The Nobel Prizes will be announced in a few weeks, starting on October 3. I see that the date for the prize in Literature has not been set, but it will be soon. This sets off both a round of head-banging and a round of speculation in my house and with various friends.
The headbanging is a combination of head-scratching over certain past prize winners and frustration over those who didn't win. While I really can't comment on the virtues of writers such as Sully Prudhomme (1901), Halldor Laxness (1955), and Grazia Deledda (1926), I can certainly roll my eyes over the prizes awarded to Pearl Buck (1938), John Steinbeck (1962), and Herman Hesse (1946 - oh, the angsty teenage readers of The Glass Bead Game and Siddhartha). One might wonder about John Galsworthy (1932; surely popular rather than literary? yes, I know, a dangerous distinction) and Eugene O'Neill (1936), who has not aged well. I have no doubts about the greatness of T.S. Eliot (1948), William Faulkner (1949), Thomas Mann (1929), George Bernard Shaw (1925), and William Butler Yeats (1923).
But then there are the great absences, those who never won. Leo Tolstoy, who lived until 1910. James Joyce. Vladimir Nabokov. Italo Calvino. W. H. Auden. Borges. Chehkov. Henry James. Joseph Conrad. D.H. Lawrence. Virginia Woolf. Edith Wharton. Thomas Hardy. Isak Dinesen and Robertson Davies. (Yes, this is heavily tilted toward English-language writers.) Please do nominate your favorite non-winners.
And the speculation: who are the living writers mostly likely to be awarded the big one (and who haven't already won)? I mostly know English-language writers, and my candidates among them would be Tom Stoppard, A. S. Byatt, and Salman Rushdie, in no particular order. Perhaps Ian McEwan?And you?