How much will Putin influence the Nobel Prize for Literature?

Vladimir Sorokin. A Russian dissident.

My colleague -and friend- Hinde Pomeraniec it alerts me: eye that can win Mircea Cartarescu. It hardly goes without saying what he can win: this Thursday the Nobel Prize for Literature is announced and we journalists are trying to catch clues in the air.

Cartarescu’s name has been on the ball for years for the Nobel Prize. What happens now again? He is Romanian, he has just won the FIL award at the Guadalajara Book Fair and since the region is on fire, all eyes are pointing there. what are you up to Vladimir Sorokin?, I wonder. The Russian writer jumped into the world in 2006 when he wrote The Day of the Oprichnikwhere he talks about a near future in which tsarism has been restored and the state sends its boys to keep things in order in Moscow.

Sorokin took care to talk about repression in the Russia of the 21st century. For those things in life he left his country a few days before the invasion of Ukraine and did not return: the New York Times reports that “he has described Vladimir Putin as a ‘monster’, putting himself in a precarious position after Putin called Russians who oppose the war ‘scum’ and ‘traitors’.


Could be a profile for you the swedish academy Make your opposition to the invasion clear, right?

But things are not usually so direct in the world of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Last year -remember?- he won Abdulrazak Gurnahan African who has lived in England for a thousand years and who talks about how difficult immigration is, how difficult it is to integrate and, above all, records the path and culture that led to Great Britain who will be the parents, the grandparents of young Europeans not yet born. Did you respond directly to the newspapers of 2021, still shaken by the pandemic and the heartbreak over the murder of george floyd in the United States in 2020? Hmm not exactly. But nothing to see either.

So we journalists do accounts. He could be a dissident Russian but isn’t he already a Latin American? (The last one was Mario Vargas Llosa, in 2010). Or rather a Latin American. Elena Poniatowski? The Mexican -and from a Polish family!- is the author of a delicious work like Until I see you my Jesuswhere it collects the speech of the women of the town in times of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Poniatowska It is based on a true story and was based on an interview: the writer is a journalist and was a pioneer in turning what appears in the media into literature.

Abdulrazak Gurnah and one of his books. (REUTERS/Henry Nicholls)
Abdulrazak Gurnah and one of his books. (REUTERS/Henry Nicholls)

In this sense, his major work is The night of Tlatelolco. Oral history evidence. That recounts the massacre of students on October 2, 1968 in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, in Mexico City. Quick of reflexes, the journalist Poniatowska took her recorder and went out to speak with the protagonists and their families. The book is a network of voices. many years later Svetlana Alexievichthe author of a similar work –Voices from Chernobyl, unmissable – received the Swedish Academy Award.

The Latin American social reality recorded in books, may be. But there, don’t you have a few more beans? Leonard Padura, a critic of the Cuban regime who nevertheless never left the island? In Cuba the protests of artists have already been consolidated, to the point that it became a success homeland and lifea song that challenged: “We no longer shout Homeland and death, but Homeland and life!”. Without moving from his neighborhood, Mantilla, Padura gave voice to the diverse, multi-generational Cuban exile in like dust in the windwhere he portrayed with some bitterness the future of his generation, which was born with the Cuban Revolution.

Now in decent people, his latest novel, the author recounts, underlines, suffers the island’s cultural repression. Ruined lives, he says. Wasted artists. His characters are always on the side of those who lost. Is that work the one that tells of the end of an era?

Photograph that shows the Cuban writer Leonardo Padura while he speaks in an interview with Efe, in Mexico City (Mexico). EFE/Mario Guzmán/File
Photograph that shows the Cuban writer Leonardo Padura while he speaks in an interview with Efe, in Mexico City (Mexico). EFE/Mario Guzmán/File

What other things are happening? The emergence -and, through Brazil, the consolidation- of the right-right. some tokens for Michel Houellebecqwhich has been recording the political and cultural movements in Europe in recent years.

In Submission a far-right party has a chance of winning and, to avoid it, the Socialist Party and Sarkozyism support an Islamic party. Right and Islam we have, while right now Iran stands up for the murder of a woman detained by the Moral Police –Morale Police!– for not wearing the Islamic veil “correctly”.

“The objective of houllebecq is to unmask the tricks of progressivism and its contradictions: how to reconcile environmentalism and consumption? How to harmonize a brazen hedonism and the desires for a more sustainable world? ”, Walter Romero wrote when he commented Annihilation, the last French novel. In the bets – yes, there are bets on the Nobel Prize for Literature – houllebecq itches to the point

Elena Poniatowski. Mexican and descendant of Poles, from journalism to literature.
Elena Poniatowski. Mexican and descendant of Poles, from journalism to literature.

It follows -the bets beat with the present- Salman Rushdie. Sure, we could link to Rushdie to the uprising in Iran and, if it goes deeper, with cultural commitments such as that of the United Arab Emirates, which organizes a strong Book Fair. An award to the author who had been sentenced to death by an ayatollah in 1989 – and who was stabbed to death in the United States in August – could also be read as a stand against extremism and the return of the Taliban to Afghanistan. But so close to a resounding fact?

(And since we said Brazil why not Chico Buarque, with his profound lyrics and his beautiful novels…)

Of course, all these considerations, which we journalists tend to like, do not include literature. Which, I understand, is taken for granted. Starting from good literature, what does the Swedish Academy look at?

Every year is a surprise.


With Salman Rushdie and freedom of expression, even if it offends
He is Muslim, fought against terrorists, writes with a woman’s name and defends Rushdie

We wish to give thanks to the author of this short article for this remarkable content

How much will Putin influence the Nobel Prize for Literature?