Nobel Prize in Literature Winners I’ve Read

The American poet Louise Glück has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in this bizarre 2020. I’ve never read her work, so I don’t have an opinion on how deserved the recognition is. There are other Nobel Prize Winners whose books I’ve read, though. Some I liked immensely, a couple I have almost no recollection of, and others I just didn’t enjoy at all. Literature is not objective after all and we all have opinions.

 

Svetlana Alexievich

The Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2015 “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”, as the Swedish Academy put it. I’ve only read one book by her, so far. I had high hopes for Chernobyl Prayer, but my expectations weren’t met. This non-fiction book about the nuclear disaster that took place in 1986 in Ukraine and highly affected Belarus is a collection of testimonies, some of which are invaluable. Alexievich interviewed former workers of the power plant, doctors, scientists, soldiers and displaced people. Although it raises interesting questions, overall it lacks context and editing to make the testimonies more engaging.

 

Mario Vargas Llosa

In 2010, the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat”. Many years ago, I read the novel The Way to Paradise, which I don’t remember much about to be honest. I’m not even sure whether I enjoyed it or not anymore. It focuses on the painter Paul Gauguin and the feminist Flora Tristan, who was his grandmother. Continue reading

‘Instante’ (‘Moment’) by Wislawa Szymborska

My rating: 3 stars

Instante (Moment) by Wislawa Szymborska was the book I chose to represent Poland at the ‘EU still 28’ reading project. I believe this was my first time reading a poetry collection which was not originally written in Portuguese but translated into it. So, I’m not entirely certain if my misgivings in relation to some of these poems are due to the translation or to Szymborska’s writing style.

Being faithful to the title of the collection, various poems seem to have been inspired by moments and snippets from people’s lives. These moments, conveyed through a rather direct style, are comprised of both casual daily life occurrences and highly significant events. For example, ‘Fotografia de 11 de Setembro’ (‘Photograph from September 11’) focuses on the moment when people started to jump from the towers of the World Trade Centre complex following the terrorist attack in 2001.

Time is another recurring element in this collection. ‘As Três Palavras Mais Estranhas’ (‘The Three Oddest Words’) uses the word ‘future’ to demonstrate how time is inescapably brief. After all, before we finish saying ‘future’, the first syllable is already in the past. Continue reading

Book Haul – April 2017

I always try not to have too many unread books on my shelves. But, although my pile of to be read books is only slowly decreasing, I bought more books this month. Just four though! There was a sale on an online Portuguese shop and I wasn’t able to resist the temptation to buy some bargains.

So, I acquired the following books:

 

Jerusalém by Gonçalo M. Tavares

I have to confess that I know nothing about the plot of this book by Gonçalo M. Tavares. But this is one of the most renowned books by a contemporary Portuguese author. It was praised by many other famous writers, including José Saramago. I’ve also just realised that this is the third book in a series, but I believe that they may also be read as standalones. I bought the original in Portuguese, but there is an available translation into English by Anna Kushner, published by Dalkey Archive Press and titled Jerusalem. Continue reading