The Birdcage Archives

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Technical Difficulties

Hello Gentle Reader

Currently I am experiencing some technical difficulties not only with my computer, but also with a memory stick, in which is primarily used to house all my data, in regards to: blog posts, book reviews, essays and other such writings. With this technological failure, and perhaps my own human error, future blog posts, and other saved book reviews, will have to be for the time being be with held, and halted until the problem is rectified. I do apologise for this Gentle Reader, and I do apologise for any, future book reviews and blogs posts, that appear off in their times and personal observations. Hopefully this technical error, will be resolved in a timely manner.

Thank-you Gentle Reader for your consideration and patience in this matter. I do apologise once again.

M. Mary

Thursday 21 August 2014

Iranian Lioness Simin Behbahani Passes Away 87

Hello Gentle Reader

Simin Behbahani was affectingly referred to as the Lioness of Iran. She was a poet, who wrote of the joys of love. She was Iran’s national poet; and a literary icon of Persian poetry and literature. Singers used her poems, as basis for their songs, which spoke of love. However Behbahani was more than just a poet of love. She was a writer, of societal change, and of women’s issues within her country. Simin Behbahani wrote of the challenges that Iran faced after its Islamic Revolution in the nineteen-seventies; and the issues that faced women after the revolution. She fought for women’s rights, was a translator, a political activist, and a poet. Her works however, also faced political challenges. A opposition newspaper was banned by Iranian political authorities, for publishing one of her poems. In two-thousand and six, Behbahani attempted to board a plane to leave, for a event in Paris; she was detained by the police. At the age of eighty two, Behbahani was interrogated all night long, much to the shock of her English translator, and many others. Despite her age, Behbahani remained a political force; she wrote about the disputed Iranian elections in two-thousand and nine, with harsh scathing words: “Stop this extravagance, this reckless throwing of my country to the wind.” Her message was made clear. Despite being nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature twice; the Lioness of Iran did not receive the accolade of Laureate status. Her political activism marches on. Yet it is her poetry and the joys of the poetry that is shared between poet and author that will burn the brightest.

Rest in Peace Simin Behbahani

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

An Empty Room

Hello Gentle Reader

According to the calendars at work, the seasons are split up into three months per season. The calendars however, are naïve in their idealistic endeavor to attempt to organize the year, and the seasons. In this corner of the world, winter can last – and generally does last six months of the year. Summer lasts at best for three months; but has the appearance of two months. Currently, we are in the month of August. Where June is wet, with rain and overcast skies; and July makes up for its predecessors, weeping disposition; August is a month of capricious weather. The storms are viciously violent, and temperamental. A normal rainstorm will become a thunderstorm. Were it once rained, it becomes hail – of varying sizes. With the winds gusts, it’s an onslaught of nature’s vandalism. Housing damaged; vehicles dented; windows cracked; siding pockmarked; gardens shredded; and trees stripped bare; petals scattered about. Such is the impulsive month of August. When August comes lurking about, the Autumnal anxiety, begins to twist inside of me. There is trepidation when August saunters around. Not just because of the storms that will surely arise; but because August begins to showcase the glow of the changing season. There is still the summer haze in the air; life is still abundant; but there is a gradual change slowing taking place. The crops are showing their maturation. The canola fields have ceased their blooming; and what was once green is now golden. The days have become shorter; and nights prolong their stay. The other night, the moon had taken on an amber flush to it. Could it have been from the wildfires? Perhaps. Yet upon looking at it, it only proves to showcase that Autumn is around the corner. The ochre sheen was reminiscent of the harvest moon of Autumn. It is a moon in which one could have bonfires under and warm themselves, while enjoying the company of others. I have become more aware of the slight changes of the landscape, and the seasonal changing of the guard. Mu Xin writes about the changing season with delicate prose, that discuss the passage of time, in the backdrop of the changing seasons.

“In the temperate zone, at the start of each season, a sacred aura delicately begins to insinuate itself in the wind. While winter lingers on, springs’s cold air feels tender and moist as it stirs up private, fleeting memories.”

Mu Xin, who has had twenty plus books published in China and Taiwan; has only this collection to his name, in the English language. “An Empty Room,” is a collection of thirteen short stories that have been taken from three previously published works. The end result: a surprisingly well melded book of short stories. Mu Xin who passed away in two-thousand and eleven, was a well respected Chinese author and painter. Xin was born in nineteen-twenty seven and had experienced World War II, as well as the Cultural Revolution. Many of his earlier works, and manuscripts from that period in his life were confiscated and destroyed. Most of his written works were done in exile in America; furthering the painful irony, and lack of translation of his work into the English language. It was only later on in life that, his works became more and more appreciated in his homeland; especially those of his paintings. However, Mu Xin was a master of Chinese cultural and heritage; before the desegregation the Cultural Revolution had inflicted upon a beautiful and rich history. Mu Xin was one of the only surviving great contemporary masters, of the era, preceding the Cultural Revolution.

“An Empty Room,” is written in a Chinese genre called: “sanwen.” Though the term is generally referred to as “prose,” the translator makes the comment, that with Mu Xin, it is a special form of prose, which breaches and blurs the lines between fiction, essay and poetry. Many of the stories that are featured in “An Empty Room,” have an appearance of being, memory exercises, which eventually had slowly began to take on the appearance of a story, bit by bit. The first story in this collection is titled: “The Moment When Childhood Vanished.” Once I had let go the preconceived conception, from the back of the book, to expect something like a poetic essay, and read it as a story; it began to become more enjoyable, as I became less scrutinizing. The story itself, deals with a child, and a trip to a monastery for a ritual. Though our young first person narrator, does not understand the ritual or what is expected of him; he does what is expected of him. Participating in the ritual brings honour to his family; as well as honours the ancestors. Though our narrator has some rather confused and conflicting ideas about why this matters. As the story progresses it begins to lead up to its climatic moment; and finishes just as fast. The true joy in the story however is the epiphanic ending, which is foreshadowed by the title.

