Wednesday, 19 January 2011

World Literature: The Nobel Prize

My first class on 'World Lit- The Nobel Prize' was on Monday 17th. So it was back to the routine and fun to meet up with my friends from last year.

Some interesting facts on the Nobel. 107 individuals have received the Nobel Prize for Literature and guess how many were women? Only 12! The youngest receipient was Rudyard Kipling at 42 in 1907 and oldest was Doris Lessing at 88 in 2007. Most of the prizes were for European languages. Tagore wrote in Bengali and English and was the first Non-European to receive it in 1931. We did discuss the reasons for this and were also amazed to find one writer of 'Occitan' a language of Southern France had won it. I had never heard of the language before, I was familar with Provencal, but it is only a part of that region. More fascinating was the actual criteria laid down by Alfred Nobel, and how it has been interpreted over the years. I won't go into details of that here.

We moved over to the texts that we would be looking at in detail, the first one being the poems of Wislawa Szymborska. The citation on her award stated "for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality". We now have to find out how it articulates in her work. We are studying her recently translated book of poems 'Miracle Fair'. In an article M.A. Packalen says ' the ever present existential questions are leitmotifs in Szymborska's poetry. The poems describe with the same gravity both empirical reality and the non-existing, the potential - that which is best described by its absence, a kind of quasi-reality.'

The line that stays in my mind is "Life lasts as long as a few signs scratched by a claw in the sand".

Yes, I do find some of her work challenging but look at the simplicity of this poem, the title poem in our book:

A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than four.

Absolutely wonderful I could read poems like this again and again. The words evoke such strong emotions, the lines dance lyrical from my head straight to my heart.I am one happy person!

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