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The Indie Nobel?

Stockholm, New York, and Twenty-First-Century Literary Value

In: Journal of World Literature
Author:
Pieter Vermeulen University of Leuven Leuven Belgium

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https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1992-1646
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Abstract

The work of nine of the last ten non-Anglophone winners of the Nobel Prize in literature is – or, in a few cases, was – mainly published in the United States and the United Kingdom by independent publishers. This essay draws on the resources of the interdisciplinary field of valuation studies to show that this phenomenon is not only a reflection of commercial considerations but also reveals differences in the way the Nobel Committee, independent publishers, and conglomerate publishers articulate literary value. Paying special attention to the discourses of justification around J.M.G. Le Clézio, the essay shows how the Committee’s emphasis on documentation, truth, and witness gets refracted in, on the one hand, a focus on serious and melancholic postures of witness in the literary value discourse characterizing the New York-centered literary upmarket segment, and a celebration of cross-cultural curiosity in the case of independent publishers on the other.

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