2013 — Alice Munro, Canada
- Won the prize for: “[being a] master of the contemporary short story”.
- Work(s) I read: Lives of Girls and Women* (2001), Runaway(2004)
- Reaction: Honest. Visceral. Insightful: Munro’s core artistry lies in her short stories which are packed with humanity, depth, and an unmatched emotional vigor. The amount of personal evocation that resounds from a simple short story is no feat – for many novels cannot achieve neither the literary merit nor the emotional resonation that a single story from Munro can.
- Rating: 5/5,
2012 — Mo Yan, China
- Won the prize for: “…hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history, and the contemporary”
- Work(s) I read: Red Sorghum (1981) tr. by: Howard Goldblatt
- Reaction: Imagistic. Real. Candid : Yan is spectacular in the sense that he’s able to convey something as is without the wordy embellishing and decor. A very potent writer with writings able to entrance the reader and transport them into a real world, a distant world, but with an unexpected magical fervor that may just be closer to home.
2007 — Doris Lessing, United Kingdom
- Won the prize for: “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”.
- Work(s) I read: The Golden Notebook (1962)
- Reaction: Feminist Profound. Universal: A mélange of profundity and honesty; what Lesser presents to us here is a not a piece of literary greatness, but an experience – of half of the world’s population. This book, this work is the pantheon of the Woman and all the relativities related to Her. It cannot be described, but felt and that feeling that Lessing births will shake you.
- Rating: 5/5
2006 — Orhan Pamuk, Turkey
- Won the prize for: ” [for his] quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures”.
- Work(s) I read: My Name is Red (1998)
- Reaction: Artistic. Perceptive. Multi-layered: Pamuk is an artist, a philosopher, a writer and he has something to say – about art, about culture, about us, about them, and about everything in between. Sometimes a little convoluted and directionless, but never dull or uninspired. Pamuk writes with conviction – the unearthly conviction of an artist who redefines the boundaries of the world, literally.
2005 — Harold Pinter, United Kingdom
- Won the prize for: “…uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms”.
- Work(s) I read: The Birthday Party (1957)
- Reaction: Absurd. Surreal. Dark: Pinter’s plays in some ways remind me of Samuel Beckett in the way that both of them rely on this existential absurdity that defines the [non]sensible existence of the common man. Delightfully dark and hopelessly unfortunate, Pinter infuses the oppression-of-self into every word and boy, do they seep into the mind ever so viscerally.
2004 — Elfriede Jelinek, Austria
- Won the prize for: “her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society’s clichés and their subjugating power”.
- Work(s) I read: The Piano Teacher (1983)
- Reaction: Disturbing. Powerful. Vivid: Art is beautiful or at least how we see it i.e. the end-product, but look at it from another angle, Jelinek’s angle: a protruding angle bound in despair and coated in absurdity. She spotlights our ‘detached’ society and inverts it so and we too, are inverted, reading the pages of Jelinek. An alarmingly crippling book to awaken all the senses- for this you.cannot.ignore. I know I couldn’t.
2003 — J. M. Coetzee, South Africa
- Won the prize for: “innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider”.
- Work(s) I read: Waiting for the Barbarians (1980)
- Reaction: Historic. Poignant. Do-you-Empire?: An excellent recreation of the empire’s affair, their doings, and their ‘Truths’. An excellent recreation of the affairs of the barbarians, their problems, and their ‘Lies’. What Coetzee achieves is an unmatched humanly ordeal magnified as it runs through the veins of history – a not-so-admirable-history from an and as an outsider, but is there really an Outsider?. What he captures at its rawest, most closest is: pain. Not His pain nor Her pain, but Humanity’s pain, forever planted in the soils of this earth.
- Rating: 5/5
2001 — V. S. Naipaul, United Kingdom
- Won the prize for: “having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories”.
- Work(s) I read: A House for Mr Biswas (1961)
- Reaction: Slow-burning. Post-Colonialist. Memorable: Naipaul was somewhat of an oddity for me, but his modest tale about one man transcended my puerile preconceptions. After reading this synopsis, I believe to have judged by the cover far too quickly and far too wrongly. Naipaul in all of his candor, history, and sentiment creates a work with very heavy personal and social undertones. It is incredibly slow and often times, laborious, but reflective of life – as we see through Mr Biswas.