Who will be the next American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature?

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When Saul Bellow passed away last month, I was struck by the thought that America is left with just a single Nobel laureate in literature (though what a laureate she is!). While this doesn't exactly amount to an national crisis, it did have me wondering who will be the next American writer to win the Nobel. Any ideas?

Mark Klobas, Saturday, 7 May 2005 17:13 (fourteen years ago) link

Please not JSF! Please not JSF!

Hurting (Hurting), Saturday, 7 May 2005 19:14 (fourteen years ago) link

I have your answer:
Evan S. Connell.

Ken L (Ken L), Saturday, 7 May 2005 19:49 (fourteen years ago) link

fuck a nobel prize

Josh (Josh), Saturday, 7 May 2005 21:33 (fourteen years ago) link

Why? I agree that they're not the ultimate indicators of greatness (Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy's reputations seem to be doing fine without either of them having won one), but they are a statement of who that era thinks is a great author. One might as well say the same about the Pulitzers, the Oscars, and the local company's employee-of-the-month award -- yet they're still given out and used as yardsticks of what to pay attention to.

Mark Klobas, Sunday, 8 May 2005 15:38 (fourteen years ago) link

except that the committee is so even-handed and PC. If an american writer gets it another one won't get it for another 10 years at least, even if there is someone who deserves it.

jed_ (jed), Sunday, 8 May 2005 15:52 (fourteen years ago) link

Updike? Barth?

Mayor Maynot, Sunday, 8 May 2005 16:11 (fourteen years ago) link

It ought to be Vonnegut, if there's justice in the world (or, I suppose merely in Sweden would be sufficient). The talking-animal fable is an underappreciated form - even if all of Vonnegut's animals happen to be human.

Aimless (Aimless), Sunday, 8 May 2005 17:19 (fourteen years ago) link

'a statement of who that era thinks is a great author'

a pretty presumptuous statement

Josh (Josh), Sunday, 8 May 2005 19:11 (fourteen years ago) link

Barth veers into cheeseball territory a little too often to make him a serious contender. Roth maybe? Though Daniel Pinkwater really deserves it.

adam (adam), Monday, 9 May 2005 16:24 (fourteen years ago) link

What heinous crimes do you have to commit to "deserve" it?

Casuistry (Chris P), Monday, 9 May 2005 18:18 (fourteen years ago) link


Øystein (Øystein), Monday, 9 May 2005 18:28 (fourteen years ago) link

deserve it? just look at the way he's dressed!


Josh (Josh), Monday, 9 May 2005 19:27 (fourteen years ago) link


o. nate (onate), Monday, 9 May 2005 19:44 (fourteen years ago) link

hmm, that didn't work

o. nate (onate), Monday, 9 May 2005 19:45 (fourteen years ago) link

Actually looking over the list of winners it's not as bad as I recalled it being.

Casuistry (Chris P), Monday, 9 May 2005 22:17 (fourteen years ago) link


mookieproof (mookieproof), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 07:48 (fourteen years ago) link

It almost has to be roth.

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 11:11 (fourteen years ago) link

is he gunning for it?

why would it not be Pynchon?

jed_ (jed), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 13:52 (fourteen years ago) link

I hope it John Fowles -- he deserves it, even if he's English/Brittish, not American.

mrblues, Tuesday, 10 May 2005 15:01 (fourteen years ago) link

don't these people have to write a new book to win? I don't see another pynchon book on the horizon; Barth hasn't written anything that people like much in ages as far as I know; Vonnegut is so far past the point of writing a prizeworthy book; John Fowles: does he even write anymore?

Maybe Vollmann although I don't really believe anyone finishes any of his books. Also, i don't think it would be for a long, long time.

kyle (akmonday), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 15:46 (fourteen years ago) link

Nobel Prize (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)

Ken L (Ken L), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 16:54 (fourteen years ago) link

"is he gunning for it?"

he has written a string of BIG. IMPORTANT. NOVELS. Some even say his best ever. One more could put him over the top. And the last 3 or 4 have all been properly political.

