Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sweden Announces the 2007 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

I never know who the Nobel Prize for Literature award winner is. Ever. It’s always some person I’ve never heard of, and definitely never read for that matter. But this year. This year I thought I was on to something.

A few names kept popping up that I had actually heard of. I’d even read some books by a few of the people mentioned. Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Mario Vargas Llosa, names I’d actually heard. Granted I’ve only read stuff by Roth and McCarthy but still. It was a start. It was obvious that I’m just very well-read.

Nope. I was wrong. The award went to some 87 year old women from Britain. She has a pretty interesting story, some intrigue from a run-in with the Nobel committee. She never finished school, held all kinds of different jobs, she even has a very international heritage. She’s stood up for racial issues, feminist issues, and written quite a bit. But I’ve still never heard of her.

With her win Doris Lessing became the oldest person to ever win. Yay! I’ve never heard of her, never read anything by her, never even heard of anyone who has read something by her. Maybe she is a glorious writer. Maybe she is just misunderstood and because of it, not famous. Maybe the committee just wanted to award a really old lady something special before she dies. Or maybe they felt bad for being mean to her a long time ago and telling her that they just didn’t like her. I don’t know.

I do know that with this announcement, I go back to my illusions of well-readedness and my book shelf full of books not written by a Nobel Prize winner.

In other exciting Nobel news, another old person won. Gerhard Ertl, who turned 71 on the day of the announcement, won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Mogli has a nice post about this, and clearly has a better understanding of the topic than I do! Ertl works with surface chemistry, which as far as I can tell basically just helps people understand why the o-zone layer is thinning. No word yet if he’s an Al Gore fan.


  1. I've read her now you "know" someone who has ;) I am thrilled that she won, long overdue. Yes, she is old. Yes, she is a woman. Which kind of is a big no-no in the Nobel Prize world (of men..). And nope, don't for a second think they gave it to her just because they felt bad for being mean...she deserves the prize. And I'm happy that for once I actually recognise the name of the winner. Normally never do. Oh, hold on...I actually have a handwritten letter at home from someone who won the prize like 15 years ago. But, still can't remember his name *LOL*

  2. I'm glad someone is reading these Nobel Prize winners before they win. Sometimes it seems like the committee is choosing the obscure just because they can.

    I did read that she is only the 11th or 12th woman to win the prize since they started so that is pretty impressive.

    Lessing on the other hand seems less than impressed.

    I must say that I don't really buy the argument that she doesn't think this award means anything. Whether you agree with the process or the committee or anything about the award it is still a big deal to be chosen. People like to be recognized for what they do so to act as if this was the most natural thing in the world is surprising to me.

  3. Totally agree with you regarding her reaction to winning the prize. Had it been me (yeah, like that would ever happen!) I would have jumped up and down, screaming like a madwoman. But maybe she reacted that way because of shock. Or maybe not. Well, well...we all react differently.

    So, any takes on the Peace prize winners? ;)

  4. hehehe,,,it was funny about her reaction, like she doesn't bloody care. she doesn't even understand what the swedish academy meant by,"that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny." those were the words in the press release from nobel foundation. anyways, she acknowledged that this prize will resurrect many of her works and she'll surely get wider and younger readership. nice entry, by the way! sorry i couldn't help blogging about the chemistry prize. i thought i'd leave all the nobel-related blogging to you. ;)

  5. Yeah I just can't believe that someone who has spent a lifetime on an endeavor (like writing, or chemistry, or physics, or anything imaginable really) wouldn't care about receving a prestigious award, lots of money, and a whole lot of great publicity and marketing opportunities.

    I just added a link to your post about the chemistry winner. I loved the quote by Ertl and thought you had a very well written post about it!

  6. Yeah, I'm not tosure about Al Gore for the Peace prize. I just wrote a post about it that I'm going to post here pretty soon. Surprising for sure!