Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Read the Nobels 2016 – The Summary

One of the reading challenges for which I signed up in January without giving it a second thought is Read the Nobels 2016 hosted by Aloi aka the Guiltless Reader on her blogs Guiltless Reading and Read the Nobels. Now the New Year’s Eve celebrations are already around the corner (time flies!) and because only one last review will be going online in 2016, moreover one that isn’t relevant for this challenge, the moment has come to take stock of the writings from the pen of en-NOBEL-ed authors that I was able to add to my list of over 200 reviewed books here on Edith’s Miscellany.

My reviews for Read the Nobels 2016 are also contributions to Aloi’s perpetual Read the Nobels challenge although I haven’t yet re-published all of them on the official blog where any participant with a google account and author rights (granted by Aloi upon request) can post suitable reviews. During the past four years I reviewed no less than 43 books by 42 (of 113) laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature (»»» see my post for Read the Nobels with the complete list of winners and links to all my reviews) on my two book blogs Edith’s Miscellany and on Lagraziana’s Kalliopeion.

Compared to previous years I cut down the number of my Nobel reads, but I still reviewed six of them as planned and took great pleasure in it. Much to my regret, 2016 was the first time that the books were all written by men. The reason is that in its long history the prestigious award went only to fourteen women (»»» read my feature Thirteen Nobel Women of Letters and the Relativity of Statistics from December 2013) and so far I refrained from picking for review a second book by the same author. I already presented books by ten en-NOBEL-ed women and the remaining four (Gabriela Mistral, Nelly Sachs, Wisława Szymborska, and Svetlana Alexandrovna Alexievich) didn’t or don’t write novels.

Altogether, I stayed rather on the classic side. Except one from 1974, all reviewed novels were brought out between 1909 and 1955. Only two of the books were originally written in English, namely The Dark Flower by John Galsworthy and The Tree of Man by Patrick White. Satan in Goray by Isaac Bashevis Singer first appeared in Yiddish although later – when he lived in the USA – the author turned to always writing a “second original” in English. The original versions of The Hive by Camilo José Cela and The Monkey Grammarian by Octavio Paz that I read are Spanish. And it goes without saying that my edition of Royal Highness by Thomas Mann was in the original German since it’s my native language. Whenever I can, I avoid translations although I admit that there are a few truly ingenious translators out there and occasionally the one or other of them even succeeds in making the translation better than the original.

It’s difficult to say which of the six novels I liked best because much depends on how I feel. The top three probably are The Hive, The Monkey Grammarian and The Tree of Man – in alphabetical order! – because I almost always prefer the deep and thought-provoking or philosophical. The other three had less to offer in this respect without being light and shallow for it, and in addition, they didn’t particularly impress me on the levels of plot and language. More in my reviews!

And here comes the summary list of my Read the Nobels 2016 reviews including year of Nobel Prize award, original titles and links:

1929Thomas Mann: Royal Highness (1909), original German title: Königliche Hoheit
1932John Galsworthy: The Dark Flower (1913)
1973Patrick White: The Tree of Man (1955)
1978Isaac Bashevis Singer: Satan in Goray (1933), original Yiddish title: Der sotn in Goray
1989José Camilo Cela: The Hive (1951), original Spanish title: La Colmena
1990Octavio Paz: The Monkey Grammarian (1974), original Spanish title: El mono gramático


  1. Excellent report on your participation in the challenge. Now I have to go and see how many en-NOBEL-ed authors I read this year. The Slave by Singer is one. I am going to check out The Tree of Man and The Hive.

    1. Thanks for the praise! My report turned out rather longer than intended - as usual.

      Yes, do check out The Tree of Men and The Hive. They are both excellent reads though very different in style.

  2. This is so interesting, Edith. As you know, I also like to read Nobel Prize winning authors but I have not read any of these, including Thomas Mann's "Royal Highness" even though he belongs to one of my favourite authors.

    Thank you for your list. I am pretty far behind with my review of last year but there will be one, I promise.

    from Let's Read

    1. It seems that I like lists although according to my MBTI (Myers–Briggs Type Indicator) results I shouldn't ;-).
      I'm not really surprised that you don't know any of my six Nobel reads of past year. I love to pick less famous works... although the three that I named my favourites happen to be widely-read despite all.
      I'm looking forward to your review of a Nobel!

    2. I will get there at one point. I'm terribly behind this year, I just have not been too well lately. Therefore, I will not start any new challenges this year, just will try to get more reads from those that I have started already, like the Nobels. I try to read at least one new author every year in addition to the newest one.

      I always enjoy your posts and look forward to more of them.

      Happy Reading,

    3. Oh, I'm sorry to read that you haven't been too well as late. I definitely know what you mean. I entered into 2017 with something like lumbago although it wasn't actually the column that gave me problems and I still find it hard to sit in front of my computer long enough to write my posts... However, this isn't about me. Get well soon and enjoy your books!

    4. Of course it's also about you, I'm not here to complain about my problems and then not listen to others. I hope you will get better soon, as well.



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