buddenbrooks’.

Luigi Pirandello (1934) I want to read ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’.

Pearl S. Buck (1938). I want to read ‘The Good Earth’.

Andre Gide (1947). I want to read ‘The Immoralist’.

Boris Pasternak (1958). I want to read ‘My Sister, Life’.

Mikhail Sholokhov (1965). I want to read ‘And Quiet Flows the Don’.

Patrick White (1973). I want to read ‘The Eye of the Storm’.

Saul Bellow (1976). I want to read ‘The Adventures of Augie March’, ‘Herzog’ and ‘Henderson the Rain King’.

Wole Soyinka (1986). I want to read ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’.

Naguib Mahfouz (1988). I want to read ‘Children of Gebelawi’.

Octavio Paz (1990). I want to read his ‘Collected Poems’.

Toni Morrison (1993). I want to read ‘Beloved’

Kenzaburo Oe (1994). I want to read ‘Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness’.

Dario Fo (1997). I want to read ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’.

Gunter Grass (1999). I want to read ‘The Tin Drum’.

Gao Xingjian (2000). I want to read ‘Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather’.

V.S. Naipaul (2001). I want to read ‘A House for Mr. Biswas’ and ‘A Bend in the River’.

J.M. Coetzee (2003). I want to read ‘The Life and Times of Michael K’.

Harold Pinter (2005). I want to read ‘Betrayal’.

Orhan Pamuk (2006). I want to read ‘Snow’.

Doris Lessing (2007). I want to read ‘The Golden Notebook’.

Mario Vargas Llosa (2010). I want to read ‘The War of the End of the World’.

Tomas Transtormer (2011). I want to read ‘The Great Enigma’.

This would bring my total to 46, a full 44%, close enough to half for me.

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