What is the Nobel Prize, What are its criteria for literature, and should Isabel Allende someday be considered for it?Introduction:The writers are the products of civilization of the time. There are types of writers who produce all-time great literature and think much ahead of their times. The artificial barriers that divide humanity are related to the mind-level literature. All conflicts, differences of opinions, arguments and counter-arguments are the domain such thought-processes. But the rare ones, who transcend the mind, and see the divine unity in all types of diversities—the pen of such great ones produce extraordinary literary works. The Nobel Prize Committee is ever engaged in the search of writers, year after year, who capture the hearts, intelligence and nobility of human beings in the characters evolved in their literary creations Sometimes, their horizons reach to all creatures of Nature, including the animal and plant kingdom.
What is the Nobel Prize, What are its criteria for literature?“The Nobel Library was founded in 1901 to assist the Swedish Academy in its task of selecting the Nobel Laureate in Literature. It is a modern research library with a private, autonomous status, established primarily for the Swedish Academy and its Nobel Committee, although its collections are also open to the public.”(The Nobel…) The library contains ore than 200,000 volumes and modern literature is its major area of acquisitions.
It is located in one of the finest 18th century buildings in Stockholm. It is housed in one of Stockholm’s most beautiful 18th century buildings. The Nobel Prize for literature is governed by Alfred Nobel’s will (1895) as amended from time to time by the Swedish Academy, as per the rules and regulations framed by the appropriate authority. It is awarded to the most outstanding work as well as the most ideal one. “The Laureate should be determined by “the Academy in Stockholm”, which was specified by the statutes of the Nobel Foundation to mean the Swedish Academy. These statutes defined literature as “not only belles-lettres, but also other writings which, by virtue of their form and style, possess literary value”. (Espmark, 1999)As stated earlier, the originals clauses to determine the prize were amended as per the demands of time and experience gained in the matter of disbursing the award.
Initially, the works published during the preceding year only were considered but the addition of “older works” for consideration was added subsequently. The candidate for Nobel Prize must be nominated in writing by the specified authorities before February 1, each year. All Nobel information, the related correspondence and the records of judging and the final selection of the authors for the coveted prize is supposed to be secret for 50 years.
The award-judging process is the toughest of the tasks and the criteria for selection have undergone not only procedural changes, but changes in the thinking process of the Committee, as per the new trends in human ingenuity and knowledge-trends. Later the merit related to the immediate readership of the literary works was accepted to be the relevant factor. The scope of the accepted principle, “the greatest benefit on mankind,” became wider, in keeping with the demands of time. The world literature meant new possibilities, fresh outlook and the innovative language styles.
“In the 1920s it was certainly laid down that the prize was “intended for the literature of the whole world” but instruments to implement the idea were not available. In the 1930s, there were, on the whole, not even reasonable nominations from the Asiatic countries and the Academy had, at that time, not yet developed a scouting system of its own.”(Epsmark, 1999) This was a tough international task; nevertheless the merits of the world literary scene demanded the same. It is another intriguing task for the Academy to maintain the political integrity, for many a times, the prize awarded to an author of a particular nationality with particular political ideology, may have international ramifications.The Nobel Committee is chosen within the Swedish Academy, and it is the working unit of 3-5.
The main task is to cut short the long list of about 200 names to some 15.The Jewish community dominates the scene as for Nobel Prizes, including literature. So far this community has 10 Noble Laureates in literature to be proud of, which is high going by the percentage of the community, population-wise. “Throughout the 20th century, Jews, more so than any other minority, ethnic or cultural group, have been recipients of the Nobel Prize — perhaps the most distinguished award for human endeavor in the six fields for which it is given.
Remarkably, Jews constitute almost one-fifth of all Nobel laureates. This is so in a world in which Jews number just a fraction of 1 percent of the population.”(Dobbs, 2001)In short, the criteria of interests in Nobel Selection if the Literature Laureates is:“Writing demonstrates a great benefit to humankind, universality of the writer’s artistic /humanistic vision, contemporaneous impact by a living (and still publishing) writer, recognized merit of one’s work independent of the global prominence of one’s home nation, unquestioned literary excellence, possible components including aesthetic traditionalism(or “norms”) affirmed, influential and significant literary experimentation and innovation, linguistic excellence//artistry of a very high order, Imaginative championing of an “ideal direction” for/in human existence and important localized impact/literary vision meriting more global recognition and promotion and permitting the committee to announce a relative unknown to the world literary stage),efficacy in articulating the cultural voice of an ignored/overshadowed/endangered (or oppressed?) group, tradition, people, or society”(Criteria…)I think that for the three reasons detailed below Isabel Allende should not be considered for the Nobel Prize for literature.1. A writer is deeply influenced and impacted by the life around him and one’s inner convictions.
The hallmark of a great writer is that the writings and ideas need to be free from plagiarism. On this count, Isabel Allende deserves minus points, as the literary critics see that the subject dealt with in ‘The House of Spirits’ is the cloning of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, (a Nobel Prize Winning author) One Hundred Years of Solitude For being considered for Nobel Prize, a novel needs to be masterpiece, not the collection ‘pieces’ and ideas from other sources. The Solitude was written in 1969 and the House of Spirits in 1982.The book has been considered as the inferior reflection of Solitude by many.
Some of the writing techniques used is similar. Therefore, this book can not be considered as an original creation.2. The novel reads like the investigative report of three generations of a family and the Marxist slant in the writings and contents are obvious. The last few decades have seen the utter rout of the Marxist philosophy all over the world and thus the novel doesn’t add anything new to the advancement of human knowledge. Some of the impossible wonders traced in the novel, may do good for a scientific fiction, but not for the all-time great literature, which is one of the important criteria, for being considered for the award of the Nobel Prize.
3. A writer needs to be an individual of conviction. Such convictions are dearer to the writer than the life itself. Many writers have faced jail terms, suffered State humiliation for standing up to the principles which they considered as noble. But Isabel Allende fled Chile, with her husband and children, to the safe heavens of Venezuela, when her uncle Salvador Allende, Chilean President was assassinated in 197, as part of a right-wing military coup. It was during her stay at Venezuela, that she wrote The House of Spirits.
Her life took not so creditable turn, when she married William Gordon, a lawyer, with whom she fell in love, while on tour in USA, in the year 1988. She now lives with him in Marin, California.Conclusion:The Nobel Prize is for noble literature.
In this world dominated by materialistic civilization and impacted by industrial and internet revolution, how to find such nobility amongst the posse of writers in all the world language is the problem before the Nobel Prize Selection committee. Mistakes do happen in such a gigantic and arduous task. The wise authors must remember that it is better to deserve without receiving, than to receive without deserving. ========== References Cited:Article: The Nobel Library of the Swedish Academycat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN;1935719 – Retrieved on May 21, 2008Espmark, Kjell: Article: The Nobel Prize in Literature Bibliography 3 December 1999nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/articles/espmark/index.html – 57k – Cached – Retrieved on May 21, 2008Dobbs, Stephen Mark: Article: As the Nobel Prize marks centennial, Jews constitute 1/5 of..October 12, 2001.www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/17015/edition_id/335/format/html/displaystory.html – 25k – Cached, Retrieved on May 21, 2008Article: Criteria for the Awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literaturecalvin.linfield.edu/~bseidman/Nobel%20criteria%20wksht.doc – Retrieved on May 21, 2008;