The Nobel Prize in Literature: we have a winner!

October 5, 2023 • 8:06 am

Yesterday we had a “Guess the Nobel Laureate” for the Literature Prize alone. And although there were 61 guesses, only a single person guessed the winner (see below). Norwegian writer Jon Fosse nabbed the Prize, along with nearly a million bucks. The Nobel Prize announcement is here, and includes this:

Jon Fosse was born 1959 in Haugesund on the Norwegian west coast. His immense œuvre written in Nynorsk and spanning a variety of genres consists of a wealth of plays, novels, poetry collections, essays, children’s books and translations. While he is today one of the most widely performed playwrights in the world, he has also become increasingly recognized for his prose. His debut novel Raudt, svart 1983, as rebellious as it was emotionally raw, broached the theme of suicide and, in many ways, set the tone for his later work.

The NYT implies that DIVERSITY had a role in this choice, though it’s not evident how that worked (bolding is mine):

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded on Thursday to the Norwegian novelist and playwright Jon Fosse “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable.”

Fosse’s work has long been lauded throughout continental Europe, but he has recently found a growing audience in the English-speaking world. By receiving what is widely seen as the most prestigious prize in literature, the author (whose name is pronounced Yune FOSS-eh, according to his translator) joins a list of laureates including Toni MorrisonKazuo Ishiguro and Annie Ernaux.

Critics have long compared Fosse’s sparse plays to the work of two previous Nobel laureates: Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett. And he had long been tipped to win. In 2013, British bookmakers temporarily suspended betting on the prize after a flurry of bets on Fosse’s winning. In the end, the action proved unnecessary, as Alice Munro, the Canadian short story writer, took the award.

Along the prestige and a huge boost in book sales, Fosse receives 11 million Swedish krona, about $991,000.

In recent years, the Swedish Academy, which organizes the prize, has tried to increase the diversity of considered authors after facing criticism that only 17 Nobel laureates had been women, and that the vast majority were from Europe or North America. The choice of Fosse is likely to be interpreted as step back from those efforts.


UPDATE:  Read the first comment below. I may have read this bit wrong; what it might be saying is that the Academy is not giving in to wokeness, which is good. Thus the bit below about them choosing an old white male becomes irrelevant. But Rushdie is still the author who deserves the Prize on merit alone.  Of course taste in literature is somewhat subjective, and I haven’t read Fosse, but Rusdie deserved the Prize a long time ago, and for Midnight’s Children alone.


But Fosse is not only European and an old white male, but a very white male:

So what’s all the palaver of choosing him as winner given that he represents what the Academy has criticized?

In my view, it was Rusdie’s turn to win, purely on the grounds of merit (I admit I haven’t read Fosse). And if you’re a diversity mongerer, Rushdie is, after all, is a Writer of Color, having been born in Mumbai, India.  But I can’t get over the feeling that the Swedish Academy is resisting giving Rushdie the prize because it will cause extremist Muslims to riot. Remember, there was a fatwa on his book The Satanic Verses.

Regardless, the ethnicity or gender of a writer shouldn’t matter when considering who should win. The Prize should be based on merit (literary quality), and merit alone

The lucky winner of our contest is Douglas Swartzendruber.  If you’re Douglas, email me so I can get details about sending you the free book.

9 thoughts on “The Nobel Prize in Literature: we have a winner!

  1. If I’m reading the bolded portion correctly the NYT is saying that the choice of Fosse goes against (“step back from”) the recent trend (“those efforts”) of trying to increase the diversity of awardees. I don’t think the wording is super clear though so I could be wrong.

    1. Yes, you may well be right, and I probably read too fast. The reading is ambiguous, so if you’re right, and I think you are, the Academy is deciding they aren’t going to cater to wokeness.

  2. I tried to comment on the contest post that I started Fosse’s New Name book a few years ago. Well-written, but too goddy for my taste.

  3. I think I nominated him here a few years ago. It is the first time anyone has one who I have read – just the one novel, Naustet (The Boat Shed). In Norwegian – when I was at UCL so circa 1998 when I ended up having to do a Norwegian literature course.

    Definitely shows the Scandinavian bias of the prize – hardly surprising. It would be really hard to cover so many countries when the major authors are unknown outside their language areas. I am not sure Fosse has been translated into English, but then I hate to read in translation what I could read in the original, IF it were possible to buy it.

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