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Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: Fractured Factoid — The Nobel Prize for Literature Over the Years

January 1, 2019

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One of my favorite blogs is Logarithmic History: The history of the universe — from the Big Bang to the end of the year — day by day (https://logarithmichistory.wordpress.com/) a look at History over a year beginning at the creation of the Universe and ending at today, with each day representing the passage of time on a logarithmic scale. Here is how the author lays it out:

LOGARITHMIC HISTORY, MONTHLY
January 1 … 13.8 Bya (billion years ago)
February 1 … 2.4 Bya
March 1 … 500 Mya (million years ago)
April 1 … 88 Mya
May 1 … 16 Mya
June 1 … 2.9 Mya
July 1 … 530 kya (thousand years ago)
August 1 … 91 kya
September 1 … 14 kya
October 1 … 1000 BCE
November 1 … 1501 CE
December 1 … 1934 CE
December 31 … 2015 CE

You will need to look up the blog itself to get the author’s explanation of what he is doing. I do not understand it myself, but it is fascinating.

While wandering through the blog I came across the author’s discussion of the Nobel Prize for literature. Here is a portion of it.

1901: The First Nobel Prize for Literature Awarded.

(A sign of the times: this year, 2018, as a result of sexual harassment allegations, the Swedish Academy will not award a Nobel Prize in Literature. They’ll hand out two prizes in 2019.)

The Nobel Prize in Literature goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century when the Nobel Prize Committee decided to look beyond the sciences. The first prize was to be awarded in 1901. There wasn’t much question who deserved it. Leo Tolstoy was still alive. He was not only the greatest novelist ever, probably, but also an imposing moral figure, a champion of non-violent resistance who would eventually inspire Gandhi and Martin Luther King. So the first Nobel Prize in Literature went to …

Sully Prudhomme

No, I haven’t read anything of his. Have you?

Next year they could still have awarded the prize to Tolstoy, although it would have been pretty embarrassing to have him getting it only after Prudhomme. So instead the prize went to the historian Theodore Mommsen. Thus began a century-plus long tradition of hit-and-miss awards. In some years, the awardees were acknowledged, great writers. In other years, the winners were less well-known, but arguably merited the wider recognition that came with the prize. But many of the choices — and omissions — were just plain weird.

In response to all these wasted opportunities, Ted Gioia, musician, music historian, and author, offered his own list of authors who should have gotten the prize, year by year up to 2015, with a generous representation of popular writers as well as more literary ones. At least by one metric, he did a great job: among authors mentioned on this blog,

9 appear on Gioa’s list but not on the actual winner list (Conrad, Joyce, Brecht, Borges, Tolkien, Larkin, Heinlein, Doctor Seuss, and Joni Mitchell).
1 appears on the actual winner list but not on Gioa’s list (Bertrand Russell).
0 appear on both lists
Here’s a link to The Nobel Prize in Literature from an Alternative Universe. And here’s the list below:

