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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Acclaimed authors evaded by Nobel Prize

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This article focuses on four highly admired authors from four different countries. Two of them are still alive while another two are no more among us. However, what puts them on equal terms is the fact that none of them received Nobel Prize for literature despite their worldwide towering fame as authors.

Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera, the most reputed Czech author of current time portrayed how Prague Spring impacted the lives of common Czech citizens in his widely read novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The Czech communist regime imposed an embargo on the publication and sale of this book. However, the ban on The Unbearable Lightness of Being was lifted when communism collapsed in Czechoslovakia in 1990 like some other countries in East Europe. Milan Kundera sketched the socialist government in Czechoslovakia in very derogatory terms in The Unbearable Lightness of Being even though the narrative style of the novel remains more or less melancholic.

As the Czech reformists who hailed Prague Spring were gagged by the Soviet invasion in 1968, Milan Kundera became disillusioned. He left Czechoslovakia in 1975 and migrated to France. The Czech government of that time revoked his Czech citizenship in 1979. He has been a French citizen since 1981. Even in an earlier novel titled The Joke Milan Kundera scoffed at the communist ruling authorities of Czechoslovakia. However, the Czech rulers removed Milan Kundera's name from their blacklist after the fall of communism. He was awarded Czech State Literature Prize in 2007. Before that he had achieved The Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 1987. He received the Ovid Prize as well in 2011. Moreover, he was shortlisted for Nobel Prize for literature a number of times even though the award has not been yet conferred to him. Both The Joke and The Unbearable Lightness of Being have been translated into most of the major languages of the world.

Milan Kundera's stories vibrate with an existential undertone, an intrepid resonance against discrimination and tyranny and a deep observation of the dreams, enigmas and agonies that enclose our lives in blithe as well as untoward situations. It's hard to put down a book by Milan Kundera once we start to go through it, because by means of his splendid narrating quality and outstanding rhetoric, he makes us familiar with the untold stories of millions of people who are constantly seeking answers to the confounding riddles posed by their lives. Some readers still wonder why Milan Kundera has not been yet awarded Nobel Prize for literature.

Ngugi Wa Thiongo
Ngugi Wa Thiongo is currently the best-known Kenyan author. His most prominent books are Decolonizing the Mind and Petals of Blood. Ngugi Wa Thiongo's book Decolonizing the Mind takes a deep look into the postcolonial mindsets of people and nations who were once colonized by western powers. The era of colonialism is underlined in history as a period of repression, plundering and imperialism spearheaded by several European countries. During the colonial centuries, different parts of the world were occupied by the colonial forces of England, France, Spain, Portugal and Holland. With the passage of time, most of the occupied territories became independent through wars and revolutions in Africa, Asia and North America.

Ngugi Wa Thiongo

But unfortunately a good number of African and Asian countries could not expedite their economic progress following the end of colonial period which is why they have remained dependent on the western states for financial, infrastructural and technological aid. Being a Kenyan by birth, Ngugi Wa Thiongo observes these limitations of his motherland which prevail across some other least developed countries too.  An author who presented so deep reflections about the postcolonial world has not yet been selected for Nobel Prize-surprising indeed.

Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)
Chinua Achebe was born in Nigeria. He portrayed the diversity of African culture and traditions through his literary creations. His masterpiece Things Fall Apart brought him applause from across the world. In this novel he depicted the colonial infiltration into Africa and the conflicts that broke out between the British colonizers and a Nigerian tribe. Another two celebrated novels by Chinua Achebe are No Longer at Ease and Arrow of God. He made valiant efforts to change the way the westerners view the African masses. Moreover, he sought to elevate the status of African heritage to the global community.

Chinua Achebe

Nadine Gordimer, the South African Nobel laureate termed Chinua Achebe as the father of modern African literature. Readers from all over the world started to envision Africa from a different angle as they became familiar with Achebe's writings. His novel Things Fall Apart was translated into over 50 languages worldwide and is still taught in many universities in different countries. Achebe received Man Booker Prize in 2007 for this striking novel. He passed away in 2013 but the Nobel Prize was not granted to him during his lifetime.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Mark Twain is an indispensable name as far as American literature is concerned. American fiction reached its cliff through the striking and fabulous novels and stories by Mark Twain. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is viewed as Mark Twain's masterpiece. What made Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a timeless work of literature is the outstanding quality of the author to convey grim messages about social perils through a fun-packed style of narrating the story. It is an attribute that very few authors of the world have been able to master and Mark Twain is one of them.

Mark Twain

With this superbly unconventional style, Mark Twain reconstructed the American way of telling stories and while doing so he highlighted the colloquial American confabs that always come with easy-going gestures. Mark Twain actually upheld the watchwords of humanity, liberty and egalitarian values through the events he depicted in all his books. It makes us feel puzzled why this imperishable American novelist was not awarded Nobel Prize.  Mark Twain and Chinua Achebe are no more. However, it's time to see whether Milan Kundera and Ngugi Wa Thiongo turn out to be lucky enough to receive the Nobel Prize for literature as they are still alive and adulated globally for their books.


The writer is a literary critic for The Asian Age

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