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 10 May 2005 22:29 (fourteen years ago) link

don't these people have to write a new book to win?

i dont think that's the case but i may be wrong. it's given for a career not a book.

jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 11 May 2005 20:39 (fourteen years ago) link

two months pass...

He's invented all those new words.

SRH (Skrik), Friday, 22 July 2005 21:56 (fourteen years ago) link

one month passes...
I think it is for one book, actually. I'm pretty sure Hemingway got his for The Old Man and the Sea, though I could be talking out of my ass here.

Dan Dotson (Podslapper), Saturday, 17 September 2005 08:23 (fourteen years ago) link

The Nobel literature prize is more of a lifetime achievment prize than a prize for any single literary work.

Aimless (Aimless), Sunday, 18 September 2005 19:49 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah, looks like you're right. But to win one don't you have to write something noteworthy during the time of the nomination?

Dan Dotson (Podslapper), Monday, 19 September 2005 12:40 (fourteen years ago) link

I don't think so. Gunter Grass won, and, from what I understand, he hadn't written anything of note in quite a long time.

stewart downes (sdownes), Monday, 19 September 2005 12:59 (fourteen years ago) link


Dan Dotson (Podslapper), Monday, 19 September 2005 16:03 (fourteen years ago) link


Aimless (Aimless), Monday, 19 September 2005 16:06 (fourteen years ago) link

Norman Mailer is my candidate for the next American to be awarded a Nobel Prize for literature.

After him, in order, I would say the most deserving would be Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates, Ishmael Reed, John Ashbery,
John Updike.

Ted Burke, Sunday, 2 October 2005 20:19 (fourteen years ago) link

Looking over this thread, it seems almost a given that it would be Roth.

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 3 October 2005 08:20 (fourteen years ago) link

Dylan was mentioned recently!

the bellefox, Monday, 3 October 2005 10:20 (fourteen years ago) link

Teh Pinefox, please!

k/l (Ken L), Monday, 3 October 2005 12:55 (fourteen years ago) link

I predict a drought so long that the next American to win the Lit Nobel

1) is probably presently younger than 55, and
2) has not yet written his/her key work.

M. V. (M.V.), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 02:14 (fourteen years ago) link


the literary thug, Wednesday, 5 October 2005 02:24 (fourteen years ago) link

I think Alice Munro may be the next North American to win it, btw.

M. V. (M.V.), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 02:31 (fourteen years ago) link

Adonis (Ali Ahmen Said) is presently the punters' favorite for 2005.

M. V. (M.V.), Saturday, 8 October 2005 14:13 (fourteen years ago) link

In re: the predicted Nobel drought for the USA. That sounds about right. American literature has entered a fallow stage, after the huge excitements of the first half of the 20th century. The past 40 years have been OK, but not riveting, not galvanizing, nor any other metallurgical metaphor that occurs to me - unless it might be metal fatigue.

Aimless (Aimless), Saturday, 8 October 2005 14:24 (fourteen years ago) link

are we counting mavis gallant as na or french?

anthony, Monday, 10 October 2005 04:16 (fourteen years ago) link

If it's Alice Munro they'll all wake up one day and I'll have painted all the beige things eyeball-searing neon purple. HA!!!!

annerzinger, Monday, 10 October 2005 21:04 (fourteen years ago) link

Harold Pinter this year.
So who does Roth have to screw anyway?

