In my first preview of this year's Nobel Prize in Literature I figured that the Swedish Academy was pretty likely to continue the trend of recent years, of announcing the winner in the same week as those in most of the other Nobels -- i.e. next week, when the Medicine prize will be announced Monday, the Physics prize Tuesday, the Chemistry prize Wednesday, and the Peace prize on Friday.
the chances are very good -- say, upward of 85 per cent -- that the winner will be announced on 6 October
Normally, we would have had confirmation (or not) of that on Monday: the Swedish Academy traditionally announces that they will announce the winner (always revealed on a Thursday) on the Monday preceding the announcement; so, for example, last year they announced on 5 October that they would reveal the winner on 8 October.
But this year they've done things differently: Swedish academician Per Wästberg (and, surprisingly, not permanent secretary Sara Danius, whom one would expect to make all Nobel-related announcements) has given an interview in which he has stated that the prize will be announced on the second possible date (it's always a Thursday in October -- but it can be any Thursday): 13 October.
(Note that there is no press release at the Swedish Academy to that effect, and the official Nobel site still maintains: "Literature: The date will be set later"; presumably they didn't get the memo -- or are so shocked by this un-traditional way of spreading the word that they can't bring themselves to confirm it -- since it's unlikely that Wästberg went completely rogue and is just making things up.)
Wästberg maintains it's business as usual, and the calendar just plays out this way -- "Det är en rent matematisk ritual".
Let's be clear: that's bullshit.
It's unclear what exactly is up, but this definitely isn't business as usual.
The last time the first Thursday in October fell on the 6th (and hence when the schedule should have been exactly the same as Wästberg lays out for this year ...) was as recently as 2011; the Swedish Academy had no difficulty -- mathematical or otherwise -- announcing on that day that Tomas Tranströmer was the Nobel laureate
The last time the Swedish Academy did not award the Nobel prize on 6 October when they could have (and when the other major Nobel prizes were announced in that week) was 2005 -- but on that occasion they saw no reason no announce any delays or anything: Monday 3 October came and went without them announcing-they-would-be-announcing on Thursday the 6th (so everyone knew we would have to wait at least another week); on Monday 10 October (and not a moment earlier) they announced that they would announce the winner on Thursday 13 October, as they then did
[Updated:] Most damning of all: in 2003 they had no problem announcing the winner all the way back on 2 October (!) -- actually announcing it the week before all the other Nobel's were announced (which is very unusual).
On the other hand, Coetzee was probably an easy choice (i.e. there wasn't much need for much discussion).
Clearly, they have not reached an agreement on this year's winner -- but one has to wonder why they didn't just let us all stew until Monday and then let us realize that for ourselves with their non-announcement.
Odd, too, is Wästberg's certainty -- how can they be sure of reaching agreement next week ?
(Indeed, I assume there's at least a low-level possibility -- say, 1 to 3 per cent -- that the announcement gets delayed another week, to 20 October.
(And, hey, if they want or feel the need to, they're still doing their job if they only announce on the 27th.))
The Swedish Academy has managed to be pretty hush-hush about this year's proceedings -- last year, for example, they at least revealed, very early on, how many authors were in the running -- so this is an odd sort of slip.
I don't think there's much more of a takeaway here than that there isn't a clear frontrunner among the (presumably) four or five finalists they're considering.
(The only alternative explanation I can think of is that they really didn't want the announcement to be so much earlier than the Frankfurt Book Fair which itself is being held considerably later than usual (19 to 23 October).)
But more speculation/gossip time is always welcome .....
They announced the winners of the Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize 2016 last week, and in the Daily Nation Joseph Ngunjiri suggests these Prizes a glimpse into sorry state of Kenyan literature.
The problem ?
The same authors keep winning, over and over.
Not that they aren't deserving -- but are three-time winners Ng'ang'a Mbugua and John Habwe really such dominant figures ?
(And even though they are the leading literary-prize-winners ... well, well-read as my audience is -- and with its large Kenyan contingent -- many of you are actually familiar with their work -- but, let's face it, not that many of you .....)
Interesting that a lot of the blame is heaped on publishers, and a lack of a proper editing culture.
Local favorite (with a dozen of his books under review) Peter Weiss was born 8 November 1916, so centenary-time is quickly approaching.
