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Which ones make you scratch your head and wonder why?
Who do you think should have gotten it and didn't? (Remember the prize goes to living authors.)
Anyone who would like to read a very satirical novel about the process of selection of prize-winning books should read Carnage on the Committee by Ruth Dudley Edwards.
It is very funny and probably three parts true at that ...
My favorites were André Gide, Ernest Hemingway, and José Saramago, though I've only read one book each of Gide's and Saramago's. I think every one of those names has shown up in threads in this group, though :P
Even though I liked it, the book of Saramago's that I read was really confusing. The Tale of the Unknown Island is quite short, but it's apparently an allegory, and even after three or four readings, I couldn't figure it out. It could probably do with getting included as Awful Lit for the confusing factor, though it's not super long or super boring or super horribly written like so many other works listed here.
My favourite is Wislawa Szymborska, mostly because her German translator does a great job, the only German author I like is Heinrich Böll, I never was much of a fan of Hesse, Grass and Mann (haven't read the others). Pamuk and Oe are okay and I really liked Soyinka.
And I have to admit that I never finished any of Hemingways stories if they were longer than three pages. I tried, though.
The one Sienkiewicz book (Quo Vadis) I have read makes me wonder a bit...I mean, it was nice but there are dozens of books like that.
And the list of people who did not get the prize would go on and on, some of the more obvious are Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov.
But I kind of like the spirit they have, of picking a bit less-known authors, for big names with large international following it does not bring any new value if they get it or not, but for Mullers and Le Clezios it does.
And lest we forget, Nobel prizes almost always have political undertones.
Two I've tried and couldn't finish - Toni Morrison and William Faulkner.
Of the ten others I've read, I consider 5 of them formative. My Sinclair Lewis period, for example; just out of college, I read his whole shelf.
Same goes for Pearl Buck, Herman Hesse, Rudyard Kipling and John Steinbeck. I still return to Kipling and Steinbeck about once a year.
I read Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians just as we were rattling the war drums for Afganistan and Iraq. And he was spot-on. I'm still catching my breath before I try him again.
I also tried reading Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian and wasn't too pleased.
I also wasn't enjoying Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, so I left Mario Vargas Llosa at that.
Though I have to add, this happened years ago and I might have a different opinion now. I've read about 20 of them and except for those listed above, I've been pretty pleased with them.
Head-scratchers: obviously, people like Churchill, Sartre, Russell, Fo, who got the literature prize because there isn't a Nobel for war, philosophy, or clowning. I trust Pinter got his for his political interventions rather than his plays: certainly I've had a lot more enjoyment out of his Blair-baiting than I ever did from sitting through The birthday party. Galsworthy, GBS, Golding, Toni Morrison and V.S. Naipaul are all writers I'd class as good but not extraordinary: I don't begrudge them their prizes, but I wouldn't have picked them myself.
2wonderY's category of "formative" is useful - I think I'd put Kipling and Sinclair Lewis in there too, as well as Böll, Grass, Hesse, Eliot and Heaney, Thomas Mann and Patrick White. Laxness would have been formative if I'd heard of him earlier.
Writers who "should have got it" - given that the world is full of writers of genius, most of whom no-one bothers to read, the list could be endless. P.G. Wodehouse and Erich Kästner are the most glaring omissions from the list. :-)
If I return to any of them anytime soon, it'd be Churchill, whose The River War I've been thinking about getting.