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Nobel Prize in Literature 2021: Livraria Lello’s list of candidates

A few days before the announcement of the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021, the lists of favorites multiply and the bookmakers are in full swing! Livraria Lello contributes to the reflection on the choice of the Swedish Academy, remembering the candidates for the greatest award in world literature who are highlighted in the Most Beautiful Bookstore in the World. Check out the 21 names that make up our list!

Since June 1, 2021, Livraria Lello has dedicated its entire first floor to the theme of the Nobel Prize in Literature. On a journey through the work of 143 authors, from those who were awarded the Nobel to those who could have been winners of the Prize, passing by those who can still win it [read more about the project].

A difficult choice – almost impossible – results in a list that brings together some of those who represent the best in world literature. The names have emerged from literary critics around the world, from Nobel Prize favorites touted by different bookmakers in recent years, from top lists of “books to read before you die” (from the New York Times, Le Monde or Time Magazine, for example) and a survey carried out among the community of readers and visitors of Livraria Lello.

Genius minds, with a unique ability to translate into words the crudest reality or the most dazzling story of enchantment. Writers with an unusual ability to tell stories that span centuries without losing time. Men and women of different nationalities who make an invaluable contribution to Literature, Culture and human thought. Excellence is the common adjective of these 21 authors:


1. António Lobo Antunes
António Lobo Antunes was born in Lisbon (Portugal) in 1942, studied Medicine and specialized in Psychiatry. For several years he exercised the profession of psychiatrist. In 1979 he published his first books, Memoria de Elefante and Os Cus de Judas. Since then, he has become one of the most widely read and discussed contemporary authors nationally and internationally. His literary work has been the object of the most diverse studies and the most important awards, including: Bottari Lattes Grinzane Award (2018), Life and Work of National Author Award (2017), Grand Prize of Excellence at the Transylvania Book Salon (2014) Juan Rulfo Prize (2008), Camões Prize (2007), Jerusalem Prize (2005), Ovidio Prize (2003) and European Literature Prize (2001).

2. Antonio Munoz Molina
Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina was born in 1956, in Úbeda, studied History of Art and Journalism. In the eighties, he settled in Granada, where he worked as a civil servant and collaborated as a columnist for the daily Ideal. His first book is a compilation of these articles. Today he is recognized worldwide as one of the greatest writers in the Spanish language today, he is the author of novels, stories and numerous essays and journalistic writings. He was twice winner of the National Narrative Award (1988 and 1992) and awarded the Príncipe de Asturias Prize for his body of work (2013).

3. Can Xue
Deng Xiaohua, known by the pseudonym Can Xue, was born in 1953 in Hunan, China. The beginning of her life was marked by the prosecution of the family, in the context of the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957. This period had a profound influence on the course of her work. Her work, mainly avant-garde short stories, breaks with the realism of early modern Chinese writers. She has also written novels and literary reviews of the work of Dante, Jorge Luis Borges and Franz Kafka. Can Xue has been described as "China's most prominent experimental fiction author", and some of her fiction has been translated and published in English.

4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in 1977 in Nigeria and at the age of nineteen went to study in the United States. She is recognized as one of the most important young Anglophone authors, attracting a new generation of readers of African literature. Her short stories received numerous awards such as the BBC Short Story Competition (2002) and the O. Henry Short Story Prize (2003). The Color of Hibiscus, her first novel, was awarded the Hurston / Wright Legacy Award 2004 and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2005. Half Sun Yellow won the 2007 Orange Broadband Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the PEN "Beyond Margins Award". Americanah won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize 2013. The writer was also distinguished, in 2008, with a Future Award in the category of Youth of the Year and, in November 2020, she won the category 'Winner of Winners', from the Women's Prize for Fiction.

5. Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo was born in 1936 in New York. He is the author of several novels and plays, in which he draws a detailed portrait of everyday life in the 20th century. He has been awarded the National Book Award, the PEN / Faulkner Award and the Jerusalem Prize. Undermundo was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prizes and the National Book Award and received in 2000 the Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 2006, it was named one of the three best novels of the past twenty-five years by the New York Times Book Review. In 2015, Don DeLillo was distinguished for his outstanding contribution to American Letters by the National Book Awards.