Getting things started is the Peter Weiss 100 festival at HAU Hebbel am Ufer, which runs through 8 October.
Among the German publications to look forward to in the coming weeks are the definitive edition of his great The Aesthetics of Resistance, as well as the first real biography, Werner Schmidt's Peter Weiss - Biografie; I hope to be able to get (to) both of them.
So what do US/UK publishers have planned ?
(I know, I know .....
Why do I even bother asking .....)
They've announced the six-title-strong shortlist for this year's Goldsmiths Prize -- "awarded to a book that is deemed genuinely novel and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterizes the genre at its best".
None of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review, but some look quite interesting.
They were selected from 111 entries; the winner will be announced 9 November.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frédéric Dard's The Wicked Go To Hell -- another in the Dard-series Pushkin Press is bringing out.
It's great to see these, but this one is kind of overshadowed by the film it is based on (yes, it's sort of a 'novelisation').
The Constantijn Huygens-prijs is probably the leading Dutch author-prize, with most (if not quite all) of the major post-war Dutch (and Flemish) writers having won it, and they've now announced that Atte Jongstra has won this year's prize.
It would seem that none of his work has been translated into English yet, but see the Dutch Foundation for Literature Atte Jongstra-page for more information -- and De Multatulianen is definitely something I have to seek out.
(Two Multatuli titles are under review at the complete review: the classic Max Havelaar, as well as The Oyster & the Eagle.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Roberto Pazzi's papal-election novel from 2001, Conclave.
I am very much looking forward to The Ghost- (etc.) author Robert Harris' own Conclave -- just out in the UK; coming to the US in November; see the Knopf publicity page, get your copy at Amazon.co.uk or pre-order it at Amazon.com -- and I figured this would be good preparation/point of comparison.
The first Newman Prize for Chinese Literature went to Sandalwood Death-author Mo Yan in 2009 -- three years before he won the Nobel Prize -- and the four others who have gone on to win this biennial author-prize are pretty impressive too: A Dictionary of Maqiao-author Han Shaogong, Yang Mu, and Chu T'ien-Wen.
Now they've announced the 2017 winner of the prize -- Wang Anyi, who will receive the prize 3 March.
None of her titles are under review at the complete review yet, but of course she features in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.
Quite a few of her titles have been published in English; see, for example, her 'novel of Shanghai', The Song of Everlasting Sorrow; see the Columbia University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
David Hare's The Red Barn, his adaptation of Georges Simenon's La main, opens at the National Theatre on 6 October -- see also the Faber publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.co.uk -- and in The Observer he has a nice piece on the master, David Hare: the genius of Georges Simenon.
La main was translated into English, as The Man on the Bench in the Barn, soon after it appeared in French, but seems to be out of print (though you can probably get a used copy cheap at Amazon.com, or in the Tenth Simenon Omnibus-paperback at Amazon.co.uk); hopefully, Penguin will have another go at it in their reviving Simenon-series.
Meanwhile, one of what Hare calls: "his greatest books" is under review at the complete review: The Widow.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pascal Garnier's The Eskimo Solution, an early one from when he made the transition from kids' book author to something more creepily adult -- as does his protagonist in this one.
They've announced the winner of this year's prix Sade.
French literary prizes generally have a poor-to-non-existent web presence, but even here the prix Sade stands out in taking the worst approach imaginable: solely having a 'Facebook' page -- which is, alas, apparently currently the only place you can find a mention of who won (here -- and my apologies for linking to a page at that cesspit of a site).
(Updated - 26 September): See now also the Livres Hebdo report.
The winning title is Un désir d'humain: Les «love doll» au Japon, by Agnès Giard; see the Les Belles Lettres publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.fr.
Looking at the author's official site, it certainly looks like she knows her stuff -- and she's certainly written extensively on the subject matter(s).
I'm a few days late with this, but they've announced the longlist for the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature, a Canadian prize that nevertheless pays out in US dollars -- a tidy 75,000 to the winning author.
A manageable longlist of only six titles -- that will be cut in half in short order, with the finalist announcement already coming 3 October.
The 'literature' the prize honors is limited to non-fiction, but within those limitations they get to a pretty interesting variety of books; I haven't read or reviewed any of these, but could see myself getting to several.
