Tag Archives: Nobel Prize in Literature

Quote of the Day

Image result for gabriel garcia marquez

Although Gabriel García Márquez passed in 2014, we are fortunate to still have his words and works with us. Winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature, he was named “the greatest Colombian who ever lived” by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning and current President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos.

While writing my previous post, I thought about the notion of commitment in a far-ranging way, and while Márquez is probably most famous internationally for his novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, he was also a respected journalist who knew a thing or two about the trade.

This quote of his below not only sums up one of the big problems with today’s presidential election in the U.S., but is solid advice to heed for fiction writers.

“In journalism just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That’s the only difference, and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it”


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Quote of the Day

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While not his most famous literary achievement, Michael Ondaatje is money in the bank when it comes to beautiful prose regardless of the work you’re reading. The selection below is from Coming Through Slaughter, Ondaatje’s debut work of fiction about legendary cornet player Buddy Bolden, and the same book that would go on to win Amazon.ca’s First Novel Award for 1976.

In a week marred (yes, marred) by Nobelgate, it still confounds me that Mr. Ondaatje has (a) not won a Nobel Prize in Literature to date, and (b) wasn’t  even in the running this year. (According  to an article by Russell Smith in last week’s Globe and Mail, “The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami was the leader at 4/1, followed by people such as Syrian poet Adonis, Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Albanian Ismail Kadare. The only American writers who were considered even a possibility were the cerebral and serious Philip Roth and Don de Lillo.”)

But without further ado, here’s just one example (among thousands) of how Michel Ondaatje bends the English language to his will, effortlessly, it seems, in ways mere mortals like myself could never hope to accomplish.

“Accidental lust on the bus carrying her new into his dead brain so even months later, years later, pieces of her body and character returned. What he wanted was cruel, pure relationship.”

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Quote of the Day

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In the wake of Nobelgate, Anna North at The New York Times printed a well-crafted response to the decision to give this year’s Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan. Although argued from a slightly different point of view than my own post yesterday, it essentially resonates with the same message: The Swedish Academy got it wrong. Badly.

But instead of focusing on the negative, I thought I’d offer some examples of poetic literary quotes over the few next few days to remind us all of the power and inspiration behind the written word.

This one comes from the hugely talented British expat writer Lawrence Durrell (1912-90), whose most famous tetralogy of works, The Alexandria Quartet, includes some of the most beautiful writing I’ve read. Here’s a taste of TAQ #1, Justine:

“[F]alling in love…is a simultaneous firing of two spirits engaged in the autonomous act of growing up. And the sensation is of something having noiselessly exploded inside each of them. Around this event, dazed and preoccupied, the lover moves examining his or her own experience; her gratitude alone, stretching away towards a mistaken donor, creates the illusion that she communicates with her fellow, but this is false. The loved object is simply one that has shared an experience at the same moment, narcissistically; and the desire to be near the beloved object is at first not due to the idea of possessing it, but simply to let the two experiences compare themselves, like reflections in different mirrors…from here love degenerates into habit, possession, and back to loneliness.” 

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The Nobel Prize in…Lyrics?

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Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Thanks, Will (wink, wink).

Just because you love a person’s work, doesn’t mean you get to change the rules when categorizing it. While some are ecstatic that the world is becoming less rigid in its definition of people and objects – some choose not to be identified by a male or female pronoun and God only knows what the meaning of an American Republican is anymore, for example – there are benefits to having structure, namely, the ability to form logical thoughts and opinions which can then be communicated to others without detailed explanation.

Which brings us to Mr. Zimmerman and his winning of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature today. I’d heard that his name was being kicked around for years, but never actually thought he’d win the award. Guess I was wrong.

I suppose the conundrum I’m faced with (and don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Bob Dylan’s music just as much as the next person) comes more from a linguistic approach.

The word “literature” is defined as:



writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.

the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc.:

the literature of England.

the writings dealing with a particular subject:

the literature of ornithology.

the profession of a writer or author.

literary work or production.

any kind of printed material, as circulars, leaflets, or handbills:

literature describing company products.


In a broader sense, the word “literature” can technically include any type of writing on a particular subject, like the literature of supply-side economics.

Does that mean that Robert Mundell should have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature – and not Economics as he was – in 1999? I mean, Mundell did, after all, write extensively on the subject of supply-side economics.

Speaking of which, at least the “Economics” Nobel has gone through 12 name changes since its introduction in 1969, so it’s already admitting the award is for, roughly translated, someone who talks/writes about things with the word “economy” or “economics” in it.

If the higher-ups at Nobel, Inc. were comfortable introducing a new prize category in 1969, long after the inventor of TNT’s death, then why not just introduce a Nobel Prize for Music? Like soccer, it’s a universally binding force that has a tremendous impact on the world, right?

Now, granted, the Swedish Academy (which awards the Literature Prize) has made some pretty stellar decisions in the past. They’ve overlooked little-known and obscure people in the field of literature before, such as Henrik Ibsen, Henry James, James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy and Mark Twain. In 1974, after discounting writers that included Saul Bellow, Graham Greene and Vladimir Nabokov, they shrewdly gave the award to literary rock stars Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson. Sorry, what’s that? No, no, no. They’re not members of ABBA; they were members of the Swedish Academy that very same year.


If I were a betting man, which I am, then I’d put my money on Bob Dylan being a fine choice for the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, which I won’t.

Do you not see something inherently wrong with that last statement?

As a curling colleague of mine and upstanding man of letters said to me this morning, “I’d rather an obscure Lithuanian rapper have won the award.”

Yes, indeed, something is most definitely awry in the state of Den…err…Sweden.


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Quote of the Day

Image result for milan kundera immortality

Milan Kundera is one of the more interesting characters in the world of literature. A political maverick in his birth land of the Czech Republic, he’s part rock star for many reasons. On top of being a highly lauded author, he’s one of a handful of respected writers who actually uses his second language (French) to tell his stories. He’s also constantly in the mix for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Perhaps his most alluring/enticing (strange/frightening?) trait is that he’s got a bit of the J.D. Salinger going on, rarely offering press interviews and going incognito much of the time.

Whatever the case, he’s so much more than his most famous work, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. While that’s a great book (and film!), all four of the books I’ve read by him have had something to offer that another one didn’t.

In the wake of pus**gate and the U.S. political arena’s equivalent to Chernobyl, I think Mr. Kundera would offer these sage words from the last novel he wrote in Czech, Immortality:

“Woman is the future of man. That means that the world that was once formed in man’s image will now be transformed into the image of woman. The more technical and mechanical, cold and metallic it becomes, the more it will need the kind of warmth that only the woman can give it. If we want to save the world, we must adapt to the woman, let ourselves be led by the woman, let ourselves be penetrated by the…eternally feminine.”

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