Favourite or outsider?

And the answer was none of the below. The Nobel Literature Prize 2013 went to the much beloved Canadian writer Alice Munro. A victory also for the short story as a genre. Munro writes about ordinary people in a deeply human and touching way, If you haven’t read Munro short stories before, there’s no reason not to begin.

* * *

The winner of the Nobel literature prize will be announced this Thursday by the Swedish Academy. Haruki Murakami is (once again) a favourite with the bookmakers, followed by Joyce Carol Oates and Péter Nádas.

Haruki Murakami, Japan

Born in Kyoto in 1949. Japan’s best-known novelist abroad is referred to by the Guardian as one of the world’s greatest living novelists, with books such as Norwegian Wood, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Kafka on the Shore and most recently the epic 1Q84.

Magic realism, surrealism, sometimes realism, dreamlike, flowing language – these are recurring words to describe his writing. He was from his early writing days inspired by Western writers such as Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac.

Murakami is also a passionate jazz lover who once ran a jazz bar in Tokyo, and an equally passionate marathon runner, something  he talks about in the biographical What I Talk About when I Talk About Running.

Murakami fans can look forward to Colorless Tsukura Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage, to be released in English in 2014.

“Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.”  – Haruki Murakami

Joyce Carol Oates, USA

Born in Lockport, New York in 1938. With over forty novels as well as plays, short stories, poetry and other publications, she is considered one of the most prolific and multifaceted writers of our time. The novels Black Water, What I Lived For and Blonde were all nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Oates states Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as her main literary influence, but also adds authors like Hemingway, Faulkner, the Brontë sisters and Kafka.

Several of her works are inspired by real life incidents, and she often deals with issues in society such as poverty, drugs, illegal immigration and materialism. Her most recent novel, The Accused, came out this year. She herself recommends new readers to start with the novels Them and Blonde.

Like Murakami, she is a devoted runner, and while running, her mind is writing.

“When people say there is too much violence in my books, what they are saying is there is too much reality in life” – Joyce Carol Oates

Péter Nádas, Hungary

Born in Budapest in 1942. Nádas’ writing is marked by life in Hungary under a Soviet-backed regime, with an urgency to discover and tell the truth.

His two main works are A Book of Memories, which it took him 12 years to complete and for which he was compared with Proust and Mann, and the monumental Parallel Stories, several individual stories filling 1500 pages and melting into one narrative that he worked on for 18 years. A Book of Memories was censored before it was published in 1986. Writer and feminist Susan Sontag called it “the greatest novel written in our time”.

His writing has been described as intellectual, detailed, strong, innovative and demanding.

“My foolishness had me believe that I was the story, and this bleak cold night merely its setting, but in fact my real story played itself out almost independently of me”  – Péter Nádas, A Book of Memories

Other names on the bookmaker lists are John Fosse from Norway, South-Korean Ko Un and Algerian Assia Djebar. The five most recent laureates are Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio (France), Herta Müller (Germany), Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru), Tomas Gösta Tranströmer (Sweden) and last year Mo Ya (China).

By Unni Holtedahl, October 2013

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