Ray (Ray), Thursday, 13 October 2005 10:03 (fourteen years ago) link

PINTER!!! wow, i didn't see that coming.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 13 October 2005 10:48 (fourteen years ago) link

Scott, you came back to ILB just to answer Ray's question!

k/l (Ken L), Thursday, 13 October 2005 13:11 (fourteen years ago) link

Hahaha! yes, it seems I did! an unintentional funny there.

more talk here for people who are bored and need more momus in their life:

Nobel Prize for Pinter

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 13 October 2005 13:13 (fourteen years ago) link

Well done, Harold Pinter.

the pinefox, Thursday, 13 October 2005 13:36 (fourteen years ago) link


M. V. (M.V.), Thursday, 13 October 2005 13:59 (fourteen years ago) link

When Philip met Harold

k/l (Ken L), Thursday, 13 October 2005 14:14 (fourteen years ago) link

I think if Pynchon publishes a big novel again he'll win it. I'm surprised Mailer hasn't already won it. I'm not a big Roth fan.
Pinter is awesome.

wmlynch (wlynch), Friday, 14 October 2005 04:00 (fourteen years ago) link

The thing is, hasn't he written about that stuff? Isn't it a part of his work?

Frederik B, Thursday, 10 October 2019 21:35 (five days ago) link

I shouldn't say anything, I'm reading the Cantos at the moment. Forty impressive and smart poems, and then it ends up being about 'usura' and that it's all the fault of the jews.

Frederik B, Thursday, 10 October 2019 21:36 (five days ago) link

Yeah thought he did but that was after I stopped reading

Beware of Mr. Blecch, er...what? (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 10 October 2019 21:48 (five days ago) link

I shouldn't say anything, I'm reading the Cantos at the moment. Forty impressive and smart poems, and then it ends up being about 'usura' and that it's all the fault of the jews.

― Frederik B,

and Martin Van Buren as a character!

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 10 October 2019 21:49 (five days ago) link

And Alexander Hamilton! And I'm sorry, but I'm with Lin-Manuel on this on.

Frederik B, Thursday, 10 October 2019 21:59 (five days ago) link

Holy shit. It's on!

Frederik B, Friday, 11 October 2019 10:37 (four days ago) link

You just have to 🙄 @ those statements above. It's just a total misunderstanding at what the Nobel does and who it rewards. They are not interested in following a line on the politics of literature and they've no incentive to do so. If they did it's unlikely it would have the status it does. No. It has to bring all sides to the table, so it will elevate some marginalised voices now and then.

I wonder if Olga Tokarczuk might reject the award at some point...

xyzzzz__, Friday, 11 October 2019 11:11 (four days ago) link

The description of the Nobel literally says it's to award an 'idealisk riktning', that is, it's meant to award art in an idealistic direction. Genocide deniers don't really fit that bill. Then again, it was the ones in the Academy who defended the rapist who stayed, so they do like male criminals.

Also, fuck no is Peter Handke marginalised. He literally chose the perpetrators over the victims, and has been praised to the heavens in Serbia for doing so.

Frederik B, Friday, 11 October 2019 11:42 (four days ago) link

Olga Tokarczuk had to have protection because she spoke out about the darker parts of Polish history. Handke was allowed to speak at a state funeral for a war criminal. It's so obscene people think he's the marginalised one, complete moral idiocy.

Frederik B, Friday, 11 October 2019 11:49 (four days ago) link

Idealistic direction is just why we are here. They will point to the body of work (the Nobel is not really given for a specific book).

Lol I am not calling Handke marginalised. I'm saying it will award a writer of colour or a woman, now and then.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 11 October 2019 11:52 (four days ago) link

What Olga has said so far:

Olga Tokarczuk on winning the Nobel Prize (1/2): "I believe in a literature that unites people and shows us how very similar we are, that makes us aware of the fact that we're all joined together by invisible threads. That tells the story

— Jennifer Croft (@jenniferlcroft) October 11, 2019

xyzzzz__, Friday, 11 October 2019 12:09 (four days ago) link

I wouldn't care about the prize so much except it came with £740,000.

Yerac, Friday, 11 October 2019 12:34 (four days ago) link

one year short of the centennial of knut hamsun's nobel prize for literature!

