Thoughts on the Nobel Prize

The winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature is going to be announced tomorrow. I know not everyone is interested in or cares about literary prizes, but I for one find it interesting to see the implications they have both on the literary world and the world at large. For one thing, a well-known and prestigious prize like this one can lift an underappreciated writer out of obscurity. That was the case in 1980, when the Nobel was awarded to Czesław Miłosz, who, at that time, had been erased from Polish literature by the Soviet authorities and had not found an audience anywhere outside of Poland. Other times, by elevating a particular author, the prize also draws attention to important social concerns. In 2000, for instance, the prize was awarded to the Chinese novelist Gao Xingjian, who, from the very beginning of his career, had struggled against the Chinese government’s strict censorship. This, of course, helped highlight human rights issues in China, especially where freedom of speech and freedom of the press are concerned.

Of the names that are mostly frequently mentioned as possible future Nobel Laureates, there are three whom I especially would like to see win. And yes, they’re all poets.


For years now, Adonis (pen name of Ali Ahmad Said Esber) has been a favorite of Nobel speculators, and for good reason: his work is absolutely stunning and he greatly deserves such an honor. In addition to that, I think he would also make good use of the platform that the Nobel would give him. Though he now lives in France, Adonis is originally from Syria and has written extensively about Arab culture. He’s especially outspoken about the oppressive nature of the theocratic regimes that dominate much of the Middle East today. Of course, Adonis isn’t exactly an obscure writer now, but a Nobel might help to increase his visibility even more outside of the worlds of French and Middle Eastern literature.

Adam Zagajewski

Zagajewski is, of course, one of my favorite living poets. He has his detractors, but I personally find his work captivating and beautiful, for reasons that I partly outlined in this post.

Don Paterson

The betting site Ladbrokes gives Paterson 100/1 odds. It’s not very likely, but I would be happy if it was. Though Paterson and I might not always see eye to eye on a philosophical level, there’s no denying that he is an absolute master of his craft. Few, I think, can match the ease of his style and the subtle musicality of his language.

Image of Adam Zagajewski (left) by Frankie Fouganthin and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. (Source)
Image of Adonis (center) by Bahget Iskander. (Source)
Image of Don Paterson by Freddie Phillips and licensed under CC BY 2.0. (Source)

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