Here’s a piece I was able to whip together after the Nobel selection for literature was announced last week, thanks to Professor Ted Goossen at York University:
A lot of disappointment greeted the announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature—who was not Haruki Murakami.
In other parts of the world fans took to social media, wondering aloud if the secretive committee in Sweden was purposely “trolling” Japan’s arguably best known writer, in awarding the relatively unknown — in Japan at least — Kazuo Ishiguro.
Ted Goossen, a professor of Japanese literature at York University in Toronto and one of Murakami’s earliest collaborators in translation, however sees the debate concerning who is more deserving of a Nobel as a dead end.
“It has always been my impression that who wins the Nobel is based less on literary merit and more on the internal politics of a secretive (and fairly Eurocentric) committee,” was Goossen’s response when asked by the Asahi Weekly to enter the fray.
The Canadian academic has been something of the unsung soldier in Murakami’s international literary breakthrough. He has translated early works such as “Hear the Wind Sing” and “Pinball, 1973,” as well as other lesser known titles from the author. Alfred Birnbaum and Jay Rubin worked the longer novels that helped bring Murakami fame.
And it was Goosen who was called upon by Murakami to put into English his preface for the book “Kazuo Ishiguro: Contemporary Critical Perspectives,” an academic work that came out in 2010.
“I think Ishiguro’s most outstanding feature is that all of his novels are so different… Yet each also bears Ishiguro’s unmistakable imprint, and each forms a small yet wonderfully distinct universe in itself,” writes Murakami in Goossen’s translation.
“When all those little universes are brought together (of course this only happens in the reader’s head), a far broader universe—the sum of all of Ishiguro’s novels—takes vivid shape.”
Murakami fans might find the preface a bitter irony, since the same could surely be said of their author, who, in their unicorn world would soon be heading off to Stockholm. For Goossen, however, the Nobel is no true litmus test.
He says the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, which openly issues long and short lists for candidates unlike the Nobel committee, “is of more interest” for literature scholars like himself.
“The only good thing I can see about the Nobel is that it spurs a few people to read more literature, which is a good thing, and throws a spotlight on an author who hopefully deserves it.
“Given his fame and vast readership, Haruki doesn’t really need that spotlight, does he?”