Παρασκευή, 3 Ιανουαρίου 2014

Σεφέρης και Νόμπελ: άνοιξαν τα αρχεία της βράβευσης

 The Nobel Prize archives are kept sealed for fifty years -- but that still means that every year another year's worth of deliberations are opened to public view. The Nobel Prize in Literature 1963 went to Giorgos (George) Seferis -- and now we finally learn who he beat out. 
       Admirably, the Nobel folk are milking public interest nicely: until recently they let journalists do all the dirty work, but now they package their own press release regardingCandidates for the 1963 Nobel Prize in Literature (well done, guys -- now get that nomination database up to date (i.e. up to 1963 ...)). 
       So who was Seferis up against ? Apparently 80 individuals were suggested, of whom 22 were new candidates (pretty much out of the running). Among new candidates: future winner Nelly Sachs -- and ... Charles de Gaulle ? (Don't laugh too hard: just a decade earlier they'd ridiculously awarded the prize to ... Winston Churchill (and not for his fiction ... (Savrola, in case you're interested, and no, there's no Penguin/Oxford/etc. classics edition of that)).) 
       Apparently the six finalists in 1963 were:
  • Giorgos Seferis
  • W.H.Auden
  • Pablo Neruda (1971 winner)
  • Samuel Beckett (1969 winner)
  • Mishima Yukio
  • Aksel Sandemose
       And when push came to shove it was a contest between the poets: "the Nobel Committee in the end suggested three candidates": Seferis, Auden, and Neruda. 
       Apparently it was a slam dunk for Seferis ("All Nobel Committee members proposed unanimously Giorgos Seferis with one committee member's reservation for a more positive valuing of Beckett's authorship"). 
       Interesting that three of the six finalists didn't ever get the prize: Auden, Mishima, and the largely forgotten Sandemose (though he only had one more shot at it: he died in 1965). Mishima was also a first-time nominee, which put the odds against him -- and with three other Japanese nominees in the mix (surely Kawabata, Tanizaki, and ... ?) "it was decided that his authorship was not yet to be given preference" 
       In Svenska Dagbladet Kaj Schueler reports Svenska Akademien ratade både Beckett och Nabokov, digging a bit deeper and reporting that Nabokov, too, was nominated for the prize that year (for the first time) -- but apparently his "immoraliska succéroman Lolita" was (really, really) held against him. (With not only Lolita under his belt, but also Pninand -- just -- Pale Fire, Nabokov was certainly ripe for nomination (good for whoever did) if perhaps not yet quite the win (though, yes, he should have picked it up somewhere along the line over the next decade and a half ...). 
       Leaving aside Mishima -- a first-time nominee still in full working-mode (see also his biography, Persona) -- it obviously looks like the Academy missed the boat a bit: okay, they finally got to Beckett, but clearly Auden has aged best of the other four (though it has to be said: with five of the six finalists still recognizable names -- sorry, Aksel -- and even if Seferis remains best-known because of the Nobel, well, they didn't do half bad a job). 
       Seferis isn't exactly a household name any longer, but you can still find collections; check out Princeton University Press'Collected Poems (see their publicity page, or get your copy atAmazon.com or Amazon.co.uk). 

       The next two years will be even more interesting ones: some say Auden was promised the prize but turned it down -- but in 1964 Sartre, who did get the prize, really did turn it down, while in 1965 Mikhail Sholokhov got it -- another 1963 nominee, but then one of the Swedish Academy's most controversial (and criticized) selections. 

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    permanent link -

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