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Haruki Murakami

I wasn’t aware there are published odds for Nobel Prize for literature. Then I saw this post by Goodreads on Facebook about voting for the author whom you want win the prize. Nobel Prize has a short-list? Nobel has been known to emphasize how a candidate’s oeuvre has contributed to the value of literature and humanity. I can’t help feeling that the committee’s criteria lean more toward political cause than literary merit. How many winners have you heard before they were rewarded the prize? Only Toni Morrison and Jose Saramago for me. Doris Lessing yes but I have never read her. When Xinjian Gao, who lives in France on exile, was awarded the prize, China was abuzz with discordant voices that many Chinese authors were just as qualified. This year’s race is interesting to watch. How the media came up with the candidates is beyond me. But Haruki Murakami, whom I have just read for the first time recently, is among the favored. There’s some tension in the air in Japan. No, nothing to do with China or the husk of a dead volcano protruding from the East China Sea—the country is on tenterhooks as its most celebrated living author is among the favorites to win the highest honor awarded in literature, against a Kenyan author and Cormac McCarthy.

Speaking of Murakami, he is (well, his work) is love at first sight. I thoroughly enjoy After Dark, and am getting into The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle after a disappointing Peter Carey book.

25 Responses

  1. Murakami is my favorite author and for the past few years he’s been among the favored for the Nobel. Last year he and Amos Oz were pretty high up in the rumors and the award went to Herta Müller…who a lot of people had no idea who she was.

    If you look at the list of people who have previously won the Nobel for Literature, it’s VERY Eurocentric…and notably there are like six Swedish authors who won it.

    They actually had a member of the committee that votes make some noise a few years ago that Europe is still the center of literature and that other countries (notably America) isn’t worthy because they don’t translate enough novels into other languages (or words to that effect).

    In short, while I’d love for Murakami to win, and totally think he’s more than worthy for his work, I’d be really happily shocked if he did win.

    • I forgot about Garcia Marquez, John Steinbeck and Herta Müller after I wrote this post. And, didn’t Cynthia Oz win Nobel for Literature? I have long heard about Haruki Murakami and it’s not until last week that I finally read him. Looks like he’s getting in line for the prize. It’s just a matter of time.

      One of the committee members of the Swedish Academy openly criticized American literature for being too insular–too wrapped up in its own colors and culture. That remark of course sent media and readers abuzz in the United States. I do wish there are more translated literature here because they are difficult to find.

  2. I had never been aware that they published odds for the Nobel prize in literature either. When I read about it yesterday it sounded bizarre but I guess like anything that involves an award there is a publicity build up to it. I look forward to seeing who actually wins.

    • Neither did I until yesterday. of course I think it’s a rip-off, if not a scam since nobody really knows who might be considered in the list. The winner, Mario Vargas Llosa, is well deserved of the prize but nobody didn’t even hoot about him.

  3. Must say I hadn’t heard of many winners before their announcement either. Did know of and had read Toni Morrison, Patrick White (just as he got his early in my adulthood), Nadine Gordimer, Harold Pinter, JM Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk and Doris Lessing. A few others I’ve read since (like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Imre Kertesz) and some I’ve heard of and still haven’t read. But, quite a few are a mystery to me!

    I’d love to see Haruki Murakami win but, really, I think its time another Australian won!! Like Les Murray who has been touted as a possibility or David Malouf.

    • It’s a good reading exercise to explore some of the past Nobel winners. Nadine Gordimer, Imre Kertesz and Harold Pinter I’m meant to read. I thought Milan Kundera might be up for the prize but you just never know whom the Swedisn Academy would pick.

  4. Coincidentally I just read that same article like an hour ago. Would love for Murakami to win but I don’t think he will. I’ll go for anyone but McCarthy! (as you can see I’m not a fan) There have been buzz for a few years for Murakami to receive Nobel. Will it ever happen?

    Notable Nobel winners that I’ve enjoyed include Garcia Marquez, Coetzee. Ones I’d love to read are Steinbeck, Knut Hamsun, Camus, Kenzaburo Oe, etc. There are definitely many interesting figures in the list.

    • ny readers and book bloggers are in accord that Murakami’s accomplishment has transcended the Nobel Prize. I think from the fact that he’s been very favored to win the past two years, he is going to pocket the prize home someday, it’s just a matter of time.

      Knut Hamsun I tried to read but I’ve found Grwoth of the Soil a slog from start to finish.

  5. I really hope that Muakami wins.. I think he deserves it. I haven’t read a lot of the authors that have won so far – really want to read Coetzee and Steinbeck though. Really don’t understand last years winner though… sometimes the choices really confuse me.

