The most popular of the Nobel Prizes (and there are 6: physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine, economy, and literature) is without doubt the one in literature.
It’s one that we can all partake in, and speculate about and we all have a saying about it, without having to be experts in the field.
This year’s recipient, the Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, was not on the list of favorites before the announcement. Dagens Nyheter, the daily Swedish newspaper, asked its readers if they thought Vargas Llosa was the right choice and 71% said yes, whereas 29% said no. ADVERTISEMENT
Swedish Minister of culture Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth said the choice was both expected and unexpected: “I’ve a close friend from Peru who for many years was planning on translating him into Swedish. She put his books in my hands, so I’ve read many of them. Though I personally had hoped Joyce Carol Oates would get it (the Nobel Prize), I think Vargas Llosa is a popular choice. And it’s nice that his books are already available in Swedish, so no speedy translations are necessary.”
Peter Landelius, Vargas Llosa’s latest Swedish translator (and retired ambassador) explains that the better a writer is, the easier he is to translate. Vargas Llosa, he says, is a great storyteller, where the difficulty for the translator is his rich use in verb forms (of which Spanish has more than Swedish).
Swedish writer Bodil Malmsten isn’t as enthusiastic: “I wanted to see Tomas Tranströmer or Alice Munro as the winner. I have no comment about Mario Vargas Llosa’s writing.”
Author P O Enquist said: “I think it’s an obvious choice, he’s a great storyteller and will, with his name, make the list of Nobel Prize winners in literature heavier. Many of his books are very good. When it comes to his political engagement… I can’t say what it means to be a liberal in Peru, so I keep to his books.”
François Busnel, editor at Lire and l’Express in France believes it was an excellent choice: “He’s one of the real giants when it comes to novelists, at least for me. A great, original defender of fiction. He’s sympathetic, engaged, and a lot of fun to talk to.”
Michael Dirda, literary critic at the Washington Post, said: “Vargas Llosa is certainly a world-renowned writer but I wish the Academy had chosen someone less well known to North American readers. All of Vargas Llosa's books are published in this country and are always reviewed. Because much his work is ‘sexy’ he's even fairly popular. I think the Nobel's best function lies not in bestowing laurels on already rich and famous authors but on bringing to center stage important writers we might not otherwise ever know about.”
More on this year's winner: www.nordstjernan.com/news/nordic/2715/