Tag Archives: Nobel prize

“Independent people” by Halldor Laxness


“Do yourself a favour and read Independent People. Opening this book is like opening a chest of treasures.”. – Chicago Tribune. Indeed, though arm yourself with a ton of patience, I would say. This was not a fun reading and I suspect it was not a fun translation job. It has to be said that the English translation by J. A. THOMPSON is considered one of the finest into any language of Laxness’s masterpiece.

The main character, Bjartur, requires a lot of patience. His stubbornness is monumental and costs him his wives and children’s lives. His idea of an independent man as an owner of sheep and land is explained at length against the background of economic rise and fall of Iceland during the WWI and shortly after. At some point, the novel felt like a economics and political science book, which was rather annoying, as it did not seem to add to the understanding of the character. Nevertheless, the value of the book of this author awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and its translation in English remains indisputable.

“Something I’ve been meaning to tell you” by Alice Munro


untitledMy choice of the next writer having won a Nobel Prize for Literature was guided by a desire for a feminine touch with a modern writing allure. I gladly learned that in 2013 the Nobel Prize was awarded to Alice Munro, a Canadian writer. She was awarded the prize cited as a “master of the contemporary short story”. She is the first Canadian and the 13th woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The title of the book caught my attention by the mistery the word “something” implied. This book is a collection of 13 short stories first published in 1974. I am not a fan of short stories as they almost always leave a “so what’s next” question unanswered. Alice Munro stories, by contrast, give a clear sense of the story’s end, some even too abrupt to my taste.
Some stories are personalized and presented as the author’s own experience, some have feminine characters, ten year old girls, teenagers, married women, seniors.
Of the 13 stories, I liked most the “Forgiveness in families”. It passes on the message of practicing tolerance and compassion with members of the family, who willingly or unwillingly push our buttons. It is the story of a relationship between a brother and a sister, whose life’s views and lifestyles clash. Their mother’s sudden illness brings them together in the most unorthodox way. The story left a sunny print on my beliefs about siblings’ relationships.
On many occasions, I caught myself thinking that the writing did not do justice to some of the feminine characters by letting them live in a state of confusion, endless search of self, or an exacerbating dependence on a male love. For instance the character in “The Spanish Lady” whose husband of twenty years got a mistress, her best friend. The character’s daughters are gown up and experience their lives while she feels empty and betrayed to a level of finding an imaginary admirer meant probably to reassure her feminine self worth. While far from contesting the presentation of the author’s reality, I would have liked the fiction to be a bit more up-lifting and serene. In the last story “The Otawa Story” the author herself seems to acknowledge this and do justice to her characters.

“Doctor Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak


My wonders in the Nobel Prize for Literature world brought me to east, Russia. The last Russian author I read was in high school.61drUbHB53L._AA160_

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1958 was awarded to Boris Pasternak “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition” reads the Nobel Prize Committee website.Boris Pasternak first accepted the award, but was later caused by the authorities of his country to decline the prize. First published in 1957 in Italy, this book appeared on Russian libraries shelfs only in 1987, being banned for twenty years by Russian authorities.

“Doctor Zhivago” is a plain emotionally demanding reading. Anxieties and worries for now and future, regrets of lost identity or fortune dominate the story. Moments of light and love are rare in that period of Russian turmoil at the beginning of 20th century. Even apparently characters appear corrupted by this dominant pain. It’s an insight into Russian spirit of a great nation, which akin to an eternally rebelling teenager makes the wrong choices times and times again.

You’ll require patience to read it. And a great deal of zen. I have none at this time. Will put it back on shelf for now and give it later another try.

« Treaties on parents and children » by Bernard Shaw


My next book choice from my “To Read All Nobel Prize for Literature” project took me to the world of Bernard Shaw.

One hundred years later, George Bernard Shaw’s Treaties on parents and children (1914) may still challenge quite a few minds and ‚values’. So get ready for a mental earthquake, if a combination of dramatic, comic and socially corrective attitudes are not an usual spot for you, as a reader.

