When the Nobel season started this year, the literary world was much abuzz with speculation about who will win the Nobel Prize in Literature this year. Now, the wait is finally over and Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich has been awarded the coveted prize, beating favourites such as American novelist Philip Roth and Japanese contemporary writer Haruki Murakami.
Alexievich won “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time,” said the Swedish Academy while awarding her the 8 million crown ($ 972,000) prize.
The 108th winner of Nobel Prize in Literature and 14th woman to have won it, has written short stories, essays and reportage. Her book “Wars Unwomanly Face” is her first and among the must-reads by the author wherein she discusses the Second World War from the people’s perspective.
And while everyone, including you, makes a beeline for all of Alexievich’s books and writings, let’s also recollect previous Nobel prize-winning authors whom you should absolutely read.
1) Alice Munro
The Canadian writer won the Nobel in 2013 and is particularly known for her short stories. In fact, she has been called “the master of contemporary short stories” because she is said to have redefined the way they are written — with her sketchy characters. Some of her must-reads are “Runaway”, “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” and “Something I have been meaning to tell you”. Her book “Away From Her” has even been turned into a 2006 movie by Saral Polley.
2) Orhan Pamuk
Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk recieved the the award in 2006; and because of his political discourse, he was even charged by Turkish state prosecutors with “insulting Turkishness”. In his writings, one can explore the complexity of the Turkish identity with a backdrop of religion. Some of his books that should make it to your reading list are “My Name is Red”, “Snow” (which lay bare the potilical and social fabric of Istanbul) and his autobiographical novel “Istanbul”.
3) Herta Muller
This German novelist, naturally quirky, won the 2009 award. Her novels, essays and poems are largely centred around oppression, dictatorship and her exile from her native country. The woman recieved death threats in her hometown Romania for refusing to become an informant for the secret police during Ceausescu’s totalitarian regime. Her books have been translated into English and some of the must-reads are “The Land of Green Plums” and “Everything I Possess I Carry With Me”.
4) Pablo Neruda
Fondly remembered for his poem “Tonight I Can Write The Saddest Lines”, this Chilean poet can easily be called a worldwide phenomenon. Recipient of the 1971 Nobel, Neruda was deeply engulfed in the political scenario in Chile because of the many senator positions he held during his lifetime, which reflects in his works. He coalesces his love of feminine beauty in the romantic sense with his love of southern Chile, nature and political predicament of his times. Some of his must-reads are actually his poems, “If You Forget Me”, “I Do Not Love You…”, “Don’t Go Far Off”, as well as his autobiography “Memoirs”.
5) Doris Lessing
An inspiration to most feminists today, Lessing finally won the award in 2007 at the age of 88 and was rather not-so-surprised because she has been in the fray many times in the past. Interestingly Lessing never made it through high school and is self-educated. Her writings, mostly autobiographical, discuss social and political issues of her time. Lessing’s women are spokesperson of women issues in an extremely relateable manner. One cannot miss “The Golden Notebook”, “The Good Terrorist” and “Martha Quest”.
Undoubtedly, Rabindranath Tagore, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, G.B. Shaw, Gabriel García Márquez are stalwarts that are not to be missed!