Nobel Prize in Literature: the strange requirement that must be met to win it and why it was of no use to some editors

The latest Nobel Laureate, Annie Ernaux receives the Nobel from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in December 2022. (TT News Agency/Christine Olsson via REUTERS).
The latest Nobel Laureate, Annie Ernaux receives the Nobel from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in December 2022. (TT News Agency/Christine Olsson via REUTERS).

It is possible that Mario Vargas Llosa be more proud that your books are published by the consecrated French collection The Pleiadea privilege granted to very few writers in life, who for the Nobel Prize in Literature which he obtained in 2010.

The controversy was never far from Swedish Academybeginning with a list of very illustrious writers who were not considered worthy of the award, culminating with the sexual abuse scandal that broke out in 2018 – the year in which the award ceremony was skipped – and passing for its award to a musiciana perplexed Bob Dylanin 2016. However, the Nobel is so aspirational that the Academy regulations specifically say that self-nomination is not alloweda clarification that could seem insulting if one believed that writers are sublime souls who are beyond such vanities.

The Spanish Juan Cruz Ruiz -who investigated the Nobel– is among those who have this idealized image of writers. A cultural journalist and writer himself, he also directed the Alfaguara publishing house and wrote a book about his adventures with writers. He titled it Scrambled egos (Tusquets, 2009), given the evidence that “egos are the very material of writing.” From this perspective, he begins to make sense that some might give in to the temptation of self-nomination, although he considers it completely useless. “He Nobel “It’s a coincidence like a lottery,” he defines. Cross in dialogue with Infobae. Ensures that the spontaneous applications, whether their own or from personalities campaigning for someone else, have no value. “There is a lot of daring people out there, pretending that there are people who propose it, when no one knows its merits. What they achieve with that is to appear in some media as candidates, but nothing more,” she slides.

Bob Dylan, Nobel Prize in Literature 2016.
Bob Dylan, Nobel Prize in Literature 2016.

The truth is that the Swedish Academy Not only does it receive proposals, but it requests them, but for this a whole system has been established. procedure. He Nobel Committee – a working body made up of between four and five people, which evaluates the applications and presents its recommendations to the Academy – sends thousands of invitations to competent people and organizations, so that they can propose writers to be taken into account. The Committee may also evaluate candidatures proposed by persons not invited, but who are considered qualified. It is considered competent to make applications, in addition to the members of the Swedish Academy themselves – who are 18 -, those of other language academies or organizations of this nature, as well as professors of language and literature or to presidents of writers associations that are representative in their countries. Also to Previous Nobel Prize winners in Literature.

In this way, around 200 proposals every year; and from there begins a screening process in which the Committee reduces the list, first to between 15 and 20 preliminary candidates and then to five. Members of the Academy read the works of the five finalists between June and August (summer) and the Committee prepares individual reports. Scholars read books in their original language; But if a candidate whose language is not fluent in any of them is a “finalist”, translators and experts are used to, under oath, prove the worthiness of that writer. September is dedicated to the debate and in October the winner is announced, who must have obtained more than half of the votes cast.

The prize cannot be awarded to anyone who has not been on the short list at least twice.

One detail is that the prize cannot be awarded to anyone. that has not been on the “short list” at least twice. For this reason, it often happens that the same writer is discussed year after year: the fact that he did not win this time could simply mean that is accumulating the necessary rejections. But both the reports and the resolutions of the Academy are confidential for half a century. In other words, this year we could find out the ins and outs of the decision to award the Australian Patrick White in 1973. Kjell Espmark, who was a member of the Academy and chaired the Committee from 1988 to 2005, advances something in his book The Nobel Prize in Literature – 100 years with the mission (published in 2001). He explains that the award to White responded to “the desire to point out ‘an insufficiently served linguistic or cultural area’”, since “Australia was a neglected continent in that regard” until now. The desire to put on the map a country, a language or a social group that until now had not been “represented” was, in fact, the seed of several of the most controversial decisions of the Academy.

“There are many topics regarding Nobelbut not even the Swedes themselves consider it to be the grand prize so that everyone is so attentive every year to who wins it,” he says. Cross. “They are wrong many times and they themselves know it; The thing is that it has been organized so well that its appeal is enormous, but it has the same flaws as all awards: the winners are not always the best. Would you have thought that I deserved it Winston Churchill you would read it because it was Nobel? “You would read it because of his history, as a man in the world of politics.”

[Varios libros de Winston Churchill se pueden adquirir, en formato digital, en Bajalibros, clickeando acá.]

Churchill received the Nobel in 1953, being Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; and Espmark concedes that it was a decision that put “the political integrity of the Academy” at risk. His explanation is that “his historical work [aunque también escribió discursos, memorias, ensayos y algunas novelas] By itself it may not satisfy the demands, but it serves as an adequate framework for the art of his oratory”, which was what he ultimately wanted to reward.

Definitely Churchill He did not go down in history as a writer. Cases like this and those that are possibly more flagrant, those of great writers who were not awarded – starting with Tolstoywho lost it due to the unedifying content of his Kreutzer Sonata– should be enough to depose the canonizing expectation that popularly has about the literary Nobel. It is a prize, a very important one, but only a prize: it is not the laurels of Petrarch. Due to not meeting expectations, it is not even so clear that the granting of the Nobel ensure a lasting boost in copy sales.

[Una selección de libros de los Premios Nobel de Literatura se pueden adquirir, en formato digital, en Bajalibros, clickeando acá.]

“The writer who receives it won the lottery, which does not always imply that the editor who published it has also earned it. Many times this is not the case,” he continues. Cross debunking myths. “Look how many copies were sold of Wole Soyinkathe first African to win it (in 1986) and whom we published in Alfaguara: then we finished donating them to charities. Of Camilo José Cela (1989) now a book is not sold, but he fought for that prize as if it were a cycling race,” he slips.

And adds: “Octavio Paz he won it because he had won it Cela and he was very envious; He pulled all the strings and got it the following year. But I wonder How much does Octavio Paz sell today? out of Mexico. Many Nobel Prizes “They end up becoming local values.” From which it can be inferred that not only academics make mistakes for being too human. The writers, however enormous they are, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button