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Thomas Hounds
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It would be nice to see a poet win. Adonis remain my top choice for a poet; even with the difficulties of translating Arabic poetry into English, his style and use of words pops off the page, and to me, it's increasingly important to break down the overwhelming whiteness of the literati, especially at the highest levels of recognition where white European and white American authors still get the vast majority of recognition. The Nobel has been exceptionally Euro-centric as well. If an America were to win it, my top choices remain John Ashberry, who is a brilliant poet, or the aging playwright Edward Albee who is also a postmodernist figure and one quite important in theater for a long time in America (the play as a literary form is also highly underrepresented by the Nobel prize in modern times at least). A shame Gore Vidal never won the Nobel as I can only imagine what kind of Nobel Prize speech he would have given.

But back to Adonis, no one else in the world, not currently awarded, has had anywhere near the influence Adonis has had on an entire regional language group's poetry; Adonis has had an enormous and far-reaching influence in Arabic poetry. It seems criminal to not recognize his enormous contributions to the stylistic developments and the immense beauty of his work, and he is getting older each year.

I'm still unsure how Haruki Murakami returns to the list year after year. The thing is, his works are translated first into English where publishers take huge liberties to make large cuts to the text, remove endings, remove entire pages of stuff they deem unneeded in order to streamline him (just read up on it, there have been some good articles about how Murakami in the West is largely the product of some heavy handed editing and rewriting on the part of a few ambitious and well-connected translators and writers), and then in Europe he is either read in English, or in translations made from the English editions. The thing is, Murakami is not particularly highly regarded in Japan; he's sort of more of a pop novelist here, but even at a popular level opinions are sharply divided and among the intelligentsia Murakami is not highly regarded. For a number of reasons. He uses very little kanji and only a basic level of kanji at that, which means he fails at one of the basic dimensions present in Japanese writing, in terms of style. I continually here from well-read Japanese people that Murakami's style is sort of ordinary, nothing very special, and not exactly innovative. Then there's the added critique that Murakami has this big role as international bestseller and popular novelist and is yet highly apolitial in his writing and in his public life, especially compared to the staunch moral activism of say, Kenzaburo Oe (who has an incredibly distinctive style that almost destroys traditional Japanese language use with its bluntness and complexity). It's fairly common to see Murakami not even make top 5 list of best living Japanese authors in rankings made by other Japanese authors or critics. In fact, this is an insight of mine that has only been confirmed several times since I've come to Japan, "Oe, what he does, is genius, he is genius" and "Murakami, he is notvery important." Japanese readers are far more likely to admire Kinkakuji by Mishima, or Kobo Abe or Oe, or even the other Murakami, Ryu Murakami who wrote Coin Locker Babies and other brutal works of fiction challenging moral consensuses and tackling contemporary issues in Japan. I haven't read some of Haruki's most praised works like Kafka on the Shore, but I wasn't impressed with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (and how much of Murakami I was reading versus U.S. editors, I am not sure on, one translator said, and I'm not exactly sure because he was speaking Japanese at the time, that over 100 pages was cut from the Japanese version to the English version).

But I'm glad to see it's Nobel season again. It reminds me of old times.
Edited by Thomas Hounds, Aug 11 2015, 07:33 PM.
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Nobel Prize 2015 · General discussion