Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Reading the Booker Books, Post 3: Nobel Overlap

As I perused the list of Booker Prize winners in preparation for reading them all this year, I saw some names I recognized – and many I didn’t. For example, I already knew and loved Margaret Atwood. Then I learned that Kazuo Ishiguro had just won the Nobel Prize in Literature: he’s a Booker prize holder for The Remains of the Day (1989), but I’ve only read his speculative dystopian novel, Never Let Me Go (2005). So I decided to see what kind of overlap there is between the Booker and Nobel prizes.

Since the Nobel Prize in Literature began to be awarded in 1901, it has been awarded 110 times to 114 Laureates (some years, during the two World Wars, no prize was awarded), while the Booker Prize did not begin until 1969, so there is not as much overlap as one might expect. Also, the Nobel Prize is international, and while there is now an international Booker prize, my goal this year is to read the winners of the "original" English-language Booker prize. So, the overlapping center of the Venn diagram contains only five authors: V. S. Naipaul, Nadine Gordimer, William Golding, John Coetzee, and now Kazuo Ishiguro.

What is interesting to me is the lack of overlap: Toni Morrison won the Nobel, but has never won a Booker? This question led me to the discovery that the Booker prize did not become open to American writers until 2004, while the novel that I believe to be Morrison's best (and most original), Beloved, was published well before that, in 1987.

Then I perused the list of Nobel winners. Many names I did not recognize at all (Roger Martin du Gard? Ivan Bunin?); others I recognized, but have not read more than excerpts from (Eugene O'Neill [sorry Dad], Luigi Pirandello). If I were to set a reading goal next year of one book for each of the 114 Nobel Laureates in Literature, I will have already read complete works by :

  1. George Bernard Shaw
  2. Pearl Buck
  3. Andre Gide
  4. William Faulkner
  5. Ernest Hemingway: I taught Faulkner's and Hemingway's short stories in grad school
  6. Albert Camus: read The Stranger in high school for French AP!
  7. John Steinbeck: I have been seeking an occasion to teach the little-known The Winter of Our Discontent. A timely examination of honesty and accomplishment in the modern age.
  8. Jean-Paul Sartre: more French AP!
  9. Samuel Beckett
  10. Isaac Bashevis Singer
  11. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: but I read One Hundred Years of Solitude so long ago I would definitely re-read it.
  12. William Golding (Booker Prize winner): I am looking forward to reading something of his other than Lord of the Flies.
  13. Nadine Gordimer (Booker)
  14. Derek Walcott: definitely due for a reread
  15. Toni Morrison
  16. Seamus Heaney: taught his translation of Beowulf
  17. V.S. Naipaul (Booker)
  18. John Coetzee (Booker)
  19. Patrick Modiano: merci, French book club!
  20. Kazuo Ishiguro (Booker)

That brings my number down to a manageable but still hefty 94 books for next year's Nobel Prize reading project. Who's with me??

Next up: Reading Book #1, P.H. Newby's Something to Answer For

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