Spironolactone T. Agnew (rushomancy), Friday, 11 October 2019 13:23 (four days ago) link

Does anyone have a link to what he actually said about the Srebrenica massacre?

jmm, Friday, 11 October 2019 13:37 (four days ago) link

what would be awesome is if bob dylan returned his nobel prize for literature (which i believe was awarded to him in recognition of "christmas in the heart") in protest

Spironolactone T. Agnew (rushomancy), Friday, 11 October 2019 13:43 (four days ago) link

hmm - some details here:


xyzzzz__, Friday, 11 October 2019 14:03 (four days ago) link

jmm sorry autocorrect strikes again

xyzzzz__, Friday, 11 October 2019 14:04 (four days ago) link

More here:


xyzzzz__, Friday, 11 October 2019 14:12 (four days ago) link

Thanks. Also some details here: https://theintercept.com/2019/10/10/congratulations-nobel-committee-you-just-gave-the-literature-prize-to-a-genocide-apologist/

When writing about Srebrenica, where several thousand Muslims were executed by Serb forces after they captured the enclave, he allows that what happened there was the most “abominable” massacre in the war, but he swiftly pivots to saying that we should also “listen to the survivors of Muslim massacres in numerous Serb villages around Srebrencia.” This is the same “all sides do it” canard, which equates the extremely few with the very many, and fails to acknowledge that this war was started by Serbs and Milosevic in particular.

jmm, Friday, 11 October 2019 14:19 (four days ago) link

Yeah no one is saying Handke isn't a cunt.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 11 October 2019 16:45 (four days ago) link

I was asking because some articles (e.g. BBC) made it sound like he had denied that the massacre ever even happened. His comments in the Libération piece sound more like the standard apologist line.

jmm, Friday, 11 October 2019 17:01 (four days ago) link

one year short of the centennial of knut hamsun's nobel prize for literature!

Yup, he won in 1920. But seeing how the Beer Hall Putsch wasn't until 1923, it would have been difficult for the prize committee to foresee Hamsun's embrace of the Nazis. In contrast, Handke tipped his hand a while back.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 11 October 2019 17:09 (four days ago) link

The inevitable defence of Handke


xyzzzz__, Saturday, 12 October 2019 11:09 (three days ago) link

it's sully prudhomme i feel bad for

mark s, Saturday, 12 October 2019 11:18 (three days ago) link

I like that text because it links Peter Handke's literary project with his political idiocy, thereby showing why it should discredit him from receiving a Nobel. But I know it's not what it tries to do. I just don't get why anyone can write with a straight face: Peter Handke has spent a lifetime attacking the kinds of ideological absolutisms that produce nationalism, hate, and war. He spoke at Slobodan Milosevic's funeral? Like, seriously, come on everyone. We don't have to be gaslit by obvious dishonesty.

Frederik B, Saturday, 12 October 2019 12:38 (three days ago) link


This piece backs up my point that the Nobel prize judges read in English as well as Swedish. That explains both Olga Tokarczuk and Handke.

It's an odd explanation for Handke though. Surely they would've known or gotten informed about his later work. But what seems true is they don't care enough about it.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 12 October 2019 17:59 (three days ago) link

I suspect the Academy, which is like 75% men over 75 (seriously, it's 12 men and 2 woman as far as I can tell, most women resigned or was forced out because they didn't want to defend rapists) is able to read German as well. Probably French too. It's true that questions of translation definitely impact the prize, I think with Mo Yan there was a controversy that the translator was a good friend of several members. He wasn't the rapist who used Academy apartments to rape interns, that was the husband / friend of another crew. Seriously, the whole thing should be abolished.

I couldn't let this go so I read the first third of Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia today, and it's just completely idiotic... And Handke explicitly says that he is following his usual artistic program in writing it. And it's just pointless, petty shit about who wrote what in Le Monde, and analysis on why Muslim victims are photographed in close-up, while Serbian victims are photographed in profile. It's shit.