6. Elena Ferrante
Elena Ferrante is the pseudonym of an Italian writer, whose identity is kept a secret. There were even those who suspected that it was a man; others say she was born in Naples and lived in Greece and Turin. Most critics consider her an extraordinary voice that has caused an earthquake in the narrative of recent years. The critical and public success is reflected in articles published in newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times and Paris Review. Her saga composed of The Genial Friend, The Story of the New Name, The Story of Who Goes and Who Stays and Story of the Lost Girl is destined to become a classic of 21st century European literature.

7. Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949. He studied Greek theater before running a jazz bar in Tokyo between 1974 and 1981. He is one of the most acclaimed Japanese authors of all time, with translations of his work in over 50 languages . Applauded by critics, who consider him one of the “great living novelists” (The Guardian) and the “most peculiar and seductive voice in modern fiction” (Los Angeles Times). In addition to Sputnik, Meu Amor, Kafka à Beira-Mar, Dance, Dance, Dance and A Wild Sheep Chase, which received the Noma Prize for new writers, Murakami is also the author, among others, of Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (distinguished with the prestigious Tanizaki Award) and, more recently, by Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, his third short story collection, distinguished with the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.

8. Javier Marias
Javier Marías was born in Madrid (Spain) in 1951. he is one of the most outstanding Spanish authors today. His works include El hombre sentimental (Ennio Flaiano Award), Todos las almas (Ciudad de Barcelona Award), Corazón tan blanco (Spain Critics Award, Prix l'Oeil et la Lettre, IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), Mañana en la batalla piensa en mi (Fastenrath Award, Rómulo Gallegos Award, Prix Fémina Étranger). In 1997 he received the Nelly Sachs Award; in 1998, the Comunidad de Madrid Prize; in 2000, the Grinzane Cavour and Alberto Moravia awards; in 2008, the Alessio and José Donoso awards; and in 2011, the Nonino Prize, and the European Literary Prize. His work is published in forty languages ​​and fifty countries.

9. John Banville
John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. His vast and award-winning work includes Doctor Copernicus (James Tait Black Memorial Prize 1976), Kepler (The Guardian Fiction Prize 1981), Ghosts, The Untouchable, The Book of Confession (Booker Prize 1989 finalist) and O Mar (Man Booker Prize winner). In 2014, he was awarded the Príncipe das Asturias Prize for Letters. Recognized for his precise, cold, forensic prose style, Nabokovian inventiveness, and dark humour, Banville is considered "one of today's literary most imaginative novelists writing in the English language" and has been described as "Proust's heir, via Nabokov ”.

10. Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates was born in 1938 in New York. She published her first novel in 1963 and won the National Book Award for the novel Them. She has written some of the most representative literary texts of our time, including What I Lived For, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and Blonde, a finalist for the same award and for the National Book Award. Her vast literary work has about 90 published titles, including novels, short stories, poetry, theater and essays. It is translated into several languages ​​and is unanimously recognized by international critics. In 2003, she received the Common Wealth Award and the Kenyon Review Award.

11. Lyudmila Ulitskaya
Ludmila Ulitskaya was born in 1943 into an upper-bourgeois Jewish Russian family and was educated in Moscow. Graduated in Biology, she worked as a geneticist until she lost her job because she was too busy with prohibited literature. Her work includes theater and radio plays, short stories, children's stories, soap operas and novels. It is translated into about twenty languages ​​and in 1996 received the Médicis Prize in France for the best foreign novel with Sónetchka.

12. Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa (Canada) in 1939. She is the most celebrated Canadian author and has published over forty books of fiction, poetry and essays. He has received numerous literary awards throughout his career, including the Arthur C. Clarke, Booker Prize, Governor General's Award and Giller Prize, as well as the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence (UK), the Medal of Honor for Literature from the National Arts Club (USA), the title of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts e des Lettres (France) and was the first winner of the London Literary Prize. Her work is translated into thirty-five languages.

13. Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson was born in 1943, in the state of Idaho (United States of America). She has a long and distinguished career as a university professor. She has written three critically acclaimed novels: Housekeeping in 1980, Gilead in 2004 and Home in 2008. Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and Home won the UK's Orange Prize for Fiction. In addition to being an established novelist, she is also an essayist of great merit and the author of articles for prestigious magazines and newspapers, such as the New York Times Book Review. She holds the Hemingway Foundation / Pen Award, and in 2013 was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama. Marilynne Robinson is already considered a classic writer of contemporary literature.