Previous winners of the relatively new South Korean author prize, the Pak Kyong Ni Prize, include Amos Oz (last year), Marilynne Robinson (2013), and Lyudmila Ulitskaya (2012), and they've now announced that this year's winner of the 100 million won (ca. US$90,000) prize is the great and certainly deserving Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.
No word yet at the official site, last I checked, but see, for example, the Dong-A Ilboreport.
It's actually been more or less available for a few weeks already -- and selling well, if the Amazon.com sales rank is anything to go by -- but today is apparently the official publication date for Dalkey Archive Press' edition of John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's magnum opus (emphasis on the magnum ...), Bottom's Dream, and so you should readily be able to get a copy.
Just don't expect to finish it over the weekend .....
No (print) press coverage of note yet, and certainly no reviews (somehow Publishers Weekly (etc.) don't seem to have gotten through the near-1500 pages yet ...), but this hard-to-overlook volume, and this historic publication (it is a big, big deal) should get some coverage sooner rather than later (indeed, I understand the Wall Street Journal is due to have something on it this weekend [Updated - 24 September]: and here we have it: see now Steven Norton's report).
(Meanwhile, of course, I remind you many of his other (generally more accessible -- and all considerably shorter) works are available in John E Woods' translation from Dalkey Archive Press and Green Integer -- and if you want a general Arno Schmidt introduction you can turn to my litttle monograph, Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, or on Kindle: get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leon de Winter's recent thriller, Geronimo, in which he suggests the killing of Osama bin Laden went down very differently than we think.
This is the eighth de Winter title under review at the complete review, and I've often expressed surprise that so few of these have been translated into English.
A longtime former US resident, de Winter would seem well-positioned to break into the American market, but has had very limited success.
As to this one -- not yet translated into English -- I can see how its politics (Obama is painted in a ... bad light) might be problematic; on the other hand, there are surely some publishers who might be interested in it just for that reason .....
(More problematic, of course, is that, politics aside, it just isn't that good .....)
The Schweizer Buchpreis -- which isn't really the Swiss Book Prize, but rather the Swiss Book Prize for books written in German ... -- has announced its five-title shortlist, selected from 83 (unrevealed) submissions.
It includes a book by Imperium-author Christian Kracht, as well as just one title that had also made the German Book Prize longlist, Michelle Steinbeck's Mein Vater war ein Mann an Land und im Wasser ein Walfisch.
The winner of the CHF 30,000 prize will be announced on 13 November.
I can't really fathom why the French see the need for a Grand prix de littérature américaine -- like American fiction doesn't get enough attention in France ... -- but, hey, they do, and they've now announced their longlist.
At least it's one of those rare foreign-language prizes where everything is familiar and available in the US/UK.
The shortlist will be announced 11 October, and the winner on 4 November.
An independent publishing house founded in London in 2016 with a focus on modern and contemporary Scandinavian literature.
Sounds sort of like what Norvik Press has been doing for a while, but it's always good to have more publishers covering this territory -- there's certainly room (i.e. enough deserving titles that should be published in English), for them and more .....
Their first book will apparently be Havoc, by Tom Kristensen -- nothing new (the University of Wisconsin Press brought this out almost half a century ago), but long out of print.
(And New York Review of Books is apparently coming out with this in the US -- which on the one hand speaks for the quality of the book, on the other hand makes it a bit disappointing that they didn't choose something with which to make their first mark in both the US and UK markets all their own.)
They've announced the shortlist for the biennial Australian Academy of the Humanities Medal for Excellence in Translation, with three impressive if very different titles: two old classics -- the I Ching and The Old Javanese Rāmāyana, as well as a Patrick Modiano (Paris Nocturne).
I actually have two of these -- the I Ching and the Modiano -- and they both look quite impressive (in very different ways).
What used to be The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, from 1999 through last year, is now apparently something called the 'Baillie Gifford Prize' (this Baillie Gifford apparently able to pony up enough sponsorship money to displace the long dead (and presumably, for all intents and purposes, destitute) Samuel Johnson as headliner).
They're announcing their longlist today -- and while the information isn't yet up at the official site, as I write this, the papers have the scoop: see, for example, Alison Flood's report in The Guardian, Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich heads longlist for UK''s top nonfiction award.