His ability to capture the essence of parents- children relations with no hypocrisy attached is what made me an immediate fan. Much comes from his childhood.”A benefit to the child may be a burden to the parent, but people become attached to their burdens sometimes more than burdens are attached to them, and to ‚suffer little children’ has become an affectionate impulse deep in our nature”.

In the book, and as one can see from his biography, he is a fierce advocate of children’ rights and the essence of his beliefs about children is that a child is an experiment, not of parents, but of the Life Force. He asks for Sense, not Logic, in dealing with children. You’ll find a call there for a ‚Child’s Magna Carta’ determined by the English realities back then, which is valid even today given global realities.

It’s amazing how a piece written one hundreds years ago still resonates with what is happening in the today’s education system in many, if not the majority of, places on earth. But I assume this is what it’s called a work of a genius. I would say it’s a must read piece for any minister of education and all school masters.  His quote ‚Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not ” says quite a lot and, from what the ‚Treaties’ illustrates, in a plurality of areas and topics.

If in doubt about this piece’s modernity, read this: „As I write these lines, the Home Secretary is explaining that a man who has been imprisoned for blasphemy must not be released because his remarks were painful to the feelings of his pious fellow townsmen” and will capture immediately the parallel with what happened to Pussy Riot in Russia in the year 2012.

It’s a book to revisit on many accounts and concepts: what is perfection, human rights, christianity, learning, knowledge, freedom, tolerance, breastfeeding, women emancipation, mother-in-law behaviour  explained, power of human will, art education, religous education etc.

And yes, Shaw can make a show even hundreds years later, with genuinity and love.

„My name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk


I am happy my “Read all Nobel Prizes in Literature’ project took me to the Turkish land of the 16th century.

I finished the book. Wished it would have lasted for at least few extra dozens of pages. It’s a dazzling story of a murdered artist in the Istanbul of that time. The story surrounds very talented miniaturists who have been commissioned by the  sultan to illustrate  a book to celebrate his life and times. One of them disappears and here it goes…

It is an unusual book. Each of 59 chapters takes the reader to a different planet. With a renewed passion and freshness. From the world viewed by a corpse, coin, horse to a world seen and told about by a  murderer, color red, two dervishes. I’ve learned tons of facts from Ottoman history, traditions, culture, beliefs, values. On a basic human dimension, the universal lunge for love (which is mentioned 321 times) is omnipresent.

It’s a book to love: it’s quite inspirational – yielded inspiration for at least two dozens of posts. To exemplify but few „paining is the silence of thought and the music of sight’, ‚God must’ve wanted the art of illumination to be ecstasy so He could demonstrate how the world itself is ecstasy to those who truly see’. „Beauty is the eye discovering in our world what the mind already knows’…

My deepest appreciations go also to the translator, Erdağ M. Göknar. His choice of words has given the best gift a reader can hope for: total loyalty to and authenticity of atmosphere.

My To Read List: All Nobel Prizes in Literature


The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded 104 times to 108 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2011. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/. By the way, Winston Churchill won his Nobel prize in Literature, not Peace).

I am kind of lagging behind. And got distracted by the fuss around “50 Shades of Grey” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-18618648. And after 50 pages of “50 shades …” I can attest that the distraction was not worth it. Sorry, E.L. James.

So, back to my list. Shall I go for Pamuk? “My Name is Red” sounds good. Amazon, please!


