Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Prizes


Recently, Hilary Mantel won the Booker Prize for her novel Wolf Hall. Most likely not a household name, Mantel is an author I have read, especially her early works. Every Day is Mother's Day, Beyond Black, Fludd, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street among others. Her vision is dark and her characters are often misfits. Although the world she often creates is one I do not wish to linger in, I am still drawn in by her prose style, her depth and uniqueness of vision.

I have ordered Wolf Hall at my local bookstore. It is a historical novel centered on Thomas Cromwell. I imagine the prize will shoot Mantel from a little known author into an author on the best seller list. And I say, hurrah.




Meanwhile, Herta Muller, a German writer who grew up in Romania, won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Much of what she writes centers around the dictatorship of Nicolai Ceausescu. I had never heard of her. That's one thing about the Nobel Prize. It brings writers and others to our attention, folks we would miss out on otherwise. I admit that I sometimes have a hard time with Nobel authors' works. They are often dense, experimental and political in cast. That said I love Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian writer. And of course Faulkner, Pearl Buck and Sigrid Undset. In fact as I read down the list of winners I realize I have read many of them. How many have you read? I've read 46. List of all literature winners.

Such prizes are interesting things. These authors did not apply to win their prize. They and the others on the short list were selected by a committee or by nominators. The committee reads all the works on the short list for that year and chooses one. We may wish they chose another author, but why get all het up about who is or isn't chosen? The prize is a gift coming from someone else, we are not in the picture. The prizes do not come by demand, effort, or by our definition of "worth."

Not everything in life has to be "earned" by our definition of "earned." There are moments of grace and isn't there something lovely about that?

18 comments:

Cestandrea said...

Hi Suki, I love this post and your musing about our definition of "worth"! I checked the list and counted how much of those authors I have "read" I counted only 29 of 104....Many names of the list of authors I never heard of... And I have not heard of Herta Müller neither, but the I don't really follow the literature development in Germany, when I go to a bookstore, I always want easy to read mystery or historical novels these days. Perhaps I should change that and switch to something a little more complex now:)
Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your thought and this information, have a great day
Andrea

sukipoet said...

Andrea, I think Hilary Mantel's novel that I mention is considered a historical novel. Thanks for your comments. Hmmm, maybe I will go to that list and count the ones I've read too.

Kim said...

"There are moments of grace, and isn't there something lovely about that?"

Suki, this is such a beautiful line. I have to say I could not agree with you more about how we need to stop sensoring these prizes given to those who have clearly worked so hard to be given this. It also makes me think ofhow we seem to be less grateful for the success of others as though we are the only ones worthy or our styles are the only worthy styles.

I haven't counted the number yet, however I will be back in a moment to share with you just how many I have read of the Nobel winners!

This is a beautiful post and I think you deserve an award!

Kim said...

Oh, I am poorly read! Only 15 from the list! I will have to seek some of these out!

Thanks Again, Suki!

Lynn said...

I couldn't help but think about the hellabaloo that broke out over Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Your words convey my feelings about that. His very election to me noted a HUGE move towards peace in our country, the world. And yes, I am referring to the race card!

soulbrush said...

great post. i've read bits from about 16 of them. eeek.

sukipoet said...

Kim, I have only read so many as I read also a lot of poets and playwrights, some of them represented here.

Lynn, of course as I thought of writing this post I also thought of the Obama Nobel Prize and all the radio shows and articles and so forth that have come out around it. And all the opinions and arguments which arguments sort of negate the idea of peace. But I didnt want to get political here.

sukipoet said...

Soulbrush, of the ones I've read I havent read their complete works except maybe Eugene O'Neil. But i have read selected works from a lot of them.

Cestandrea said...

Hi again Suki, just wanted to say that, when I read you post, I too thought of the hellaballoo (I just love this word so much, LOL) over Obama getting the Nobel Prize for peace, even here in France they are talking about it a lot! Personally I think the world in general, and people who are busy cleaning up other peoples' messes, need a little advance of encouragement along their way:), love, Andrea

Cestandrea said...

oh and thanks so much for pointing out that Hilary Mantel's book is a historical lesson, maybe I'll consider this next time I'm in the English bookshop here in Paris and get that book! Hugs, Andrea

San said...

Suki, I love what you have to say about this kind of recognition being an act of grace, not something the author has gone to great effort to apply for, or demand.

I went to the list and felt a bit warm and tingly, seeing some of my "faves" from my reading past there--Octavio Paz, Doris Lessing, T.S. Eliot. I had completely forgotten that Seamus Heaney had won the Nobel. Once, as an undergraduate, I wrote a term paper on him. Believe it or not, the assignment was to choose a "minor" poet and read their work and reflect on it. Clearly, that was in his pre-Nobel days. I would hope so anyway. The professor approved him as a subject for this "minor" poet term paper. Isn't that hilarious?

Kim said...

Suki, I had to come back here, because this post has really spoken to me today. I can't get your line out of my head about how lovely "moments of grace" are. It makes me think that grace is often found in the quiet and it seems as though that is what the Nobel committees are looking for, isn't it? Those who take the time to find the grace! We all need a lesson there! Thank you for so cleverly reminding me!

I also thought of Obama, of course!

sukipoet said...

Andrea, well truthfully I think we all can use encouragement, that's for sure, to continue along our chosen pathways towards truth and beauty and justice. Interesting that Obama's prize is a big deal in France. But of course it is a World prize in a sense. There is a woman, I forget her name, but she lives in Putney near me. One year she won the Nobel Peace Prize, I forget why but she seemed just an ordinary woman doing....whatever it was that brought her to the attention of the committte.

sukipoet said...

That's interesting about your paper on Seamus Heaney. Great story. Well I do think he was little known for many years. Not to mention the question of how do we judge who is "minor" and who is major. Some of the writers we consider major today may fade into the background of history while others we consider minor come to the forefront.

sukipoet said...

Kim thanks for coming back and for your interesting reflection on grace and finding it in the quiet. I am sure that some of these scientists and others who win have been "guietly" working on their projects for years. And then out of the blue...recognition. You know it's funny, but my graduate class I had to teach for my MFA in Writing was called "Moments of Grace." I read and looked at a number of short stories and found moments of grace within them. I myself was raised protestant and we did not talk about grace very often however folks who are raised Catholic are more familiar with the word,concept. Esp thinking of Flannery O'Connor. But really anyone with a Catholic background. Then there is the song "Amazing Grace," which I almost recorded to play at the opening of my class but then didnt. a bit much, eh? In any event grace is a heartening concept to me....

chewy said...

I didn't recognize any names until I read farther down the list. Then I realized those authors were books I had to read in school.

Annie said...

I could not agree more :-). I have only read 14 on the list, some all their works, some only bits. What can I say, I am a slow reader :-).

kikipotamus said...

Wow, you are quite a reader! I have only read works by 14 of the winners, and that does not necessarily mean I read the work for which they won. Had I not had to read so many classics in the original for my Spanish major, my list would be much shorter.