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Debating the Next Nobel Laureate

On October 8, 2015, the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced. The favourites among bookmakers are the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich, and Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Maya Kucherskaya, Professor in the HSE School of Philology, shares her opinions on the most likely contenders.

Maya Kucherskaya, Professor at the School of Philology

Despite the lists made by bookmakers, Svetlana Alexievich will not end up being the winner this year. Everything that has to do with Russian literature and language arts – and Svetlana Alexievich writes her books in Russian – looks hopeless and rather uncomfortable in the eyes of Swedish academics. This is not a field that can contribute an exotic colour to the palette of world literature; on the contrary, it’s seen as a colourless field. Challenging this now makes no sense; it is a well-known fact. There is a reluctance to translate Russian authors, for example. Everyone is lazily interested in what we have that’s new, and if authors are translated and are invited, then it’s those who were discovered 20 years ago. So there is no chance of there being either a Russian or Belarusian Nobel laureate this year. Although I would be happy to be wrong!

Who they will choose is anyone’s guess. For a long time, no one exotic and non-European has been on the Nobel horizon – someone with a mix of cultures and languages ​​in their background – a postmodernist playwright from a distant Pacific island, for example. On the other hand, it’s time to finally honour Philip Roth. He’s a great writer, his novels connect with one another to form an epic about life in 20th century America. Besides Roth is not very young; in a word, the sound of the clock ticking is deafening!

 

 Alexander Arkhangelsky, Professor at the Faculty of Communications, Media and Design

I see only one candidate, but he is unlikely to be given the award – for political reasons. This is the Israeli Amos Oz. An Israeli writer has won the award only once, and that time it was only half the award (in 1966, the prize was shared by Shmuel Yosef Agnon and Nelly Sachs of Sweden). But he has proven that he is worthy. He is a humanist but not a nationalist, one who is oriented toward the classics rather than modernism. His ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ is a great book that will undoubtedly go down in history of world literature.

There are a few candidates who are better known. Jonathan Franzen is very popular – his first novel ‘The Corrections’ is really a great book, but his second doesn’t quite leave the same impression. Svetlana Alexievich’s latest novel is not her strongest.

There may be some surprises, like there was previously, for example, with the completely incomprehensible choice to award Dario Fo or Elfriede Jelinek. It’s also impossible to understand when someone who deserves the award doesn’t receive it, such as Astrid Lindgren.

So I would say that what we are waiting for is not justice, but simply a decision.

On October 12 the winner of the Nobel prize in Economics will be determined. For Konstantin Sonin's prediction please see the article.

See also:

Results of the Contest to Predict Nobel Prize Winners in Economics

This year, three economists received the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel: Ben Bernanke, Douglas Diamond and Philip Dybvig. For participants of the prediction contest, the jury's choice turned out to be quite unexpected—only six people guessed one of the three Nobel laureates.

Annual Contest to Predict Nobel Prize Winners in Economics

The Faculty of Economic Sciences is holding a contest to predict the winners of the 2022 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Participants can name up to three candidates, and whoever makes the most accurate prediction will receive a prize.

‘Mandelstam Street’ Exhibition Opens at the State Literature Museum with Support of HSE University

On March 16, the HSE Madelstam Centre together with Vladimir Dal State Literature Museum opened a museum dedicated to poet Osip Mandelstam and his wife Nadezhda. Below, HSE News Service talks about the exposition ‘Mandelstam Street: Osip and Nadezhda’.

Authorship Proven by Mathematics

Marking Mikhail Sholokhov's 115th anniversary (1905-1984), linguists Boris Orekhov of the HSE and Natalya Velikanova of the Moscow State University confirmed his authorship of the epic novel about the Don Cossacks. The researchers were able to attribute the novel using the text distance measure proposed by John Burrows. Termed Burrows' Delta, it provides a simple and reliable method of attributing or confirming the authorship of various texts. 

HSE University Joins Digital Archive Project of Silver Age Literature

Autograph is a digital archive that grants researchers access to digitized manuscripts of Russian writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Until now, the manuscripts were only available in archives that are closed to researchers and the public and located in different cities and countries around the world.

Library Night at HSE: Shakespeare, Museums and Quests

Almost 40 teams took part in the ‘Through the pages of Basmania’ quest, organized by the Higher School of Economics as part of an annual citywide event, Library Night. Event participants also staged passages from Romeo and Juliet and attended lectures about theatre at HSE library.

International Students Explore Russian Literature in HSE’s Preparatory Year Programme

HSE’s Preparatory Year Programme for international students includes not only intensive Russian language training but also subject specific courses. One such course is ‘Russian Literature’, which introduces international students to classic works by Russian writers such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. In the course, students read and discuss select texts in the original Russian, which helps them gain a better understanding of the Russian culture and history.

Translation Studies Expert Speaks at School of Philology

On September 26 and 27, the HSE School of Philology hosted Professor Brian Baer of Kent University (Ohio, USA) for a lecture entitled ‘The Translator’s Biography in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia: Art, Politics, Identity’, followed by a workshop on ‘Teaching Translation Studies’. Following his lecture and workshop, Professor Baer spoke with the HSE News Service about his career as a translator, the role of the translator in society and his recommendations for international readers looking for exposure to Russian literature.

Russian Sincerity Today – A Conversation with Professor Ellen Rutten

On May 23, Ellen Rutten, Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at the University of Amsterdam, delivered a lecture at HSE on her new book, ‘Sincerity after Communism’. An expert on Slavonic literature and culture, Professor Rutten is involved in numerous projects, including the Digital Emotions group, Sublime Imperfections, and ‘Russian Literature’, a journal where she serves as editor-in-chief.

From HSE to the Sorbonne and Back

Alexey Lukashin, graduate of the HSE master’s programme ‘Comparative Studies: Russian Literature in Cross-cultural Perspective’, studies how real people often copy literary characters and how they themselves can become unusual characters. He is now writing a thesis on this at the Sorbonne and plans to go for his doctorate at HSE.