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Yasunari Kawabata, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

By Audrey Golden. Mar 23, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

There are many authors who have won the Nobel Prize in Literature whose works enjoy continued success throughout the United States and in many parts of the world. Some Nobel laureates, however, have not remained as well-known as others. In the event that you have not been introduced to the lyrical, lonely writings of Yasunari Kawabata, we’d like to present you with some background information about this writer, who was also the first Japanese winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. In brief, he was born in Osaka, Japan in 1899 and committed suicide in 1972. Much of his most famous fiction is set just before and after World War II. In total, he wrote more than one dozen novels and short stories, although not all of them were finished. If you’re interested in reading more about this Japanese writer, where should you start?

     
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Five of the Best Books on India

By Audrey Golden. Mar 18, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners, Literary travel

The Indian subcontinent is extremely large, including the nations of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Yet those nations have not always been separate. To be sure, the subcontinent was divided during the India-Pakistan Partition of 1947, and years later in 1971, Bangladesh (which was, at the time, East Pakistan), gained its independence. Given the complicated modern political history, it’s especially difficult to select only a handful of texts to represent the best books on India. As such, we’re beginning with an early twentieth-century work and then jumping immediately to the period following Bangladeshi independence, and we’re also offering the following books with the caveat that we haven’t even really scratched the surface of the literary offerings of the large Indian subcontinent.

     
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Celebrating the Life of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott

By Lauren Corba. Mar 17, 2017. 3:22 PM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

"for what else is there
but books, books and the sea,
verandahs and the pages of the sea,
to write of the wind and the memory of wind-whipped hair
in the sun, the colour of fire!"
-- Derek Walcott,  Collected Poems 1948-1984  

Caribbean writer and Nobel Prize in Literature winner Derek Walcott passed away early this morning. He was 87 years old. We thought we'd take a moment today to celebrate Walcott's life and influence.

     
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Collecting Nobel Laureates: Saul Bellow

By Brian Hoey. Mar 17, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Book Collecting, Nobel Prize Winners

Since Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976, only a few other American writers (the inimitable Toni Morrison, who earned the sought-after medal in 1993 and most recently, Bob Dylan, come to mind) have accomplished the same feat. This fact speaks to a number of phenomena, but it chiefly indicates the way that Bellow’s fiction represented a sort of capstone in American fiction. Born in Quebec to Lithuanian-Jewish immigrants, Bellow soon moved to Chicago, a city he would come to immortalize in his works. Perhaps more than any other writer, Bellow brought the modernist and intellectual traditions in 20th century fiction into conversation, crafting unforgettable characters in the process.

     
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Five Fun Facts About Winston Churchill

By Anne Cullison. Mar 9, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners, History

Winston Churchill is a universally recognized name. Even if you don't know his entire back story, it is most likely you've studied him and his role in British politics in a history class somewhere along the line. Today, we thought it would be interesting to dig up a couple facts about the great leader that may be lesser known. Here are five things we found that don't necessarily come to mind when you picture Winston Churchill.

     
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Collecting Nobel Laureates: Gabriela Mistral and Mario Vargas Llosa

By Leah Dobrinska. Mar 8, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Nobel Prize Winners

Since its inception in the early part of the 20th century, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to a Latin American author on six different occasions. While all Nobel laureates are worthy of our study, praise, and, in many cases, collecting efforts, there is a special place in our hearts for these six from Latin America. Over the course of the next few months, we’d like to detail for you book collecting information and ideas for these Nobel Prize winners. Today, we spotlight the first Latin American winner, Gabriela Mistral, and the most recent winner from Latin America, Mario Vargas Llosa.

     
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Researching in the J.M. Coetzee Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

In 1969, the Nobel Prize-winning South African novelist J.M. Coetzee received his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin after writing a dissertation on the early work of the Irish writer Samuel Beckett. That same year, Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. More than forty years after earning his Ph.D.—and after having written nearly a dozen novels and numerous works of criticism—in 2011 the University of Texas at Austin acquired the author's papers to be held in the Harry Ransom Center. The archive contains nearly 160 boxes of material, including drafts of his novels and of his autobiography, personal and business correspondence, family photographs, and recorded interviews. While the novelist was born in South Africa and recently has become an Australian citizen, it seems to make sense that his literary archive would be housed at the location that helped to shape his understanding of literature and its role in politics.

     
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Happy Birthday, John Steinbeck!

By Brian Hoey. Feb 27, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Nobel Prize Winners

Since its inception, the criteria for the Nobel Prize in Literature have always been slightly fuzzy. Some have taken Alfred Nobel’s assertion that the prize should determine "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" as suggesting a kind of preference of idealism in the awarded work, and recent picks like Bob Dylan and Svetlana Alexievich have tended to bear out that reading. If one is wont to understand the award in those terms, then 1962 Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck, who would have turned 115 today, is perhaps one of the most auspicious picks of the last century. After all, the author of The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Of Mice and Men (1937) virtually never wavered from his devotion to the idea that “In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love.”

     
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Literary Giants and the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm

By Audrey Golden. Feb 22, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

We recently visited the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, hoping to catch a glimpse of some objects or rare first editions by some of our favorite Nobel Prize-winning authors. Despite awarding more than 100 prizes to literary giants alone over the last century or so, the museum is actually a bit smaller than you might expect. As a result, you’ll find most literary objects on display at the museum as part of temporary or traveling exhibitions. There are a handful of what we suspect are permanent exhibits—including Maya traje belonging to Rigoberta Menchú Tum and a small hippopotamus figurine belonging to Mario Vargas Llosa. What are some of the recent temporary exhibits that gave visitors access to other objects and books of winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature? Let’s take a look. 

     
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South African Literature in the Early Days of Apartheid

By Audrey Golden. Jan 25, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

After World War II ended in 1945, the de facto racism that had plagued Black South Africans for decades became institutionalized when the National Party came to power in 1948. The all-white Afrikaner government instituted the system of apartheid, which produced laws that required racial segregation and imposed severe penalties for those who opposed the regime. Through the 1960s, Black South Africans were forced into segregated townships outside the major cities of South Africa, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. For fiction writers and authors of creative nonfiction who sought to speak out against the policies of apartheid, publication possibilities became very limited. In many instances, writers were severely censored, and numerous authors saw their work banned in their home country of South Africa. Yet works of both nonfiction and fiction survive to help depict for us the early years of apartheid and the ways in which the government perpetrated irreparable harms upon many citizens of South Africa.

     
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How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

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