The shortlist will be announced 17 October, and the winner on 15 November.
They've announced the 2016 (Georgian) Saba (საბა) Literary Prizes in ten categories; see also the Agenda,ge report, 2016 Saba Literary Prize winners revealed.
The interesting ones are of course the fiction winners, and one hopes that eventually one or the other will make it into English; meanwhile, the translation prizes went to Tamar Japaridze, for his translation of John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman into Georgian, and to Lyn Coffin, for her translation of Shota Rustaveli's The Knight in the Panther Skin from the Georgian (into English); see also the Troubador publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com.
There are some -- but of course far too few -- Georgian titles under review at the complete review.
The Royal Society 'Insight Investment' Science Book Prize has announced that this year's £25,000 prize goes to The Invention of Nature, Andrea Wulf's Alexander von Humboldt-biography; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Alexander von Humboldt was a fascinating guy (as was brother Wilhelm), so the subject-matter is certainly of interest.
The Jonathan Swift-Preis is, somewhat surprisingly, a Swiss author prize.
(Well, on the other hand ... what Swiss author could they have named an 'international literary prize for satire and humor' after ?)
They've now announced (scroll down) that The Weather Fifteen Years Ago-author Wolf Haas will be getting this year's CHF 20,000 prize on 20 November -- mainly for his Brenner-novels, several of which Melville House has brought out in English.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ruth Scurr's much-praised biography (of (unusual) sorts), John Aubrey, My Own Life, now also out in a US edition, from New York Review Books (in a rare hardcover-edition).
They will begin announcing the Nobel Prizes the week of 3 October, and while the Nobel Prize in Literature waits before announcing when they will announce the prize-winner (the winner of that prize is always announced on a Thursday in October, but they only reveal which Thursday on the Monday of that week, while the schedule for the rest is already set [the 'at the earliest'-caveat listed next to each prize for now refers only to the time, not the date; sometimes these things get delayed a bit]), in recent years the Swedish Academy has faithfully taken that Thursday-spot during the big Nobel-announcement-week.
I.e. we can expect this year's winner to be announced on 6 October (and we will know on 3 October if that is actually the case, or if we have to wait another week).
[Having grown almost boringly predictable, I think the chances are very good -- say, upward of 85 per cent -- that the winner will be announced on 6 October.
This is fairly early in October, however, and there is a chance that they won't have enough deliberation-time until then, and will choose to take a few more days.
With the Frankfurt Book Fair scheduled very late this year -- 19 to 23 October --, while the Nobel announcement has often come in Frankfurt-week in recent years, there's a bit less pressure than usual to get the name out quickly too; 13 October would be well in time for Frankfurt too (and the 20th would do, too).]
In any case, by now the Swedish Academy is presumably in the final stages of choosing the winner (while probably not actually having settled on a name yet).
At the beginning of the summer they traditionally narrow down the list of contenders to five or so -- but don't reveal who these are.
Sometimes rumors float, but this year there's been very little information -- nothing credible that I've come across.
(Disappointingly, they haven't even revealed how many names were submitted and originally considered (information Peter Englund occasionally revealed).)
So there's very little to go on.
Everyone's favorite first point of reference are the betting sites, which give you odds on any number of authors -- which sometimes provides some insight or clues into who the Swedish Academy might be considering.
So, for example, last year's winner Svetlana Alexievich popped up on the betting lists out of nowhere in 2013, suggesting she had made the shortlist, and she was a betting favorite all last year -- and actually won.
For the most part, however, the betting lists include more or less the same authors, at similar odds, from year to year.
This year, you can find and compare odds at:
Ladbrokes - the leader in the Nobel-betting field -- and offering the biggest field
And there's NicerOdds, which collects and compares odds from these two sites and not-available-in-the-US paf
So Murakami Haruki is the betting front-runner at 5/1 -- but the sites already diverge regarding the next strongest candidates: Adonis' odds range from 13/2 to 25/1, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's from 7/1 to 10/1 (so, depending on who you favor, watch where you place your bet to maximize your potential winnings).
The two things to look out for on the betting lists are big changes in the odds -- suggesting, possibly, that someone has some insider information, that a certain name is on the shortlist (remember: at this point in time, it is unlikely they have actually selected the winning author yet, so the best you can hope for is guessing one of the finalists) -- and new names that pop up on the list.
