By Susan Harris
Resuming our earier conversation, the speculation continues. Britain's suspiciously accurate Ladbrokes (remember, last year they had Tomas Transtromer in the top five) bets on Haruki Murakami at 5:1, followed by Bob Dylan (per an earlier commenter: oh, honestly) at 10:1, Mo Yan and Cees Nooteboom at 12:1, and Ismail Kadare, Ko Un, and Adonis at 14:1. The rest of the list looks like a WWB roll call: Enrique Vila-Matas, Mircea Cartarescu, Adam Zagajewski, Hanan al-Shaykh, Juan Marse, Atiq Rahimi, Kjell Askildsen, Jon Fosse, Vassilis Alexakis, Elias Khoury, Victor Pelevin, Antonio Gamoneda, Sofi Oksanen, Olga Tokarczuk, Tadeusz Różewicz, and Per Petterson. Ladbrokes' rival Unibet falls in line: their money's on Mo Yan, followed by Murakami and Nooteboom. The announcement date is a movable feast, but we're counting on October 11. The odds will change between now and then, so you still have plenty of time to ante up. And remember that a wager on a candidate is also a bet about country, language, and genre: last year a Swedish poet, the year before a Peruvian novelist, before that a Romanian novelist writing in German . . . let the guesses fly.
I don’t know why, but I can’t shake the feeling that when the Nobel committee sends white smoke up its chimney in mid-October it will smell like pepernoten and Cees Nooteboom will have a very busy day. Unless, that is, they decide to honor a non-European. Mo Yan, perhaps? Sad, I think, that Chinua Achebe has not been honored. But, going on my irrational little hunch, I’ve been reading, or re-reading some of Nooteboom’s novels, and am persuaded that he would be a very worthy laureate. Not my first choice (that would be Alice Munro or Philip Roth), but worthy. I’ve been reading a lot of Patrick White lately, and, compared to the Australian, the Dutch author is much more cerebral, his stories more obviously manipulated. His characters, while never succumbing to allegories, live primarily for the Northern European post-modern games he wishes to play with them. These games are almost always beguiling, compelling, often attaining surprising philosophical depth. But, after a feast of White, the voice found in Nooteboom’s short, beautiful works lacks a bit of full-throatedness. Still. Worthy.
A dark horse candidate who does not seem to have a lobby yet for prizes like the Nobel (unfortunately) but who is certainly a major writer: Laszlo Krasznahorkai from Hungary (born 1954). I cannot understand that such a writer is not even mentioned in many discussions or lists (e.g. Ladbrokes). He is widely translated into the major world languages, in particular recent translations into English got some acclaim for their high quality. His books should also appeal to the Nobel Academy, I suppose, they are quite universal in their topics (e.g. even his oldest novels, Satantango and Melancholy of Resistance, are as relevant now as they were 25 years ago when they were published), on a literary level they are varied landmarks in innovation and playfulness that do not have to fear comparisons with giants like Bernhard or Beckett (e.g. novels: War and War, short stories: Seiobo, novellas: From North by Hill [...], other prose pieces: Animalinside). Some of his works are rather bleak, but all of them also stand out due to their subversive ironic tone, their dark humour. In addition some more recent books like Seiobo have a strong contemplative, in some sense even spiritual side. All of his works offer a lot of insights on the metaphysical level, they are quite strong at showing the construction as well as the deconstruction of metaphors and symbols. They elaborate the grandeur of human thought and its inherent limitations at the same time.
Birne: I’m so happy you mention Krasznahorkai. I couldn’t agree with you more. The word regarding his Nobel should absolutely be “when” not “if”. I, like many in America, first encountered him through the staggering films of his friend and compatriot Bela Tarr. WERKMEISTER HARMONIES, based on Krasznahorkai’s novel THE MELANCHOLY OF RESISTANCE, is one of the most memorable cinematic experiences I’ve had in the last five or six years. He is on my personal long list of Nobel contenders found on my blog, THE STOCKHOLM SHELF. If you feel like wasting a couple of minutes, I’d love it if you stopped by to put in a plug for him. You speak well about this great author. Here’s the link: http://thestockholmshelf.com/2012/09/the-2012-nobel-prize-for-literature-dreaming-up-a-winner/. I wonder if you have read any Peter Nadas, Krasznahorai’s fellow Hungarian. I’ve not read him yet myself, but suspect him of greatness as well. Also, there is György Konrad, they’re older compatriot, whom I have read. He, too, would do honor to the Nobel.
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