Kansas City Library

1. Mo Yan, 2012

2. Tomas Tranströmer, 2011

3. Mario Vargas Llosa, 2010. Read “The Bad Girls” in Jan.2012 🙂

4. Herta Müller, 2009.  Read “Travelling in one leg”  in Jan.2012 🙂

5. Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, 2008
6.  Doris Lessing, 2007
7.  Orhan Pamuk, 2006.  Read “My Name is Red’ in 2012 🙂
8. Harold Pinter, 2005
9. Elfriede Jelinek, 2004
10. John M. Coetzee, 2003
11. Imre Kertész, 2002
12.  Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, 2001
13. Gao Xingjian, 2000
14.  Günter Grass, 1999
15. José Saramago, 1998
16.  Dario Fo, 1997
17.  Wislawa Szymborska, 1996
18.  Seamus Heaney, 1995
19. Kenzaburo Oe, 1994
20. Toni Morrison, 1993
21. Derek Walcott, 1992
22. Nadine Gordimer, 1991
23. Octavio Paz, 1990
24. Camilo José Cela, 1989
25. Naguib Mahfouz, 1988
26. Joseph Brodsky, 1987
27. Wole Soyinka, 1986
28. Claude Simon, 1985
29.  Jaroslav Seifert, 1984
30.  William Golding, 1983
31.  Gabriel García Márquez.  Read  in 2004 🙂
32.  Elias Canetti, 1981
33.  Czeslaw Milosz, 1980
34.  Odysseus Elytis, 1979
35. Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1978
36.  Vicente Aleixandre, 1977
37.  Saul Bellow, 1976
38. Eugenio Montale, 1975
39.  Eyvind Johnson, Harry Martinson, 1974
40.  Patrick White, 1973
41. Heinrich Böll, 1972
42. Pablo Neruda, 1971
43. Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, 1970
44.  Samuel Beckett, 1969
45. Yasunari Kawabata, 1968
46.  Miguel Angel Asturias, 1967
47.  Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Nelly Sachs, 1966
48.  Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov, 1965
49.  Jean-Paul Sartre, 1964
50.  Giorgos Seferis, 1963
51.  John Steinbeck, 1962
52.  Ivo Andric, 1961
53.  Saint-John Perse, 1960
54.  Salvatore Quasimodo, 1959
55.  Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, 1958
56. Albert Camus, 1957 Read “The Plague’ in 1993 🙂
57.  Juan Ramón Jiménez, 1956
58.  Halldór Kiljan Laxness, 1955
59.  Ernest Miller Hemingway, 1954
60.  Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, 1953
61.  François Mauriac, 1952
62.  Pär Fabian Lagerkvist, 1951
63.  Earl (Bertrand Arthur William) Russell, 1950
64.  William Faulkner, 1949
65.  Thomas Stearns Eliot, 1948
66.  André Paul Guillaume Gide, 1947
67.  Hermann Hesse, 1946
68.  Gabriela Mistral, 1945
69.  Johannes Vilhelm Jensen, 1944
70.  Frans Eemil Sillanpää, 1939
71. Pearl Buck, 1938
72.  Roger Martin du Gard, 1937
73.  Eugene Gladstone O’Neill, 1936
74.  Luigi Pirandello, 1934
75.  Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin, 1933
76.  John Galsworthy, 1932
77.  Erik Axel Karlfeldt, 1931
78. Sinclair Lewis, 1930
79.  Thomas Mann, 1929
80.  Sigrid Undset, 1928
81.  Henri Bergson, 1927
82. Grazia Deledda, 1926
83.  George Bernard Shaw, 1925
84.  Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont, 1924
85.  William Butler Yeats, 1923
86.  Jacinto Benavente, 1922
87.  Anatole France, 1921
88.  Knut Pedersen Hamsun, 1920
89.  Carl Friedrich Georg Spitteler, 1919
90.  Karl Adolph Gjellerup, Henrik Pontoppidan, 1917
91.  Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam, 1916
92.  Romain Rolland, 1915
93.  Rabindranath Tagore, 1913
94.  Gerhart Johann Robert Hauptmann, 1912
95.  Count Maurice (Mooris) Polidore Marie Bernhard Maeterlinck, 1911
96.  Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse, 1910
97.  Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf, 1909
98.  Rudolf Christoph Eucken, 1908
99.  Rudyard Kipling, 1907. Read the “Jungle Book” in 2012 🙂
100.  Giosuè Carducci, 1906
101.  Henryk Sienkiewicz, 1905. Read “Quo Vadis: a narrative of time of Nero” in 1996 🙂
102.  Frédéric Mistral, José Echegaray y Eizaguirre, 1904
103.  Bjørnstjerne Martinus Bjørnson, 1903
104.  Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen, 1902
105.  Sully Prudhomme, 1901