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What could 2020 possibly have in store for the Nobel Prizes?


October 1, 2020, 11:05am

Hi. Welcome to Nobel Prize speculation season, which used to be a fun time when all us serfs in the kingdom of letters would curl up around our pumpkin-spiced vodka tonics and dredge up charming old world poets and Philip Roth jokes. Not anymore. Even if the last few years hadn’t been a weird disaster for the Nobel committee (as it swerved maniacally from Bob Dylan to abuse and harassment and cancellation to… Peter Handke?) the events of 2020 make everything all the more strange and sad and terrifying. So what could this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature have in store for us?

I always love to hear the Anne Carson chatter but really want that to happen after Covid so the whole New Directions team can travel to Stockholm and show the Swedes how to party. According to this wire story from Agence-France Presse, the usual suspects are all still hanging around staring at their phones: Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Joyce Carol Oates, Marilynne Robinson, David Grossman, Margaret Atwood, and… Michel Houellebecq? Dear Nobel Committee, please don’t give it to Houellebecq, at the very least so we don’t have to spend three days on Twitter in another Harper’s Open Letter proxy war. It’d be like giving the Peace Prize to Gavin Fucking McInnes [spits].

I’m intrigued by Jamaica Kincaid as an option, though, as mentioned by Swedish culture editor Bjorn Wiman. The Nobel is unapologetic about its tethering of politics to a life in letters, and as Wiman rightly says, “Kincaid and her stance on various moral and political issues [colonialism, racism, and gender] are absolutely worth listening to today.”

The prize will likely be announced Thursday of next week. In the meantime we’ll dig a little deeper on the odds-on favorites, the underdogs, and the wildcards, and perhaps we can all meet back here on Tuesday in our tastefully oversized sweaters to gamble away what’s left of our stimulus checks. Winner buys the first round.

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