It’s been a busy week on the awards circuit. What seemed like a relatively calm Booker season grew divisive after the winner was announced: “The worst, certainly the most perverse, and perhaps the most indefensible choice in the 36-year history of the contest,” said former Booker judge Boyd Tonkin of this year’s choice, John Banville’s The Sea, and then the Irish press called the British press “bitchy” (reg. req.) in response. The National Book Awards, meanwhile, will likely involve less controversy than last year thanks to a more diverse mix of finalists. And the less said about the Quills, the better.But it has been the Nobel Prize for Literature, usually a civilized affair, that has been grabbing headlines this year. First, it came to light that the award was being delayed a week as the judges fought over the politics of a potential Laureate, the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. Then, a day before the announcement, former judge Knut Ahnlund denounced last year’s Nobel winner Elfriede Jelinek, whose writing he called “whingeing, unenjoyable, violent pornography.” But now we have a new Laureate, and he seems less likely to incite controversy, the British playwright, Harold Pinter, whose name, as the LA Times puts it, “has become a synonym for a unique space in the universe of drama.” Pinter is the first British Laureate since V.S. Naipaul in 2001, and he is, as far as I can tell, the first playwright to win the Nobel since Eugene O’Neill in 1936. For those wanting to get their hands on Pinter’s body of work, try his Complete Works: One and TwoUpdate: So, from Richard and Jenny in the comments, it seems as though Dario Fo and Wole Soyinka are more recently lauded playwrights than O’Neill, and possibly there are others depending on how you classify them.
Mark will be happy. He recently posted the first three parts of his long interview with John Banville. Maybe now that Banville has won the Booker Prize for his novel, The Sea, Mark will get around to posting the interview’s final installment. From the Times story linked above:The chairman of the judges, Professor John Sutherland, described The Sea as “a masterly study of grief, memory and love recollected”. He hailed the quality of Banville’s writing: “You feel you’re in the presence of a virtuoso. In his hands, language is an instrument.”The Booker is typically a modest mover of books in the States, so it will be interesting to see if Knopf pushes up publication from the current release date of March 21, 2006. Right now only the British edition is available.An excerpt from The SeaFor one last bit of Booker fun before we put it all away until next year, visit this blogger who is almost done reading every book on the longlist (and gave the Banville just one out of five stars.)Update: Looks like Knopf is moving publication up to early November. The American version.