The Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 Cancelled in the Wake of #MeToo

On May 4, 2018, I published the following post on Book Riot.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 Cancelled in the Wake of #MeToo


The Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 has been cancelled in the wake of #metoo allegations, criminal investigations, conflicts of interest, and resignations by nearly half of the members of the Swedish Academy.

The decision was made during the Swedish Academy’s weekly Thursday meeting on May 3, and was made public through a press release on the morning of May 4.

If you wish to read the post in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2014


616px-Nobel_Prize_medal_inscribed_to_F._G._Banting_(12308739253)On October 9, 2014, French author Patrick Modiano was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Congratulations!

Last year on The Boomerang, I published the post The Nobel Prize in Literature Explained to the Non-Swede.

This year on Book Riot, I published the post Nobel Prize Trivia Time! Here you’ll find fifteen trivia facts about the Nobel Prize in Literature that I bet you didn’t know.

Enjoy the posts!

The Noble Prize for Literature Explained to the Non-Swede

Today, Alice Munro was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature. Munro is an exception to the criteria set up by Swedish comedy team Helt Apropå for an author to be eligible for the prize. According to this group of comedians an author can only be eligible for the prize if no one has heard of you, no one has read any of your work and no one knows how to pronounce your name properly. All kidding aside, the Nobel Prize for Literature is arguably the greatest literary prize in the world. But how many of you know why the prize is awarded and by whom?

The Nobel Prize for Literature is one of several prizes carrying the name of Nobel. The name Nobel comes from the founder of the prizes, Alfred Nobel (1833–1896), who made his fortune from the invention of dynamite. At age 9, Alfred moved with his mother and brothers to join his father who did business in Russia. Consequently, Alfred received his early schooling in St. Petersburg. Although his brother Ludvig, and for a time his brother Robert as well, stayed in Russia and developed a successful business in the Baku oil industry, Alfred returned to Sweden after their father’s business had gone bankrupt. In Sweden, he developed his invention that would eventually become dynamite.

Alfred Nobel
Source: Gösta Florman, Kungliga Biblioteket/The Royal Library

Alfred Nobel never married and he never had children. When he died in San Remo in Italy in 1896, he was a very wealthy man. In his last will and testament, Nobel decided to leave most of his fortune to a prize that would be awarded every year for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. The Nobel Prize for Economics was founded in 1969 by the Swedish Central Bank, Riksbanken.

When it was made public, Alfred Nobel’s last will and testament proved to be quite controversial. One of the critics was King Oscar II (1872–1907), who was unhappy because the prize was open to people of all nationalities and not reserved for Swedes only. Another point of contention was the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize was to be awarded in Oslo. Between 1814 and 1905, Sweden and Norway were joined in a union. The union of the two countries was controversial and by placing the ceremony of the  Peace Prize in Oslo, Alfred Nobel took a public and ever-lasting stand in its favor.

The first Nobel Prizes were awarded on December 10, 1901. December 10 is the date of Alfred Nobel’s death.

Nobel Prize Ceremony, Stockholm (1938)
Source: Karl Sandels

In his will, Alfred Nobel states who should award the prizes. In the case of literature he chose Svenska Akademien, or the Swedish Academy. Svenska Akademien was one of several academies founded by King Gustav III (1771–1792). Modeled after the French academies of the Enlightenment era, the purpose of these academies was to promote knowledge.

Svenska Akademien was founded in 1786 and has eighteen members. The members are elected for life by the Academy itself. A Secretary is appointed to supervise day-to-day activities and to communicate with the outside world. It is the Secretary who makes the announcement of who has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature. Currently, historian Peter Englund is the Academy’s Secretary. Englund is most famous for his best-selling book Poltava (1988), chronicling the Swedish army’s crushing defeat by the Russians in 1709 at the Battle of Poltava in the Ukraine.

