08 October 2009

Herta Muller: 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature

I'm always excited for literary prizes (conveniently the Man Booker and the Nobel were within two days of each other this year). I have to say I'm a little surprised the Nobel committee did not choose Adonis, a Syrian poet whose name has been tossed around as a contender for years. I know even less about winner Herta Muller, a Romanian-born German-language writer, than I did JMG le Clezio (2008 Laureate). Muller has won numerous awards in Germany, including the Kleist Prize and the Kafka Prize, so it's not like the Nobel committee picked a dud.

At this point I could get back up on my soapbox like I did when the Booker longlists/shortlists were announced and again complain that it sucks to live in the US and not have access to new and/or quality work coming out of the world literature (can't even get the good UK titles in a reasonable amount of time). Like flogging a decayed pack animal. Tangential to this argument is the insinuation that Americans are too insular and don't read world literature; I'll throw that right back at you and note that we can only read what we can lay our hands on. If publishers are unable or unwilling to negotiate for the translation and publication of non-US work then it's really hard to read world literature. So we read what we can even if that's our own corner of the world. Admittedly, I would have loved to see Kurt Vonnegut awarded the Nobel, a truly wonderful writer, but when you only give out one award per year for the entire world...you lose some of the good ones.

With the goal of "reading more world literature" in mind, I'm going to formally announce two long-term projects: the Nobel Project and the Booker Project. I'm sure other bloggers do this, too, and the goals are similar to my Newbery Project. I'd like to read at least one work by each Nobel Prize for Literature laureate and each of the Booker Prize-winning books...by the time I die. I figure that gives me a good long time to get that accomplished because each project will grow as the years pass. Obviously, I have some winners on each list covered so I might throw those in as "pre-blog" retro posts unless I really want to read the book again (it gives me an excuse to re-read Possession in any case).

1 comment:

  1. It's frustrating to have to wait for the Booker books, but at least we don't have to wait for translations and we DO get most, if not all, within a year or so. Still I know what you mean. As far as the Nobel, I think of it as an alert system for Americans interested in international fiction. The Man committee also has a Man International Prize to let us know about more writers that aren't as famous in the US. I also decided to dedicate some time to the Booker winners and some of the shortlisted stuff too.