So, for example, Doris Kareva, at a healthy 33/1 on the Ladbrokes list, is someone who hasn't previously figured on these lists.
Is she a contender ?
I'd suggest a poet from Estonia is unlikely to bag the prize the year after an author who also grew up in the Soviet Union did.
(I would also imagine there's some regional competition from (unlisted but surely nominated by someone) Finnish author Sofi Oksanen -- though for now she's probably simply too young (she'd be the youngest ever to get the prize if she did).)
Note also that there are some names on the lists that are entirely implausible: Ladbrokes continues to list Bob Dylan because people like betting on Bob Dylan, and there is simply no way they'll give the prize to Jussi Adler-Olsen (nor can I imagine that anyone has ever nominated him -- which I can't say for Dylan).
You can also find discussion board discussions at:
I haven't seen much media/personal/blog speculation so far, but shigekuni. does offer Nobel Prize 2016: My picks. [updated:] and The Birdcage has a Nobel Prize for Literature 2016 Speculation list, considering an impressively extensive list (with useful desciptions/explanations) of possible contenders (though, despite including four from (South) Korea -- the most from any country -- she doesn't include the one I'd put as local favorite, Yi Mun-yol).
So what do I think ?
Well, without much to go on it's pretty hard to say much.
There are some contenders (betting odds- or other-wise) that I think can be counted out -- say, Olga Tokarczuk, who has been tipped as high as 20/1 (in 2012) and is definitely a sometime prospect but too close to recent winners (geographically; subject matter) to have a strong chance this year.
And some perennials seem really long in the tooth -- retired Philip Roth, especially, but there's quite a list.
It's hard to get much of a sense of what the Swedish Academy is looking for (and I think they're enjoying that unpredictability).
So the best I can do, at least for now (there are still a couple of weeks to go -- time enough for rumors to spread and odds to change) is go with the authors I think are most likely/deserving:
- Jon Fosse's name popped up at the same time as Alexievich's, and it seems pretty clear that he's somewhere in the running; sure, if they're going Scandinavian, I'd prefer someone like Dag Solstad, but Fosse's output is very solid and he seems the top (near-)local candidate.
[Current Ladbrokes odds: 20/1]
- I can't see them not at least considering Juan Goytislo; getting on in years, but with a most impressive and Nobel-worthy output.
[Current Ladbrokes odds: 66/1]
- I've been saying Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is a top contender for years, and I suspect he's come close; I hope they're still considering him.
[Current Ladbrokes odds: 7/1]
- There are quite a few deserving Arabic authors, including perennial favorite Adonis, but I'd have to go with Ibrahim al-Koni.
[Current Ladbrokes odds: not listed]
- I still think Mahmoud Dowlatabadi should be seriously considered -- eminently deserving, and from the underappreciated (by the Swedish Academy ...) periphery.
(And if they do look to Iran, then Shahrnush Parsipur is, of course, also to be considered).
[Current Ladbrokes odds: not listed]
- At some point they won't be able to look beyond Man Booker International Prize-winner Krasznahorkai László -- I'm just not sure they're ready yet.
[Current Ladbrokes odds: 50/1]
- Does one of the longtime Australians -- Les Murray and Gerald Murnane -- have a chance ?
[Current Ladbrokes odds: both at 50/1]
I figure/hope other names will come into play too, as speculation (and gossip) heat up; I'll certainly be posting more as the announcement-date approaches.
In The Guardian John Walsh considers Old book, new look: why the classics are flying off the shelves, as: "British publishers are putting lots of money and energy into guessing what the new generation of classics buyers wants".
I'm generally for very simple, more-or-less uniform covers, but those new Penguins, in their hideous colors, achieve something I hadn't thought possible, being possibly too basic.
Still, interesting to hear about the various strategies and approaches -- and some of the numbers ("the bestselling classic this year is War and Peace, with 54,000 copies sold by 10 publishing houses, compared with 12,000 last year").
I'm not sure about some of this -- "Some people are intimidated by covers with oil paintings" ? -- but it's kind of fun to learn that, for example: "We tried film tie-in covers, but it was a disaster"
(Interesting also that the focus is so much on appearance, with practically no mention of, for example, the question of what translations are selected for the out-of-copyright classics.)