Peter Englund at the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature
Source: Frankie Fouganthin

Once Svenska Akademien has reached a decision, the files are closed to the public for 50 years. Therefore, the discussions surrounding the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature and the true reason why Alice Munro was awarded this year’s prize will be made available in 2063.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Nationalencyklopedien Alfred Nobel
Nationalencyklopedien Nobelpris
Nationalencyklopedien Svenska Akademien

Images of Alfred Nobel,  Nobel Prize Ceremony and Peter Englund have been downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Ernest Hemingway Ate Dolphin

Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) is considered by many as one of the greatest American writers. His novels on World War I, the Spanish Civil War, bullfighting and big game hunting has helped to solidify a view of Hemingway as a man’s man who killed what he ate. A hamburger recipe, supposedly of Hemingway’s favorite, has circulated the internet and foodies and literary scholars alike have vowed to try it out in honor of this great writer. However, Hemingway not only ate cows with great delight, he also ate dolphin. Would you eat dolphin in his honor?

Ernest Hemingway (1950). Source: Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was born in Oak Park, Illinois, but spent most of his life living elsewhere. From 1927 until the mid-1950s, Hemingway lived in Key West, Florida, and on Cuba. Here he wrote the novels A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls, respectively. As a child he had learned how to hunt and fish and while he lived in Florida and Cuba, fishing was one of Hemingway’s pastimes. During World War II Hemingway outfitted his fishing boat with guns and explosives and patrolled the waters off the Cuban coast looking for enemy submarines.

Hemingway’s life in Florida and Cuba lays the foundation for his Pulitzer Prize winning story, The Old Man and the Sea. The Old Man and the Sea is a story of the aging Cuban fisherman Santiago and his struggle to land a marlin.

EH 8264P
Ernest Hemingway (right) with a so-called “apple-cored” marlin, Bimini, 1935. This is probably what Santiago’s marlin looked like after the sharks go to it.
Source: Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

The struggle with the fish takes Santiago far off the coast and he is forced to spend several nights in his boat with insufficient food and water. To survive Santiago fishes for dolphin. Hemingway describes the catching of a dolphin as follows:

Just before it was dark […] his small line was taken by a dolphin. [—] When the fish was at the stern, plunging and cutting from side to side in desperation, the old man leaned over the stern and lifted the burnished gold fish with its purple spots over the stern. […] it pounded the bottom of the skiff with its long flat body, its tail and its head until he clubbed it across the shining golden head until it shivered and was still. (p. 855)

The first time I read this, I did not think that much about the actual description of the animal Santiago had caught. I was more focused on the struggle. However, Hemingway clearly describes the dolphin as a golden fish. Confusing marine mammals, such as dolphins and whales, with fish is not uncommon in literature. Throughout Moby Dick, Herman Melville refers to all whales, including the White Whale himself, as fish. The Biblical story of Noah and the Whale, in fact, is a story about a man named Noah who is swallowed by a fish. Would Hemingway make such a mistake?

No, he wouldn’t. And he didn’t. Which becomes evident in the description of Santiago cleaning the dolphin he just caught:

The stars were bright now and he saw the dolphin clearly and he pushed the back of his knife into his head and drew him out from under the stern. He put one of his feet on the fish and slit him quickly from the vent up to the tip of his lower jaw. Then he put his knife down and gutted him with his right hand, scooping him clean and pulling the gills clear. (p. 858)

The give-away is the last four words: “pulling the gills clear”. Hemingway is obviously not talking about a marine mammal since they do not have gills.

What Hemingway is talking about is a fish called mahi-mahi. The local name for this fish in South Florida is “dolphin”.