    • I although I didn’t enjoy my first Coetzee book but I came to admire Disgrace tremendously. Steinbeck I have only recently re-discovered after a long hiatus since high school. I highly recommend East of Eden.

  6. It was love at first read for me too. I read Sputnik Sweethearts first (this was a long time ago), then dance dance dance (which is my favorite). But Wind up Bird Chronicles, I think, is THE Murakami Novel everyone should read.
    Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors. I love how he often dabbles with the unconscious.

    • I don’t know why it has taken so long for me to pick up a Murakami novel. It seems that everybody—readers, book bloggers, my literary friends—all love him! Everyone has a favorite Murakami novel when I read all the comments people have left for me as to where I should begin. I spotted Sputnik Sweethearts at the store and took it home with me. I enjoyed After Dark and am going to start The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

  7. I really like Murakami to win!! It is long overdue… I will be hunting down the Nobel Prize winners’ books and read them. I like Camus and Coetzee. Orhan Pamuk is next.

    I agree with you that the Prize winner won it because of some political reason or another.

    • I read Camus (two books) when I vacationed in Mexico on the beach. It was a surreal to read about a stranger on the beach while I was sun-bathing on the beach myself. Coetzee was an author that (for me) took a while getting used to. I enjoyed Disgrace, which truly lived up to what literature should be. Pamuk is difficult for me.

  8. I don’t care about Nobel, no matter they give the Prize to Haruki Murakami or not, he’s the winner to me long time ago. His achievement doesn’t need Nobel to recognise, his fans have already given him the award.

    I love Xinjian Gao. I studied his work “Station” in College before he won the Nobel Price. “Station” is such a surprise to me that contemporary Chinese literature can be that cool.

    • I enjoyed One Man’s Bible slightly more than Soul Mountain, although I recommend both works to everyone. As to the Nobel, I don’t know what exactly their criteria are but for sure there is a political quota.

  9. I don’t think they have a short list for the Nobel Prize – it is just betting companies releasing details of most betted on people.

    I’m not worried that I haven’t heard of most winners – most of the time they deserve to win, but just aren’t well known outside their own country. That is what I love about the Nobel prize – the way it highlights fantastic authors from around the globe. I’d love to see Murakami win this time, but I’d be equally happy if it goes to a fantastic author I’ve never heard of 🙂

    • It’s a good reading exercise to explore some of the past Nobel winners. Nadine Gordimer, Imre Kertesz and Harold Pinter I’m meant to read. I thought Milan Kundera might be up for the prize but you just never know whom the Swedisn Academy would pick. Haruki Murakami is a very gifted author who truly has a knack for human’s inner beings. He’s more than qualified for the award plus, I don’t think anyone from Japan has ever won?

  10. Haruki Murakami’s books fascinate me! He has the most ordinary characters with their set routines and rituals tossed into bizarre circumstances. I like the surreal ride he takes me on. The book I started out with was Norwegian Wood. It wasn’t as abstract as the others, but it has always stuck with me. I also like his running memoir: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He is like the ordinary main character he writes about and running is his adventure. I’m glad he was nominated.

    • he does take the most ordinary people and the routine and create some extraordinary story out of them. I think this is the perfect demonstration that a writer must be a keen observer. He has to see beyond what we are so used to, to see what most people don’t see.

  11. Must say I’m not really a Kundera fan, but I’ve only read 2 and I did like the second one better than the first, so who knows? If I read more I might add him to my Nobel short list too.

    • My first Kundera was The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I enjoyed but wasn’t anything to call home about. I liked Ignorance and Slowness better.

  12. I’ll add my voice to this chorus: after the quake. It’s a collection of short stories, but for me it embodies every single thing I love about Murakami in one short, lovely book.

    • I supposed it refers specifically to the aftermath of Kobe quake. I’m not usually a big fan of short stories but I do have skimmed through some of his and I think I’ll give that a try.

  13. Kundera is great but I think that people here (in Europe or more specifically in used to be communist countries) tend to “get” him better. Although Yugoslavia had almost nothing resembling the regime in USSR governed countries, we still can relate to what those authors are talking about. I liked all that you mentioned but also “The Joke”, his first novel.

    Murakami did not get the prize and I really think he won’t just yet. I would love for him to get it, I do think he’s a wonderful writer and he is one of my favorites but I don’t think that he is what the Swedish Academy is looking for – an activist of some sort (mostly political). I think Amin Maalouf might be next, or one of the near-future ones. For bringing “islamic and christian worlds closer” or something like that. And some more women. Women are now more present, but I think that’s more of a political correctness than anything else. Mind you – almost all that did get it are worthy … it’s just that some that are so even more never did.

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