1999 — Gunter Grass, Germany
- Won the prize for: ” frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history”.
- Work(s) I read: The Tin Drum (1958)
- Reaction: Bizarre. Intense. War&Intrigue: Ahh mein leib, Herr Grass. Here we see the world of War, Post-War, Unrest, Disorder, Anarchy, and all the other descriptive words that convey the case-in-point from the most unusual perspective. Here is the kind of character you will love or love-to-hate.. Grass creates a tale with dashes of magic, no, black magic, that captivates, thrills, and disturbs – simultaneously. A very unusual weltanshuuang thus is invoked, indeed very unusual.
1998 — Jose Saramago, Portugal
- Won the prize for: ” parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality”.
- Work(s) I read: Blindness* (1995), Seeing (2004), The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (1991)
- Reaction: Do you see? What do you see? What can you see? Saramago will challenge you to see what you thought you saw in a way you could have never seen before. An intricate web of endless prose, sentences, ideas, thoughts, and scrutiny; Saramago creates a world reduced to an entirely primitive state, where humanity is tested to its extreme and the blindness that plagues is colored in white. Is that a misnomer Saramago? You must be mistaken, Saramago! I think not.
- Rating: 5/5
1994 — Kenzaburo Oe, Japan
- Won the prize for: ” poetic force [that] creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today”.
- Work(s) I read: A Personal Matter (1964), Changeling (2000)*
- Reaction: Intellectual. Philosophical. It’s-Life: After reading Changeling (and even A Personal Matter) , I remember being left in a very paradoxical state – one of feeling and unfeeling. I wasn’t sure if I was full of emotion or devoid of it. Oe writes as if, he tore a part out of me and fixed it neatly within the confines of his pages, and as I inhale the cinder that’s left from missing self, can’t help but feel numb. It is remarkable, really. It is scary, really.
- Rating: 5/5
1993 — Toni Morrison, United States
- Won the prize for: ” novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality”.
- Work(s) I read: Beloved* (1987), The Bluest Eye (1970)
- Reaction: I-am-woman. I-am-my-history. Conviction: Toni Morrison. Yes. She. I. We. No. Wait. It’s just me. It’s just these pages. I can’t relate, it isn’t my history. It didn’t happen to me. But. Wait. Morrison asked me to think, again. I read. I read. and I read. I felt. I feel. I am feeling. I am not desensitized. Her history, their history – is my history. I am Beloved.
- “American reality”, I disagree. What is shown or finely elucidated here is not an “American Reality” – no, no no, it is the Reality, a despicable reality that unites all of the horrors of history through an account of one people in one time. It is fiction, laughingly so – but I have never been so closer to fact.
- Rating: 5/5
1991 — Nadine Gordimer South Africa
- Won the prize for: “her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity”.
- Work(s) I read: The Conservationist (1974)
- Reaction: One-of-the-11-woman-recipients. Dichotomous. Social-personal-chaos: Gordimer rightfully deserves her spot as one of the (SAD-fact) 11 women to have won this prize. Writing with unflinching resolve, she demonstrates the core of her land – in context through the personal troubles of her main character . She is as fluid as her imagery, her symbolism, her metaphors which all drip off the pages in a combined effort to portray the bitter superficialities of conflict and the deep rooted effects it has.
1986 — Wole Soyinka, Nigeria
- Won the prize for: ” a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence”.
- Work(s) I read: Ake: The Years of Childhood (1981)
- Reaction: Voracious. Visual. Vivid: A child’s voice wrapped in the words of elegance and maturity – Soyinka is not just a personal speaker , but the speaker of many. I hope to visit more of his works as I was just left in a state of awe after reading his biographical account as a child. It’s unreal how knitted with honesty it is, how vivid it is, as if the trees and lands he speaks of, are right there…in front of me. Oh, and the prose!
1983 — William Golding, United Kingdom
- Won the prize for: “his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today”.
- Work(s) I read: Lord of the Flies (1954)
- Reaction: Primal. Missed-potential. Brutal: This guy is every school teacher’s unconscious fetish. There is something here that is substantial, but a lot of it went in vain. The ideas were interesting and to me, uncannily relevant to many extents, but it was left somewhere outside the midst of my care. Now, I’m not somebody who tiptoes only within the paradigm of ‘story’ and ‘character’ and ‘plot’ but Golding really did test me. The more I tried to care about anything the more he dangled the pole of indifference in front of me, until the end, that’s really what I was left with. Still a very frightening book, that shows the more bane, inane, and unfortunate sides of humanity, but alas, ideas aren’t enough – it misses the urgency of persuasion, the sublimity of language, and fortitude of reader empathy.
1982 — Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia
- Won the prize for: “his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts”.
- Work(s) I read: One Hundred Years of Solitude* (1967), Love in the time of Cholera (1985), Memoirs of my Melancholy Whores (2004)
- Reaction: Speechless. Mystic. Prose-to-die-for: Ok. How do I do this? It’s magical. It’s real. I guess that’s why it is hailed as a pinnacle of magical realism. I’m almost certain that Marquez is a wizard, with some unknown powers that he’s able to create a book with such supernatural properties . I remember my experience distinctly while reading this and it’s best described like a nightmarish dream, one that I got addicted to and hoped to have every night, but felt trapped in – for a hundred years of solitude wouldn’t be enough to revel in this literary prize.
- Rating: 5/5
1980 — Czeslaw Milosz, Poland and United States
- Won the prize for: “uncompromising clear-sightedness voices man’s exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts”.
- Work(s) I read: The Captive Mind* (1953), New and Collected Poems: 1933-2001 (2001)
- Reaction: Enlightening. Sensory. History!: This was an eye-opening, mind-warping, heart-dropping, soul-clenching experience for me for two reasons. 1) Milosz offers a perspective that has been wrung, drowned, searched-and-destroyed in a very candid manner and 2) his depiction of the human condition, psychologically, politically, and socially was fascinating to the core. This book talks about many things but at its foundation shows the systematic degradation of a group of people due to extremely-ideological-backed regime and the alienation that it instutionalized. Milosz draws up on his own experiences and being a product of one of the most destructive periods of modern history, his words are akin to pinned knives wrapped in the pain he and his community felt and boy, does it sting. A great wake up call and a great counter perspective to open eyes, ears, and every other sense that is clogged and conditioned by normative [US/western] propaganda.