Friday, 25 November 2011

The Nobel Prize for Literature Balance

Or lack of balance. There's a surprise.

Of the 107 laureates since 1901, only 12 have been women. They are getting slightly closer together than earlier years but there's not a lot of equality there.

Who are they?

Romanian living in Germany
Prize motivation: "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed"
Doris Lessing
Born in Persia, living in England.
Prize motivation: "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny"
 Prize motivation: "for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power"
Prize motivation: "for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality"
Prize motivation: "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality"
South African
Prize motivation: "who through her magnificent epic writing has - in the words of Alfred Nobel - been of very great benefit to humanity"
Born in Germany, lived in Sweden
Prize motivation: "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength" 
Prize motivation: "for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world"
Pearl Buck
Prize motivation: "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces"
Born in Denmark, lived in Norway
Prize motivation: "principially for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages"
Italian (Sardinian)
Prize motivation: "for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general"
Selma Lagerlöf
Prize motivation: "in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings" 


Writing For My Life said...

The figure does seem imbalanced, yet when I think about it I'd be hard pushed to think of more than a dozen female writers who have been overlooked but should have won. On the other hand, I can think of loads of worthy male writers who missed out.
It's a difficult one, I think. The Nobel Prize always seems a bit peculiar in their choices, and yet down through the years the laureates I've read (especially the ones I'd previously never heard of) have almost always seemed deserving.
I hope they never get into an issue of quotas, because where would that end? I'd definitely like to see more Asian and African writers on the list, though.

Emerging Writer said...

I have often not heard of the laureates. This is more because it is so international and I am confined to only a couple of languages and rarely read translations. But surely there are many more deserving, overlooked women than this? Ditto Asian and African