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The Nobel Prize in Literature

Nobel Prize in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan.

Who wins the Nobel Prize in Literature 2017?

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Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words of the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction". Though individual works are sometimes cited as being particularly noteworthy, here "work" refers to an author's work as a whole. The Swedish Academy decides who, if anyone, will receive the prize in any given year. The academy announces the name of the chosen laureate in early October. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Physics, Nobel Peace Prize, and Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Four possible Nobel literature laureates, Israelis Amos Oz and David Grossman, Albanian Ismail Kadare and Yan Lianke, who is a banned writer in his native China, are among the contenders for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize. This is an exciting longlist which impresses while also causing some bewilderment which might just edge towards minor irritation at some obvious omissions.

Albanian veteran Ismail Kadare, inaugural winner of the Man Booker International in 2005 and a likely future Nobel laureate, has a large body of work. The longlisting of his surreal and admittedly witty fable The Traitor’s ”Niche” (translated by John Hodgson), which was originally published as long ago as 1978, seems an odd choice, considering that so many of Kadare’s books reached translation so much sooner. As a Kadare fan, I would say he has written better books. 

Making the longlist is the slight and frankly routine coming of age offering, ”Swallowing Mercury”, by Polish poet Wioletta Greg (translated by Eliza Marciniak). This heavy-handed tale of growing up in rural Poland consists of random anecdotes and only very late in what is a small work does it begin to acquire resonance when the narrator re-imagines her dead father as a boy and young man whose life ended prematurely. Its inclusion in a longlist this good is inexplicable.

Israeli writers David Grossman and Amos Oz are potential Nobel laureates; both are represented on the longlist with fine novels, neither of which should win. David Grossman’s ”A Horse Walks into a Bar” (translated by Jessica Cohen) is a courageous, new departure for the always interesting Grossman. His narrator is a despairing, veteran stand-up comic who confronts his life one night during a routine which exhausts and intrigues his audience, even repels others.

No one will dispute the inclusion of Argentinean Samanta Schweblin’s marvellously ambivalent ”Fever Dream” (translated by Megan McDowell). A young mother is dying in hospital, her mind tormented by terrifying memories, or are they dreams. Schweblin, the youngest contender, should have a say in the closing stages of this prize with a dramatic and compelling story.

Amos Oz’s ”Judas” (translated by Nicholas de Lange), his first novel in a decade, is a traditional narrative, a love story which also revisits the Judas theme of betrayal. Oz as a polemicist was always vital, as a storyteller he has grown into his art.

Always worth heeding is Chinese satirist Yan Lianke, who is banned in his homeland and is also a potential Nobel laureate.