How to Win the Nobel Prize in Literature by David Carter


Before you even wonder if I am so ambitious as to be eyeing this prize when I can’t even win a local writing contest, don’t, for I am purely reading this for fun, although it is not really that fun a book to read, even if my library describe this book as a satire.

I almost wish Dr David Carter would give us a MOOC on this, for he has taught in various universities which makes him eligible to teach and the subject would interest many would be ambitious laureate.

No, the book doesn’t give you a list of instructions or even criterion for the prize, except to say that it is beneficial to know important people who would nominate you, for unless they do, you don’t stand a chance. The important people should belong to the Swedish Academy or other academies, Professors of literature at universities, previous Novel Laureates in Literature, and presidents of those societies of authors in respective countries. There is a fifty-year silence on the selection process and only in 2009 are information available for research on the selection process for those who won fifty years prior. It’s also not clear if a laureate was awarded based on a single work, or given as a life-time achievement award. Politics were often embroiled in the prize, with some countries rejecting a winner, and others pushing hard for their compatriots to win.

A very interesting history on this prize was described in the first chapter, on how Alfred Nobel’s will was interpreted and translated to fully comply with his wishes.

The author makes frequent references to the three speeches – the presentation speech by the academy, the Banquet speech and the Nobel Lecture, both given by the winner, to get a gist of what went on behind the selection and the winner’s perspective. Not all want the prize, and there were a few who rejected it.

Interesting to note that up until mid of last century, there were many poets and playwrights who had won. Certain philosophers and historians won in early last century but it’s rare. Recently though, there were more prose winners. Not all achieved fame upon winning, with some fading into obscurity that libraries don’t even carry their books. There is a helpful list of past winners and yes, I have read a couple. although more as part of a school reading list than by choice.

The author made some interesting observation between the Peace and Literature prize. A famous politician, Winston Churchill won the Literature prize in 1953 while a German writer, Carl von Ossietzky, won the Peace prize although he was not allowed to accept it by Hitler.

For a non-fiction book, the title is kind of misleading, for the reader is none the wiser upon finishing it.


About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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