Thursday, October 15, 2020

Nobel Prize countdown

Nobel Prize countdown 

      The Ladbrokes odds list has added a few names -- endearingly continuing their why-bother-to-look-up-the-proper-spelling policy ("Both Strauss") -- and some of them are certainly contenders, but overall it doesn't look like there's too much enthusiasm behind it this time around. 
       At the Västerbottens-Kuriren they suggest it will be a 'lex Wästberg'-year -- i.e. Per Wästberg will put his foot down and get his candidate through, foreign and female, they suggest, with Jamaica Kincaid and Anne Carson the hot tickets; some others also mention Dubravka Ugrešić (though I think another Central/East European author might be a stretch this year). 

       As I wonder about what surprise the Nobel-deciding Swedish Academy can unleash this year -- to prove it's their show, and that they'll do whatever they feel like doing (Dylan, Handke, etc.) -- I have come across one Nobel-oddity: it seems that there's nothing in the statutes that says the award can't be awarded twice to the same author. 
       We think of the Nobel as a lifetime-achievement award, so it seems unlikely that they'd want to give the award to the same author twice but, unlike, say, the prix Goncourt (which has, of course, been awarded twice to the same author, as Romain Gary found his way around their one-and-done rule), it's apparently not unthinkable. 
       The Swedish Academy limits who can nominate an author for the prize -- and one of their rules is that you can't nominate yourself -- but, oddly, they don't seem to prohibit an author who has previously been awarded the prize being nominated again. In fact, the one time we know it happened -- and we only know who has been nominated through 1969, since the archives are sealed for fifty years after the prize deliberations -- it was two members of the Swedish Academy, i.e. the ultimate insiders, that were the nominators: in 1948 Hjalmar Gullberg and Einar Löfstedt suggested that Thomas Mann -- the 1929 laureate -- deserved the prize -- again. (Interestingly, the year Mann won the prize -- and the two previous times he was nominated -- only a single person nominated him each time.) 
       Mann is an interesting case, because he's one of the rare laureates where the Academy went out of their way to highlight a single one of his works when he got the Nobel, noting he was getting the prize: "principally for his great novel, Buddenbrooks, which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature" -- so arguably if there was an author who also deserved to get the prize for his other work, it was Mann. Indeed, an argument could be made that his body of work after he received the prize alone -- which includes the Joseph-tetralogy, Doktor Faustus, and some solid shorter and non-fiction work -- is, by itself, strong enough to be Nobel-worthy. 
       It seems the Nobel committee didn't take the suggestion very seriously -- an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the only one I could find reporting on the archive-findings, suggests the Academy was: 'opposed in principle' to re-rewarding a laureate and dismissed the idea pretty much out of hand. (In another odd coïncidence, the man giving the official thumbs-down was Anders Österling, who headed the Nobel committee that year; he had been the (lone) person to nominate Mann in 1929, when Mann got the prize; he had also nominated him in 1928.) 
       Still, if the Academy really wants to shake things up, this would be an amusing way of doing so. 
       So who would be the possible contenders ? There aren't that many to choose from (authors do have to be living to be eligible for the prize) -- and obviously the more recent ones haven't written enough work after they got the prize. Still, a few have published a reasonable number of new works -- and a few have published Nobel-worthy work; J.M.Coetzee would seem the obvious contender here. 
       Okay, so a re-awarding is an unlikely scenario, but I like throwing the idea out there, to further muddy the Nobel waters 

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