14. Maryse Conde
Maryse Condé was born in Guadeloupe (Caribbean) in 1937. She is a recognized French-speaking writer, feminist and activist, diffuser of African history and culture in the Caribbean. She stands out for her vast productivity as an author and for her versatility to write historical fiction, short stories, novels, essays, poems and other genres. She is especially known for her novel Segu (1984–1985). In addition to being a writer, Condé had a distinguished academic career, having taught at several universities in the United States.

15. Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera was born in 1929, in Brnö, in the former Czechoslovakia. In 1975 he took up residence in Paris, having in 1981 adopted French nationality. Author of a vast work, which includes novels, essays and poetry, he is considered one of the most important writers of the 20th century. The Unsustainable Leveza do Ser is his most acclaimed work by readers and critics, and it has greatly contributed to making him an internationally recognized author. Among others, Milan Kundera was awarded the Médicis Prize (1973), the Mondello Prize (1978), the Common Wealth Prize (1981), the Jerusalem Prize (1985) and the Independent Prize for Foreign Literature (1991).

16. Mircea Cartărescu
Mircea Cărtărescu was born in Bucharest (Romania) in 1956. He is a poet, novelist and essayist, and one of the most translated and awarded Romanian authors worldwide. Between 1980 and 1989, he worked as a Romanian language teacher and as an editor at Caiete Critice magazine. Since 1991 he has been a university professor. In 1994 he received the Romanian Writers Union Prize and the Republic of Moldova Prize, in 2015 he was distinguished with the Austrian State Literature European Prize and in 2018 with the Mihai Eminescu National Poetry Prize. His work has been translated into English, French, Spanish and German.

17. Neil Gaiman
Gaiman was born in 1960 in the UK. Before dedicating himself to writing, he was a journalist and literary critic. He later became an award-winning author of novels, graphic novels, short stories and films. His titles include Norse Mythology, The Strange Life of Nobody Owens, Coraline, What's in the Back Row, The Ocean at the End of the Road, Neverwhere: In The Land of Nothing and the graphic novel series The Sandman, among other works. His fiction received the Newbury, Carnegie, Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy and Will Eisner awards.

18. Richard Ford
Richard Ford was born in Mississippi (United States of America) in 1944. He is the author of eight novels, an essay and four collections of short stories. Recognized by the critics as one of the great portraits of the structuring themes of North American society, Ford holds the record of being the only author distinguished at the same time with the Pulitzer and Pen/Faulkner prizes for the same work: Independence Day. awarded the Prix Femina Étranger and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence. In June 2016, Richard Ford was distinguished with the Asturias Princess Prize for Letters and, in 2019, with the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

19. Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie was born in 1947 in Bombay (India) and moved to England in the meantime. He finished his degree in History at Cambridge University in 1968 and worked as an actor and advertising copywriter. His name became famous around the world for being sentenced to death for religious reasons. Before that, Rushdie had already distinguished himself with his second novel Midnight's Children (1980) which received that year's Booker Prize and, in 1993, the Booker of Bookers. Rushdie's work is marked by a fascination for Indo-European culture and mythology, consisting of allegorical fables on historical and philosophical themes.

20. Stephen King
American novelist Stephen King was born in 1947 in Portland. He writes horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction and fantasy. His books have sold over 400 million copies, with publications in over 40 countries. He is the 9th most translated author in the world. Many of his works have been adapted into films, television series and comic books. King has published 60 novels, including 7 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, 12 short story collections, and six nonfiction books.

21. Yan lianke
Yan Lianke was born in 1958 in Henan (China). His work is distinguished by its highly satirical tone. Some of God's most internationally acclaimed books have been censored in China. He began writing in 1978 and among his most successful works are Xia Riluo, Serve the People!, Enjoyment, and Dream of Ding Village. He has published yet more than a dozen volumes of short stories, literary criticism and essays. In 2011, he won the Man Asian Literary Prize, in 2014, the Franz Kafka Prize, in 2016 and 2017, the Man Booker International Prize and, in 2021, the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature.