jueves, 23 de agosto de 2007

And the Nobel Prize Goes To....

Ever wondered on what grounds the Nobel Committee decides who will get the Nobel Prize for Literature every year? What lies behind this frequently surprising and/or controversial decision? Well, according to Kjell Espmark in his book The Nobel Prize in Literature. A Study of the Criteria behind the Choices, 1991:, the difficulty in interpreting the instructions laid down by Alfred Nobel in his will may be part of the problem .

"Indeed, the history of the literature prize is in some ways a series of attempts to interpret an imprecisely worded will."..."Nobel provided us with five criteria. Three of them are of a general type, valid for all the five prizes, and two are specifically designed for the literary prize. (1) "to those who ... shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind". This is the basic criterion, introduced in the very first sentence of the relevant paragraph in the will. (2) "during the preceding year". For obvious reasons, this is interpreted in such a way that the writer shall be alive at the moment of nomination - no room for Shakespeare - and the oeuvre shall be of current interest. (3) "no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates". This was a far-sighted criterion although not in keeping with the national romanticism of the late 19th century. In the last decade or so it has been possible for it to apply extensively. (4) "to the person who shall have produced ... the most outstanding work". It goes without saying that this means literary excellence. (5) "in an ideal direction".

And what, you may ask yourself, is the meaning of criterion number 5? Ah, that may be precisely the key of the matter...
For the whole article,
Topping Shakespeare?

Aspects of the Nobel Prize for Literature
by Professor Sture Allén from The Swedish Academy, Sweden and a lot of interesting information on the Nobel prizes, please go to: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/articles/sture/index.html

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