Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dunsany's Nobel

So, heard the exciting news a few days ago that not only Tolkien but also Dunsany was once nominated for the Nobel Prize.

The discovery was made by Martin Andersson (many thanks for his sharing it with me), who was leafing through a book by the Swedish Academy at the Goteborg Book Fair that listed all the nominees, and discovered that Dunsany had been nominated in 1950 by the Dublin Centre of Irish PEN, a writers' organization.

The timing of that is interesting, since this was near the end of Dunsany's life, when he was in eclipse. It'd been years since he'd had a play produced, he was nearing the end of a long string of novels, and his main productions were Jorkens stories, the occasional adaptation of an old piece into a radioplay, and endless articles attacking modernism (and other people's punctuation).* Had it come a decade or so earlier, I'd have suspected the hand of Oliver Gogarty, a longtime friend and supporter of Dunsany's, but he seems to have shifted to the U.S. around the outbreak of WWII and played little role in Irish affairs thereafter. So for now the mechanism of how Irish PEN came to be nominating folks, and how they happened to pick upon Dunsany this particular year, remain unknown; more on this may eventually come to light.

Did Dunsany deserve a Nobel? Given that I think he's the finest fantasy short story writer in English, the peer (I wd argue) of Kafka and Borges, I'd say yes. But that's a minority view. Still, it's good to know he was nominated; that someone out there shared my evaluation of his work.

Here's the link:


A Closing Thought: we now know Tolkien was nominated, and that Dunsany was nominated. I wonder if any other fantasy authors have been nominated over the years. Or science fiction authors, for that matter (I'd say Ray Bradbury would have been a worthy candidate). Ironically enough, the very first writer in English to get the prize, Rudyard Kipling, wrote fantasy, though I v. much doubt that it was PUCK OF POOK'S HILL than won him the Nobel.

--John R.

*this may not be as big a factor as all that, given that, as I understand it, the Nobel is supposed to award the whole of the author's work, not what he or she might produce thereafter.


Magister said...

It would be interesting to see whether Dunsany was nominated more than once -- only writers who are nominated more than once are actually in the running for the Prize. In theory he could have been nominated right up until 1957, which information should be available even if it hasn't been published yet (nominees are kept secret for fifty years). Yeats was nominated seven times before he got it.

I see that H. G. Wells was nominated no less than four times.

Magister said...

My article on the nomination -- using material found in the archive of the Swedish Academy and elsewhere - will be out soon (finally!), in Green Book #11.