At first glance, it may seem that the Nobel Prize in Literature creates conflict between reading communities around the world. Often, this does happen. Recall the storm of mixed reviews that followed Bob Dylan receiving the 2016 Literature Prize? For some, it is evidence of how divided the literary community is. But, this year’s prize winner should remind us that there are times when we are almost-universally touched by a story, engulfed in a narrative or amazed by sheer creativity.
Literature Prize Issues
Don’t get me wrong – there are some serious issues with this Nobel Prize. Of the 113 laureates, only 14 are women and they have mostly been awarded to Europeans. The criteria for determining the award is vague. In Alfred Nobel’s will, it simply qualifies “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. The Swedish Academy has to interpret what ‘ideal direction’ means. This usually results in the award being granted to someone who has largely impacted the field over many years through their writing.
Therefore, the average winning age is 65 years old. The biggest issue with the prize is that there are too many people to give it to. Across numerous writing markets, there are varying levels on influence that makes dozens of writers eligible. Examples include Chimimande Ngozi Adichie, JK Rowling, Phillip Roth, Haruki Murakami and Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
Even though the literature prize can’t be perfect, it can be good. It shines the spotlight on years of crafted creativity and influence. It recognises a lifetime of dedication to telling stories and touching lives. This year’s winner, Kazuo Ishuguro, writes what the Swiss Academy describes as “novels of great emotional force” These intense writings have “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”. However, most people likely may not have heard of Ishuguro let alone read any of his work. Now, the entire world is given a great reminder that Ishuguro and others like him are penning magnificent tales.
Whether, you support the prize or not, it creates a platform for appreciation. For now, let’s get ourselves a copy of The Remains of the Day and understand how Ishuguro won the prize.
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