YEAR ACTUAL WINNER ALTERNATIVE REALITY WINNER
1901 Sully Prudhomme —  Leo Tolstoy
1902 Theodor Mommsen —  George Meredith
1903 Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson —  Anton Chekhov
1904 Frédéric Mistral, José Echegaray — Jules Verne
1905 Henryk Sienkiewicz — Henrik Ibsen
1906 Giosuè Carducci — Mark Twain
1907 Rudyard Kipling — Rudyard Kipling
1908 Rudolf Eucken —  John Millington Synge
1909 Selma Lagerlöf — August Strindberg
1910 Paul Heyse — W.S. Gilbert
1911 Maurice Maeterlinck —  Henry James
1912 Gerhart Hauptmann — William Dean Howells
1913 Rabindranath Tagore — Georg Trakl
1915 Romain Rolland — Guillaume Apollinaire
1916 Verner von Heidenstam —  Sigmund Freud
1917 Karl Gjellerup, Henrik Pontoppidan — Joseph Conrad
1919 Carl Spitteler — Thomas Hardy
1920 Knut Hamsun —  Rainer Maria Rilke
1921 Anatole France .–  Marcel Proust
1922 Jacinto Benavente  — Franz Kafka
1923 William Butler Yeats — William Butler Yeats
1924 Wladyslaw Reymont —  Miguel de Unamuno
1925 George Bernard Shaw — George Bernard Shaw
1926 Grazia Deledda —  Arthur Conan Doyle
1927 Henri Bergson — Constantine P. Cavafy
1928 Sigrid Undset —  Edith Wharton
1929 Thomas Mann  — Thomas Mann
1930 Sinclair Lewis —  F. Scott Fitzgerald
1931 Erik Axel Karlfeldt —  G. K. Chesterton
1932 John Galsworthy —  Zane Grey
1933 Ivan Bunin —  Stefan Zweig
1934 Luigi Pirandello — Luigi Pirandello
1936 Eugene O’Neill — Eugene O’Neill
1937 Roger Martin du Gard —  James Joyce
1938 Pearl Buck —  Virginia Woolf
1939 Frans Eemil Sillanpää — Robert Musil
1944 Johannes V. Jensen —  W. H. Auden
1945 Gabriela Mistral —  George Orwell
1946 Hermann Hesse — Hermann Broch
1947 André Gide  — André Gide
1948 T.S. Eliot —  T.S. Eliot
1949 William Faulkner —  William Faulkner
1950 Bertrand Russell —  Ludwig Wittgenstein
1951 Pär Lagerkvist — Dorothy Parker
1952 François Mauriac Giuseppe — Tomasi di Lampedusa
1953 Winston Churchill — Wallace Stevens
1954 Ernest Hemingway — Ernest Hemingway
1955 Halldòr Laxness — Bertolt Brecht
1956 Juan Ramón Jiménez —  Raymond Chandler
1957 Albert Camus —  Albert Camus
1958 Boris Pasternak — E. M. Forster
1959 Salvatore Quasimodo — Cole Porter
1960 Saint-John Perse —  Ian Fleming
1961 Ivo Andric — William Carlos Willaims
1962 John Steinbeck  — John Steinbeck
1963 Giorgios Seferis — Giorgios Seferis
1964 Jean-Paul Sartre —  Jean-Paul Sartre
1965 Mikhail Sholokhov — Jack Kerouac
1966 Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Nelly Sachs —  Agatha Christie, Jorge Luis Borges
1967 Miguel Angel Asturias — Vladimir Nabokov
1968 Yasunari Kawabata — Yukio Mishima
1969 Samuel Beckett — Samuel Beckett
1970 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn —  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
1971 Pablo Neruda —  Pablo Neruda
1972 Heinrich Böll —  J.R.R. Tolkien
1973 Patrick White — Lionel Trilling
1974 Eyvind Johnson, Harry Martinson —  John Lennon, Paul McCartney
1975 Eugenio Montale — Eugenio Montale
1976 Saul Bellow — Saul Bellow
1977 Vicente Aleixandre — Tennessee Williams
1978 Isaac Bashevis Singer — Isaac Bashevis Singer
1979 Odysseus Elytis —  Philip K. Dick
1980 Czeslaw Milosz —  Czeslaw Milosz
1981 Elias Canetti —  Elias Canetti
1982 Gabriel García Márquez —  Gabriel García Márquez
1983 William Golding —  Graham Greene
1984 Jaroslav Seifert — Italo Calvino
1985 Claude Simon — Philip Larkin
1986 Wole Soyinka — Eugene Ionesco
1987 Joseph Brodsky —  Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein
1988 Naguib Mahfouz — Salman Rushdie
1989 Camilo José Cela — Theodor Seuss Geisel
1990 Octavio Paz —  Octavio Paz
1991 Nadine Gordimer —  Muriel Spark
1992 Derek Walcott —  Bob Dylan
1993 Toni Morrison —  Ralph Ellison
1994 Kenzaburo Oe —  Stephen Sondheim
1995 Seamus Heaney — Isaiah Berlin
1996 Wislawa Szymborska — Stanisław Lem
1997 Dario Fo — Hunter Thompson
1998 José Saramago —  Roberto Bolaño
1999 Günter Grass — Tom Stoppard
2000 Gao Xingjian —  Robert Ludlum
2001 V. S. Naipaul — V. S. Naipaul
2002 Imre Kertész — John le Carré
2003 J. M. Coetzee — David Foster Wallace
2004 Elfriede Jelinek —  John Updike
2005 Harold Pinter — Milan Kundera
2006 Orhan Pamuk —  Philip Roth
2007 Doris Lessing — J.K. Rowling
2008 Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio — Don DeLillo
2009 Herta Mueller — Ian McEwan
2010 Mario Vargas Llosa — Mario Vargas Llosa
2011 Tomas Tranströmer — Stephen King
2012 Mo Yan — Haruki Murakami
2013 Alice Munro — Joni Mitchell
2014 Patrick Modiano — Karl Ove Knausgård
2015 Svetlana Alexievich — Elena Ferrante

https://logarithmichistory.wordpress.com/2018/11/25/the-first-nobel-2/

 

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