Nobel 2010: Co-Winners Elias Khoury and Amos Oz?

I saw this bit of speculation (Khoury and Oz) not in a major newspaper or magazine, where “Nobel 2010” handicapping hasn’t yet begun, but on World Literature Forum, from reader peter_d. Perhaps peter_d isn’t in the know, but it got me thinking about the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature, which should be announced in October.

While there is often a good deal of talk about nominees (Philip Roth? Haruki Murakami? Kant Ibragimov?), the Nobel committee says this about the matter on their website:

The Nobel Committees in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and the Prize Committee for Economic Sciences each usually receives 250-300 names every year, but this [237] is the highest number of nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize ever. The names of the nominees cannot be revealed until 50 years later. [Italics mine]

I have not yet seen Elias Khoury mentioned as a contender, although the Independent called him “the kind of writer who wins the Nobel Prize for literature to sneers from the English-speaking world.” (Hunh?) Israel novelist Amoz Oz, on the other hand, has been named a front-runner for several years running.

Other Arabs in the mix: Syrian poet Adonis has been a nominee since at least the late ’80s. In his memoirs, pioneer Arabic-English translator Denys Johnson-Davies writes about a chat he had with a member of the Nobel committee in the late 1980s. Johnson-Davies and the (unnamed) committee member discussed four possible Arab candidates: Yusuf Idris, Tayeb Salih, Naguib Mahfouz, and Adonis. (All except Adonis are now deceased; Mahfouz, of course, won the prize in ’88.)

French-Algerian writer Assia Djebar, winner of the prestigious Neustadt, also has been near the top of the committee’s list.

Of course, some Nobel winners (Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee) seemed crowd-pleasing and predictable, whereas others (Elfriede Jelinek) were quite a surprise. So who knows who it might be. Perhaps peter_d is on to something.

Also: Here’s an online petition to nominate Palestinian writer Munir Mezyed; some of his poems can be read here. (Note from below: Blogger Bint Battuta raises this troubling anecdote about Mezyed. And M. Demetriu (also below) extensively rebuts it.)


  1. oh interesting idea ,there debating going on over a world literature forum ,I ve feeling for axtaga ,ondaatje or a chinese writer myself ,last few years the last few years there picks have been out of blue ,sure oz and Khoury both worthy of winning they have both written wonderful books over there time ,all the best stu

    1. Personally, I suppose I would feel most delighted if Achebe won. He’s been so level-headed about never having won it…and for goodness sake he certainly fits their “idealist direction” criterion as well.

