Tag Archives: Swedish Academy

2017 Nobel Prize for Literature

Image result for Kazuo Ishiguro

Well, surprise, surprise. The good folks over at the Swedish Academy decided to give this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature to a writer! (Don’t get me started on their past choices, one of which includes awarding the prize in 1974 to Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, both members of the Swedish Academy at the time.)

Most people will be familiar with Kazuo Ishiguro through the film adaptation of his Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Remains of the Day, but Ishiguro has written much more than just that gem over the years. (Never Let Me Go!) In fact, I’m pretty sure all of his novels have been recipients of one award or another.

Born, quite literally, in the smoldering ashes of Nagasaki, Japan in 1954, he and his family moved to England when he was six years old. In recognition of his 35-year professional writing career, the Nobel Committee had this to say:

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2017 is awarded to the English author Kazuo Ishiguro

“who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.

Congratulations to Mr. Ishiguro, one of only three writers I’ve ever heard the great David Mitchell says he looks up to (the other two being A.S. Byatt and Seamus Heaney).

Per my good friend Allan W.’s question, the Nobel Prize for Literature has not always been given to novelists. Aside from Robert Zimmerman winning it as a song writer, Svetlana Alexievich, a writer and journalist from Belarus, became the first nonfiction writer to win the award in half a century.

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Quote of the Day

In the wake of all the new rules breaking down art into different categories, I’m stretching the limits a la Swedish, too. That’s why today’s Quote of the Day is a poem, William Blake’s “On Another’s Sorrow.” If you don’t think an 18-stanza poem is a quote, take it up with the Swedish Academy.

Said beautiful work of poetry was published in 1789 by Blake in his Songs of Innocence and Experience. Per the mighty Wiki, “The poem discusses human and divine empathy and compassion. It was published…as the last song in the Songs of Innocence section. Blake argues that human sympathy is a valuable trait. After making this observation about man he then speaks of the sympathy of God, as well.”

Can I see another’s woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow’s share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird’s grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear –

And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant’s tear?

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give His joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

Can I see another’s woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow’s share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird’s grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear –

And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant’s tear?

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give His joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

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The Nobel Prize in…Lyrics?

Image result for totally confused reader

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:

noun

1.

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.
2.

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

the literature of England.
3.

the writings dealing with a particular subject:

the literature of ornithology.
4.

the profession of a writer or author.
5.

literary work or production.
6.

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.

Barf.

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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