2013 Nobel Prize for Literature
The first thing I saw on the front page of this morning's The Japan Times newspaper is that Canadian short story writer Alice Munro had won the 2013 Nobel Prize for literature. It was the very first thing my eye fell on when I sat down with the paper to eat breakfast.
Yesterday, on Thursday 10th, I read a story on page three of the paper speculating that Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami was the literature prize front runner. Some other names including Munro’s were mentioned - American Joyce Carol Oates, for example, Belarussian writer Svetlana Alexievich and Algeria’s Assia Djebar. But that report didn’t rate Munro’s chances high. It quoted odds offered by the London, England bookmaker, Ladbrookes, rating Murakami the favorite candidate. So of course I was happy to read that it was the Canadian, and a woman.
I remember that Munro was required reading in some high school English courses when I was a student at Centennial CVI in Guelph, Ontario. She probably still is. But I never read anything by her because I didn’t take those courses. I took different English courses and concentrated more on World Literature. So instead of reading people like Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood I read people like William Shakespeare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Thomas Hardy (I loved Thomas Hardy), Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Hermann Hesse and Jack Kerouac. Plus, I don’t like short stories. I prefer novels because they seem like a better investment.
I used to like Haruki Murakami quite a bit. His dark novel Norwegian Wood was one of the first Japanese novels I read (in English). But slowly over time I’ve grown apart from his books. His heroes are almost always Japanese Everyman characters - lonely, dull office workers who accidentally get involved in bizarre and absurd situations. I guess his point is to highlight the absurdity of modern life. When I first began reading Murakami the absurdity was part of what attracted me. But over time it became tiresome so I stopped reading him.