    1. Thanks for your note. Hmm.

  2. Dear Madam,

    I accidentally came across this article and the comments left to it…I happen to live in Romania and be familiar with Munir Mezyed’s work…by the way, maybe for “Bin Battuta” he is “a certain Munir Mezyed” but for many people, both Europeans and Arabs he is a well respected Palestinian poet, novelist and translator who writes his own work (poetry, novels) in both English and Arabic (he lived & studied in UK and USA) and translated & published on his own expenses 2 anthologies of Romanian poetry in Arabic language, an anthology of Chinese poetry in Arabic, an anthology of Japanese haiku in Arabic and, as I heard, he is currently working on a collection of Italian love poems in English & Arabic and a Saudi anthology in English and Romanian…The above books were not only published on his own expenses but also distributed free to the people in an attempt to help them get acquainted with the other’s cultures..More than that, they are posted on net so everyone who is interested could download them free… “Gateway to Modern Arabic Poetry” – the anthology bin battuta is talking about includes 180 poems translated mostly by Munir Mezyed..there are also poems translated by Sami B. Khamou, Abbas El sheikh, Iman el-Hussaini, Khaloud el-Muttalibi, Bataoul Ahmed, Hassan Hegazy, Sameer el-Shenawi, Abdul Sattar al-Assady…those who contributed with their translations to this book have their names mentioned under each poem they translated…easy to see if you click on the following link:
    My BIG question is why a poet and translator whose mother tongue is Arabic and the second language is English would steel the translation of an Arabic poem from someone whose native language is Hindi (I presume) and speaks Arabic because it happens to currently reside in Bahrain and above all, presumingly he did that (although I have serious doubts that someone at his level would jeopardize his name and life-long work in such silly way…posting also the “stolen” work on net) why he would not PARTICULAR mention her name while other translators had their names included in both on line and printed versions of the book…?! I strongly believe it is just a coincidence…and a big fuss for nothing…or maybe for some interest…or maybe because “It is only the fruit-laden tree that receives the shower of stones from passersby”…
    I had a look on both translations and they are not identical..Below there are links to a poem of Mihai Eminescu, the Romanian national poet, translated by 2 people living in opposite sides of the world:
    The above translations are IDENTICAL and nobody accused anybody of plagiarism…!!! This is the first example that came into my mind but one can find many similar translations of the same poem if he has time to search the net.
    With all my respect for the work of “bin battuta”, I strongly believe that an Arab translator & poet of both Arabic and English would have no need or interest to steel the translation of an Arabic poem from someone whose native language is neither Arabic nor English…!!
    For those who are interested to know more about Munir Mezyed here are some links in English:
    A simple search with google would offer good information about him and his work….reviews of his books, studies on his work, articles.
    M. Demetriu

    1. M.,

      Thanks for your input as well. I appreciate both sets of comments, and perhaps indeed it is just coincidence.

      1. Dear Mihai Demetriu
        I find your defensiveness excessive, and I see no point in responding to the points you make on behalf of Munir Mezyed. I will just say that if this were a coincidence then why did Munir Mezyed not respond to an email I sent to him when I first saw his translation, and explain that? His silence would indicate that he knows he has been caught plagiarising.

        And for your information, you presume incorrectly; my mother tongue is English, and I have a master’s degree in Arabic – I don’t speak it because I “happen to currently reside in Bahrain”.

      2. Yes…the ad hominem about the mother tongue is a bit much. Anyhow, that can be that on this topic.

        We can return to how I don’t really like Amos Oz’s fiction that much, anyhow…

  3. Dear Bin Battuta,

    I’ve also found your reaction excessive and your allegations baseless but I am not going to enter into an endless debate with you because I have the feeling that is exactly what you are looking for… I don’t know Munir Mezyed personally (although he’s been living in Romania for many years now) but, as I said, I am familiar with his work and I do appreciate and respect people who put their time, work and money in promoting inter-cultural dialogue and presenting a face of Arab/Muslim world/culture totally different from what we get from the (Western) media. I don’t know why he didn’t answer to your e-mail…I can only presume that he either didn’t get it (or you didn’t send it) or found no reason to explain himself or respond to these allegations…I believe that when you have your work widely distributed via net (like he has) anyone can anytime come and say “Oh, it’s mine, it was stolen from me!” Not answering doesn’t necessarily “indicate that he knows he has been caught plagiarizing” BUT mentioning the names of the translators who contributed to this anthology clearly and undoubtedly indicates that he is an honest man who has no intention to get fame on others expenses…and again, why he would steel YOUR work in particular, publish it on line (so everyone could see it) and wouldn’t mention your name while mentioning others…It makes no sense to me. Given the facts, I strongly believe it’s a coincidence…nothing else!

    Dear Ms. Lynx,

    Thank you for posting my comment although I was not a regular reader and subscriber of your blog.
    I am not going to let myself dragged into an endless debate whether it was or it wasn’t plagiarism…I think it would be lack of respect to turn your blog into a debate field. This is my last post on the subject but I would definitely read and come back with comments on the other articles which I found very interesting and rich in useful information about Arab literature and writers. With your permission I would recommend it to my Romanian friends interested in this topic.

    Regards to both of you,
    Mihai Demetriu

Comments are closed.