Popular Books From the 21st Century Nobel Laureates in Literature

Author: Sherry Helms

Earlier on last month, we published a blog-post on the 21st century winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, and today we thought of coming up with a list of their most popular book. This list follows the chronological order. Take a look:

One Man’s Bible – This is a novel written by Gao Xingjian, the winner of Nobel Prize in Literature, 2000. It is a fictionalized account of Xingjian’s life under the Chinese Communist regime where daily life is riddled with paranoia and fear, and government propaganda turns citizens against one another. This novel is a profound meditation on the essence of writing, on exile, on the effects of political oppression on the human spirit, and on how the human spirit can triumph.

In a Free State - No writer has rendered our boundary less, post-colonial world more acutely or prophetically than V. S. Naipaul, a 2001 Nobel Laureate in Literature. This masterwork of Naipaul is a masterful and stylishly rendered narrative of emigration, dislocation, and dread, accompanied by four supporting narratives. By turns funny and terrifying, sorrowful and unsparing, In A Free State presents Naipaul at his best.

Fatelessness - A book by the 2002 winner of Nobel Prize in Literature, the Hungarian author Imre Kertész. It is the story of 14 years old Georg Koves who is plucked from his home in a Jewish section of Budapest and without any particular malice, placed on a train to Auschwitz. He does not understand the reason for his fate. He doesn’t particularly think of himself as Jewish. And his fellow prisoners, who decry his lack of Yiddish, keep telling him, “You are no Jew.” In the lowest circle of the Holocaust, Georg remains an outsider.

Haunting, evocative, and all the more horrifying for its rigorous avoidance of sentiment, Fatelessness is a masterpiece on holocaust.

Life & Times of Michael K - A 1983 novel by South Africa-born writer J. M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for the year 2003, this book also won the Booker Prize for 1983. The novel is a story of hare lipped, simple gardener Michael K, who makes an arduous journey from civil war-ridden urban South Africa to his mother’s rural birthplace, during apartheid era, in the 1970-80s.

The Piano Teacher - First published in 1983, this is a novel by Austrian Nobel Laureate (2004) in Literature, Elfriede Jelinek. The novel follows protagonist Erika Kohut, a sexually and emotionally repressed piano teacher, as she enters into a sadomasochistic relationship with her student, Walter Klemmer, the results of which are disastrous.

The Birthday Party - Nobel Prize-winning (2005) English playwright, screenwriter, director and actor, Harold Pinter was one of the most influential modern British dramatists. And, The Birthday Party is the second full-length play by Pinter and one of Pinter’s best-known and most-frequently performed plays. It is a story about Stanley Webber, an erstwhile piano player in his 30s, who lives in a rundown boarding house, run by Meg and Petey Boles, in an English seaside town. Two sinister strangers, Goldberg and McCann, who arrive supposedly on his birthday and who appear to have come looking for him, turn Stanley’s apparently innocuous birthday party organized by Meg into a nightmare.

My Name Is Red - A 1998 novel by Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk that contributed prominently to the author’s acclamation as the winner of Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, the novel is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, taking readers to a journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex and power.

The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm. But, panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears.

The Grass Is SingingSet in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) under white rule, this first novel by British writer Doris Lessing is at once a riveting chronicle of human disintegration, a beautifully understated social critique, and a brilliant depiction of the quiet horror of one woman’s struggle against a ruthless fate. Ms. Lessing was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Interrogation - The first novel of French Nobel Laureate in Literature (2008) J. M. G. Le Clézio, it is a tale about a troubled man named Adam Pollo who “struggles to contextualize what he sees” and “to negotiate often disturbing ideas while simultaneously navigating through, for him, life’s absurdity and emptiness”.

The Hunger Angel - A masterful new novel from the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature, Herta Müller, a Romanian-born German novelist and poet. It is hailed by Nobel Prize Committee for depicting the “landscape of the dispossessed” with “the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose”. Based on Müller’s interviews with many deportees from her home village of Nitzkydorf in Romania, it includes fragments offered during her childhood by her mother; and excerpts from her interactions with the poet Oskar Pastior who was a deportee from Sibiu Romania for five years.

The Time of the Hero - The first novel published by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, it is a powerful social satire which outraged the authorities of the author’s native Peru. Set among a community of cadets in a Lima military school (the Leoncio Prado Military Academy), this novel is notable for its experimental and complex employment of multiple perspectives.

The Great Enigma - It is a comprehensive collection of poems of one of the world’s greatest living writers, Tomas Transtromer, a Swedish poet, and the recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. This volume gathers all the poems Tomas Transtromer has published, so far. Translated into fifty languages, the poetry of Tomas Transtromer has had a profound influence around the world, an influence that has steadily grown and has now attained a prominence comparable to that of Pablo Neruda’s during his lifetime.

Red Sorghum - The acclaimed novel of love and resistance during late 1930s China by Mo Yan, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. Spanning three generations, this novel of family and myth is told through a series of flashbacks that depict events of staggering horror set against a landscape of gemlike beauty, as the Chinese battle both Japanese invaders and each other in the turbulent 1930s.

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