I got an idea, though, which is that they really should separate artist and art, and give the ten million to a foundation that would then be invested in the oeuvre, to be used on translations, research, stipends, etc. I would honestly support that type of award being given to the work of Handke, because I find it essential to figure out how the fuck his apparently really impressive avantgarde ideas from the seventies turned into pro-Serbian shit.

Frederik B, Saturday, 12 October 2019 19:04 (three days ago) link

because I find it essential to figure out how the fuck his apparently really impressive avantgarde ideas from the seventies turned into pro-Serbian shit.

― Frederik B

we should give ten million euros to a foundation to figure out how a Very Smart White Man turned into a defender of genocide?

Spironolactone T. Agnew (rushomancy), Saturday, 12 October 2019 19:17 (three days ago) link

we should give ten million euros to a foundation to figure out how a Very Smart White Man turned into a defender of genocide?

― Spironolactone T. Agnew (rushomancy), 12. oktober 2019 21:17 (twelve minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

That and on a stipend for me to write Danish subtitles for Die Linkshändige Frau

Frederik B, Saturday, 12 October 2019 19:33 (three days ago) link

Shit. Sara Danius, who was essentially forced out of the Academy because she was too anti-rape, has died. They are really having a week.

Frederik B, Sunday, 13 October 2019 08:29 (two days ago) link

Died?? She wasn't old or anything, was she? And she wrote a respected standard academic book about modernism and the senses or something - years before giving Dylan the prize.

the pinefox, Sunday, 13 October 2019 11:41 (two days ago) link

she was 57, which is younger than me hence not old at all :(

the wikipedia write-up (which is all i know about this) somewhat complicates fred's summary of her role (tho of course fred may well be correct and wikipedia quite wrong): The three members resigned in protest over the decision by Sara Danius, the board secretary, not to take what they felt was appropriate legal action against Arnault.

mark s, Sunday, 13 October 2019 11:50 (two days ago) link

(sorry the blue lines bit shd be in quotes, it's from wikipedia not my judgment)

mark s, Sunday, 13 October 2019 11:51 (two days ago) link

Yeah, but she was then forced out by the even more pro-rape faction afterwards. While she had cancer. Then shithole Horace Engdahl bragged about how powerful he was, and speculated women just wasn't cut out for this kinda thing.

Frederik B, Sunday, 13 October 2019 12:02 (two days ago) link

This is the essential part of the NYT article that that wiki-thing leads to: On the other side are two former permanent secretaries, Sture Allen and Horace Engdahl, who have made lacerating statements in recent days, calling the reaction to the allegations overblown and denouncing Ms. Danius as a weak leader. The 'allegations' lead to a conviction and a sentence of two years, for rape committed in an apartment owned by the academy.

Frederik B, Sunday, 13 October 2019 12:14 (two days ago) link

Do you think she was right not to take legal action against Arnault?

(I've run out of free access to the NYT for this month so I can't check up what it says about that)

mark s, Sunday, 13 October 2019 12:51 (two days ago) link

I don't really think it was her choice. But it's impossible to say, the institution is so secretive.

Frederik B, Sunday, 13 October 2019 13:42 (two days ago) link

I can't imagine very many people are happy about the composition of the Academy these days. Based on what Fred's saying it doesn't seem like taking a year off did them any good at all. What are the options here? Who are the Academy responsible to?

Spironolactone T. Agnew (rushomancy), Sunday, 13 October 2019 15:03 (two days ago) link

Literally nobody. Until recently, they weren't even allowed to resign (two chairs has been empty since they fucked up the Rushdie Fatwa situation). You should see the footage from the big yearly meeting, they have this large table where all these Academy members are sitting, writers, artists, philosophers, and around them every other powerful person in Sweden is gathered. Here to pay tribute to the greatest spirits of the country (and in the corner, the rapist, always there. Rumors have it he groped the crown princess one year). They are supreme, there's nothing anyone can do.

