Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Nobel Literature Prize Predictions 2008

For the third year running, I'm stating who I think is most deserving to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Some of these entries are rehashes of older posts. My list, in order is:

1. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses is my favorite book in English. It is a masterpiece of postmodern historiographic metafiction. I love that book so so much. I also understand why fundamentalist would want to kill him for writing it. In the book, an Indian voiceover actor becomes very ill after falling (thousands of feet) from a blown-up airliner to an English beach. He turns into a half-goat man, spikes a fever, and has a delusional dream wherein this kid in a cave keeps calling him "Gabriel" and asking him questions about God. Annoyed, he flippantly answers the kid, at first not believing that the kid buys the crap he's making up, all the while not realizing that he is dictating the Koran to Mohammed.

You can understand why this would piss Muslims off. People rip on Joseph Smith all the time. One South Park episode in particular tries to skewer the Mormon church (I found the episode hilarious and doctrinally and historically inaccurate by the way). Making fun of my religion in a farcical way, hidden in a work of fiction, does not bother me. My faith is my own, and no amount of attacks against it by others will influence my beliefs. I do not want to kill Matt Stone and Trey Parker. I respect their right to make fun of anything they want, and I even laugh when they mock my faith, because I am sure of what I believe. Rushdie should have that same right, without irhabists issuing fatwas against him.

Rushdie's Midnight's Children is one of my top ten books of all time, in any language. My wife thoroughly enjoyed Shalimar the Clown. Last April, I had the chance to go and hear Rushdie speak live. He read, at length, from Midnight's Children. His commentary and insights into this fiction convince me that he is one of the greatest living novelists, and despite some personality flaws that he himself recognizes, he is a master.

I don't think the Nobel Academy will have the political courage to ever give Rushdie the award he so very much deserves. Given the reaction to the Denmark cartoons three years ago, if anyone else in Scandinavia were to praise anything even remotely objectionable to Islam, the Middle East would erupt into rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. Also, Scandinavia exports vast quanitites of dairy products to the region. If the Academy were to give Rushdie the prize, well, think of the economic consequences to the Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian economies. Rushdie deserves the award more than anyone else I can think of. If he wins the prize, it would be an amazing declaration of free speech against the tyranny and oppression of religious intolerance. But, given the vindictiveness of most irhabists, would you, being on the Nobel Committee, vote to give him the prize? It takes a special mettle in your soul to make that kind of a stand.

The British had the courage to knight him; does the Academy?

2. Carlos Fuentes, he has labored for years trying to help Mexicans understand their roots. He is a tad prideful and perhaps offensive to certain types, but his work stands for itself. He is a contemporary of Octavio Paz, García Márquez, and Borges, and deserves the prize before it's too late. Second only to Rushdie in my opinion.

3. Antonio Muñoz Molina, he'll never win, but this Spanish author of detective fiction has created some of the few recent detective stories that you'll want to re-read. The solution to the crime isn't why you read them. They are noirish novels that deal with reconciling peoples' actions under Franco with their own moralities, ethics, etc. His novels such as Plenilunio, Sefarad, El invierno en Lisboa, and Beltenebros, are all classics and worth multiple readings. They have been made into movies, all badly, save Plenilunio. If they are ever translated into English, you should check them out. He is a modern master and a jazzman. He's on my list because I love his work, not necessarily because he's deserving.....yet.

4. Ricardo Piglia, another master, but one without the prestige and reknown to attract the Nobel committee's attention. The Absent City is amazing, and Respiración Artificial beggars description. I feel that Piglia will win some day, maybe not anytime soon.

5. Nicanor Parra, the anti-poet; his work was very influential on poets in Spanish and English. Deserving, and at 94, probably will never get it. He's an outside shot. He'd be the third Chilean poet to win.

6. Slavoj Zizek, the most enjoyable modern philosopher I can think of. He has his fingers on the pulse of current Western culture. He is a prolific writer and has a knack for explaining abstruse concepts in terms that everyone can understand. The estate of Jacques Lacan owes Zizek a huge hug for his tireless work in making Lacan relatively approachable to the masses. Zizek's works include The Sublime Object of Ideology, Tarrying with the Negative, Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Enjoy Your Sympton, and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Hitchcock But Were Afraid to Ask Lacan.

7. Umberto Eco, a master in the classic form. The Name of the Rose, or "City of Robots" are very impressive and thought-provoking. If they can give the prize to Italian playwright Dario Fo they can surely give a nod to Eco (though Silviano Santiago would most definitely disagree with me).

I'm sure some people expect me to put Mario Vargas Llosa on my list, and he might well get the prize, but there's just something about his writing, his politics, and himself that makes me think he's not a strong candidate. However, I must say that I thoroughly enjoy his essay "My Son the Rastafarian" ("Mi hijo el etíope") and I teach it frequently.

I'm sure there are numerous others that need mentioning. Phillip Roth, Chinua Achebe, Margaret Atwood, Bob Dylan, etc. Can you imagine the difficulty in finding someone to translate works from say Somalian in to Swedish? Malawi or Togolese? so the committee can read them.... It's no wonder that English speakers have won more than any other language.

Please feel free to comment on my selections or add your own. You'll hopefully understand why my choices are Hispanic top-heavy, though please remember that no native Spanish-speaking author has won since Octavio Paz way back in 1990. Also, nothing prevents the Academy from awarding the prize to multiple winners, as has been done in years past.


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Ara 13 said...

I too thought, "It's turtles all the way down," when I saw that silly quote. Just cracked Midnight's Children. I've been meaning to read it for some time. Take a look at my book, Drawers & Booths, by Ara 13 on Amazon or If you are interested in it, I can send you a copy, in the minor hope my book will creep its way into your blog. Thanks. Ara.

Mac said...


If you want to send me a copy, mail it to Dr. Mac Williams, Coker College, 300 east College Ave. Hartsville, SC 29550.

I'll be happy to review it on my blog.