In about a month and a half, the Swedish Academy will be crowning the next winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. I suppose it's never too early to begin speculating about one of the most prestigious, and most publicized, awards in contemporary literature. Is it? If you're anything like me, you probably follow the literature Nobel as closely as some people follow college basketball. So, let's speculate a little.
First of all, you should know that the Nobel committee has a recent reputation for celebrating off-the-map authors. Past Nobel winners like Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, Herta Müller, and Tomas Tranströmer aren't exactly obscure, but they aren't international big names in quite the same way that Salman Rushdie, Milan Kundera, and Philip Roth are. Rushdie, Kundera, and Roth have yet to win Nobels. Indeed, it's possible that the current Nobel is less a way of recognizing big-name authors than of saying who should be big-name authors. Müller, for instance, won the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 1998, faded back into relative obscurity, and landed the Nobel in 2009. And yes, the Nobel did help her sales.
But do you think this is a good strategy? Do the Nobel people, for that matter? According to Ladbrokes, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is favored to win this year's award. Now, Murakami may be a bigger name than Rushdie, Kundera, and Roth put together. There's a chance that our friends in Sweden have switched tactics, and are once again handing Nobels to writers like Sameuel Beckett and Gabriel García Márquez: writers who have had an extraordinary impact on literature as we know it.
So do you have a Nobel pick of your own for 2012? If you don't, stick around. The coverage continues in my next post.