Frederik B, Sunday, 13 October 2019 15:17 (two days ago) link

This just seems to me to fit so well into the standard modus operandi of the 21st century right wing. Take advantage of the weaknesses of hated liberal institutions to gain power. Once in power exacerbate those weaknesses. That part I get, but why do they always work so hard to undermine themselves just as strongly as they're undermining the institutions? Fascism is supposed to offer an _alternative_ to liberalism, not a cartoonishly dystopian exaggeration of it!

My question is really about the money. Where do they get their money? Sure, they can stay in power forever, but the prize money, it fluctuates, right? Two years from now are they going to be handing out a coupon for a free Happy Meal?

Spironolactone T. Agnew (rushomancy), Sunday, 13 October 2019 15:46 (two days ago) link

No, the money will last forever. It's the Nobel heritage, it isn't going to run out. And that's not the only money they have, they are handling tons and tons and tons of art stipend money, and a lot of it goes to their friends. The latest story was that people who had backed them up on the 'rape isn't so bad' take was being paid quite well.

It has changed a bit. Iirc correctly, it used to be an unpaid position, which meant that a lot of members, who really were among the best and brightest on the art scene, were awarding money and prizes to themselves. This culminated in 74, where the prize, and the money, was shared between Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, both members. I like Martinson's poem Aniara, which was recently turned into a sci fi film, but it was obviously a big scandal. Martinson killed himself four years later.

Frederik B, Sunday, 13 October 2019 16:02 (two days ago) link

Before departing from Zurich, I bought a small Langenscheidt's dictionary (1992 edition) . Where it once said "Serbo-Croatian" on the familiar yellow cover, only "Croatian" now stood. I asked myself, while thumbing through, whether I would have found "DIN, Deutsche Industrienorm" in the back under "Common Abbreviations" even during the time when Serbian too played a role. It was newly revised by "Prof Dr. Reinhard Lauer," who, more or less that same year, hired by the F.AZ there repeatedly accused the entire Serbian people, along with its poets (by­passed by the Enlightenment from, shall we say, the Romantic Njegos to Vasko Popa-see identification with the wolf!; see Popa's wolf poems!) , of the most dangerous myth complexes.

This must be the worst writing by any Nobel laureate ever? Apart from Wiggle Wiggle, perhaps

Frederik B, Sunday, 13 October 2019 16:29 (two days ago) link

Does anyone have a link to what he actually said about the Srebrenica massacre?

― jmm, 11. oktober 2019 15:37 (three days ago) bookmarkflaglink

So this is from the Epilogue of the Justice for Serbia book:

"You aren't going to question the massacre at Srebrenica too, are you?" S. commented, in response, after my return. "No," I said. "But I want to ask how such a massacre is to be explained, carried out, it seems, under the eyes of the world, after more than three years of war during which, people say, all parties,even the dogs of this war, had become tired of killing, and further, it is supposed to have been an organized, systematic, long-planned execution." Why such a thousandfold slaughtering? What was the motivation? For what purpose?And why, instead of an investigation into the causes ("psychopaths" doesn't suffice), again nothing but the sale of the naked, lascivious, market­ driven facts and supposed facts?

So he is not so much a 'no genocide' person as he is a 'yes genocide, but...' person. Also, whatever you think about the war and the massacre, he never deals with the idea of 'ethnic cleansing', which is the very common explanation I saw for the genocide.

Frederik B, Monday, 14 October 2019 16:59 (yesterday) link

wiggle wiggle is good writing

mark s, Monday, 14 October 2019 17:04 (yesterday) link


difficult listening hour, Monday, 14 October 2019 17:06 (yesterday) link

Sometimes he's a no genocide person: he told Bosnian Muslims that the Srebrenica massacre was faked and said “You can stick your corpses up your arse!” when questioned further about it.

Danius was also pro Bob Dylan, so she should have been fired for that alone.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Tuesday, 15 October 2019 00:50 (eighteen hours ago) link

bob dylan seems better than this guy. i think they should give it to him again next year to be safe and avoid this kind of error.

treeship., Tuesday, 15 October 2019 15:08 (four hours ago) link

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