Have I mentioned that my work is very loosely related to the procurement of Nobel Prizes? In medicine, not literature, but there is an item on my ongoing To Do list that simply says “Nobel Prize” because in a small way, my job is to figure out how to get one for my employer. So you can imagine it has been an exciting week around here but now that the science prizes have been awarded (we didn’t win) I can focus my attention on the one that makes me excited. Tomorrow is Literature Nobel Day and the odds are on Haruki Murakami. While we wait for the announcement, let’s revisit ten pieces of writing from the current list of Nobel awardees.
10. Ernest Hemingway – A Moveable Feast
Not part of the oeuvre for which the prize was awarded, but A Moveable Feast does give us ‘Hemingway and Fitzgerald penis measuring episode.’
9. Knut Hamsun – Growth of the Soil
If you had asked me three weeks ago, Hamsun wouldn’t have made this list but I would have been wrong. If you’re a 100 Year Book Club follower, you’ll know the greatness of Hamsum.
8. Naguib Mahfouz – Cairo Trilogy
Mahfouz wrote mostly about ordinary people dealing with westernization in Cairo and his Cairo trilogy follows a family through three generations. Mahfouz was not popular with Egyptian theologians and barely survived an assassination attempt when he was 82. He was a badass and his work will resonate with those who continue the struggle for democracy in the Middle East.
7. Rudyard Kipling – [poem] “If”
Because I loved this poem when I was a kid and I still kind of love it.
6. Imre Kertesz – Kaddish for an Unborn Child
Not even a novel but a novella, really. Translated from the Hungarian it’s about failure and fear.
5. Pablo Neruda – [poem] – “Sonnet 17”
Because you didn’t have a complete college experience unless you took your panties off for a hipster who read you Neruda.
4. Samuel Beckett – Waiting for Godot
Because you can’t re-read this play without thinking of Patrick Stewart and his bff Ian McKellen traipsing around New York in their silly hats.
3. Wislawa Szymborska – [poem] “Tutaj / Here”
Translated from the Polish her poetry is unfussy and for the everyday.
2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
1. Alice Munro – The Bear Came Over the Mountain
Munro is Canadian, and female and far outside of the intelligentsia who usually win this sort of prize. I love every single one of her stories but The Bear Came Over the Mountain is among the most heart-breaking so start there but then read them all.