Mahi-mahi caught off the coast of Costa Rica

Mahi-mahi is found in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical waters all over the world, which can explain why the fish caught by Santiago in the Mexican Gulf has a Hawaiian name. Mahi-mahi in Hawaiian means “very strong”. The mahi-mahi are attracted to the seaweed Sargassum, which can be found in plenty around the Florida Keys. Incidentally, Hemingway in The Old Man and the Sea repeatedly makes references to the Sargassum seen by Santiago from his fishing boat. The mahi-mahi is distinguished by its odd shaped head and dazzling colors. Or as Santiago puts it,

The dolphin looks green of course because he is really golden (p. 855)

Santiago, forced to eat the fish raw, also states that the dolphin tastes the best when cooked. So here is a recipe on blackened mahi-mahi, which is the way I prefer to prepare my dolphin.

Blackened Mahi-Mahi (or Dolphin)
Equal measures of
paprika powder
chili powder
ground coriander
ground garlic
Mixed with
one freshly squeezed lemon
olive oil

Smear it all over the mahi-mahi fillets and sear on both sides in a skillet.

Bon appetit!

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Ernest Hemingway Four Novels (Barnes & Noble, New York, 2007)

The images of Ernest Hemingway and the mahi-mahi have been downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

John Steinbeck’s Chinese Housekeeper

Previously on The Boomerang I have written about John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden. I decided to read the novel because, many years ago, I saw the movie, starring James Dean as the emotionally conflicted Cal. I have now read the novel and absolutely agree with those who say it is an American literary masterpiece. However, after finishing the book, I began comparing it to the movie. Something was not right. And then I realized what bothered me. The most important character in the book had not made it into the movie. That character is the Trask family’s Chinese housekeeper, Lee.

James Dean as Caleb in East of Eden (1955)
Source: Trailer screenshot

East of Eden is a novel about Adam Trask and his family. Adam marries Cathy and moves to California with her. After the birth of their twin boys – Caleb and Aaron – she abandons Adam and her children, leaving him to raise the twins. Adam, however, distraught by Cathy leaving him (and shooting him in the shoulder when he refuses to let her go), totally neglects his children. Instead, they are taken care of by Lee, who develops such a close relationship with the boys that Cantonese, instead of English, nearly becomes their first language.

Lee becomes a member of the Trask household when Adam is looking to hire a cook. Lee is the son of Chinese immigrants. His mother died when he was born. In the book, Lee is the only character with a college education (University of California) but when we are first introduced to him, he speaks broken English as a strategy not to intimidate people around him. He translates Chinese poetry into English as a pastime and he is rarely seen without a book.

John Steinbeck and President Lyndon B Johnson, 1966
Source: LBJ Library and Museum

As the story progresses, Lee becomes the anchor in the Trask household. The boys grow older and Adam continues to have problems connecting with them emotionally. When there is a conflict in the household, communication between father and sons go through Lee. Lee is the only person who can speak the truth to both Adam and Aaron and Caleb. Lee is the first person to see Aaron’s girlfriend, Abra, for who she truly is. When the relationship with her own father crumbles, Lee develops into a father figure for Abra.

Lee is also responsible for the Biblical theme that runs through a substantial part of the book. When Lee and Adam, with their mutual friend Samuel, discuss what to name the boys, they base their discussion on Genesis and the rivalry between Cain and Abel. The one to push the discussion forward and make it more complex and analytical is Lee. Later on, Lee again brings up the subject of Cain and Abel. He has discovered discrepancies in the English translation of different Bible editions. Because of this he asked his family elders for help. They, in turn, began to study Hebrew and consulted a rabbi. The result of this exegetic exercise forms the backbone of the final section of the novel and even becomes the last spoken line in the entire story.

All of this has been removed from the movie adaptation because of the exclusion of Lee. The movie is a good work of art in and of itself, but, as I suspected when I first saw it, much has been left out from the original story. Instead of being a family chronicle steeped in the multicultural society of early Californian settlement, rife with religious symbolism, East of Eden the movie is a melodrama centered around an all-white cast where the anchor has been lost at sea.

Perhaps it is time for a remake.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

John Steinbeck East of Eden (Penguin, 2002)
East of Eden

The images of James Dean and John Steinbeck were downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.