The stories of this collection might have a sense of what one may call a Chekhovian nature; but they are something else on their own as well. The stories that have a sense of being a ‘story,’ do rely on epiphanies in order to comment, on the subject matter or strike it home. However if I were to compare, these stories to another famous short story writer: they have the aesthetic sense of Kawabata’s “Palm-of-the-Hand Stories.” In reality however, Mu Xin’s stories are his own, and towards the end the author had left his own mark on each of the stories. One aspect of these stories that I had found interesting, and did appear to go against the described: “builds an astonishing, linked bildungsroman,” was that one story in particular was out place (though not worth the read) against the others. “Quiet Afternoon Tea,” is a story that is not written from what I perceive to be a Chinese perspective. The story is narrated in the first person, but in actuality it is being told from the perspective of a English young woman, who is living with her aunt and uncle, and will inherit the house after they pass on. In the meantime, she waits on them – including making tea. I do not think this story for example fit into the traditional definition of what a bildungsroman is. It does follow the foot path of the other stories, by dealing with memory, and secrets; but other than thematic similarities it does not quite fit into the term: bildungsroman.

Miu Xin’s language is one of his defining characteristics in this book. It’s crystalline and subtle. It flows with grace, and a natural fluidity. The language is as contemplative, as the meditative work in which it is written into. Each word is carefully weighted and measured, before it is inserted in each story. No word is out of place; no passage is overtly verbose; everything in the end is compressed to the point of necessity; but not in a minimalist style. It’s a compression, which poetry utilizes; with the exception a story is being told. Yet, like poetry; the strengths of the stories relies on the remarkable use of language, that has been beautifully translated into English.

The later stories of this short story collection were a lot more interesting. The blurred lines between fiction and essay became less distinguishable. The works became more contemplative, and more philosophical. The outward gaze slowly turns inwards. The exterior landscape becomes a backdrop into the interior world. The later works became increasingly poetic, and philosophical in their discussions of varying subjects. There were times that the work itself, bordered on the sentimental. Yet it is Mu Xin’s cool style, and fluidity, that does not bring attention to over exaggerated emotion; which quickly extinguishes any feeling of forced emotion. Such as:

“Does love need appraisal? When the jewelry experts appraise the love between the Duke and the Duchess [Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson], what should be priceless will be given a price.”

“The Windsor Cemetery Diary,” is one of my favourite short stories of this collection. It’s a philosophical and subtle story that contemplates by the simple gesture of moving a coin, the realization of existence, and realizing the perception of someone else’s existence, without actually seeing them. However this is not a story that could be classified as existential; for the sole reason that this story, also deals with the concept of fate. It does not lecture the reader, on the fact that as individuals – cognitive beings – we are responsible to create meaning in our lives, and therefore give them purpose; and not fall into false theological devices and words like: “destiny,” or “fate.” Rather this is a story, that tackles varying subjects; but a simple gesture of turning a coin over soon becomes a ‘fated,’ action and a philosophical game in which one must continue, as in order to maintain in a sense the existence of each other.

“I, the head; the Other, the tail; after turning the coin several times, the message deepens:

“I exist.
I do not forget.
I am willing to continue.
As the heads-to-tails increases, the message acquires a new value:
I am the reason that the Other still exists.
How can I forget?
I can no longer discontinue this continuity.”

My Dear Gentle Reader, I have been putting off buying Mu Xin’s “An Empty Room,” for some time. Perhaps not intentionally; but it was put off. On this last book spree, there’s a level of confidence, and understanding, when I looked at the pile, and thought to myself: I’ve got a good pile here to work with, and to keep me engaged and delighted; while continually showing me that Literature is one of my greatest enjoyments and loves in this world. Mu Xin is a master at language and a master at writing in the short form. He evades ‘plot,’ traps, opens up for a new style, and says more in a short story of just a few pages, that it would take most writers, of a novel, to actually discuss in a novel of five hundred pages or more. The language itself is precise, and strikes without flinching, and is always dead on. This short story collection, has been one of my favourite books that I have read, as of late.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

Friday 15 August 2014

Nobel Speculation 2014

Hello Gentle Reader

The Beginning

The Nobel Prize speculation is already upon us. We lost once again an array of good writers this year. Some Nobel Laureates themselves: Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Nadine Gordimer; as well as some great talents like Tadeusz Rozewicz also passed on. Yet once again Nobel Speculation is upon us. Last year’s award went to: “The Master of the Contemporary Short Story,” Alice Munro. It was a huge achievement in Munro’s quiet career, as a writer, and an equally as great achievement for the short story. That makes Munro the thirteenth woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Speculation has already arisen for the usual suspects: Haruki Murakami, Philip Roth, and of course the perennial pain in the ass Bob Dylan. If I were to be honest, I wouldn’t mind seeing none of those authors win; and would be delighted in the singers fans to politely step back and realize that Dylan is not a writer, or a author, or a poet; but a musician; and has no business, being considered for the prize. Without further ado though, let the speculation begin. I have tried to be as varied, and as considerate I can with, the varieties of the world; and tried to make a compelling list. Until October however, we will never know who the Laureate of two-thousand and fourteen is.

Let's Start Shall We:

Africa –

[ There has not been a native African writer win the Nobel Prize for Literature since Nineteen-Eighty Six with the Nigerian playwright, poet, and essayists Wole Soyinka. Controversy had erupted last year with the death of Chinua Achebe; many calling for the author to receive the prize, even after his passing. My list of African native’s and potential authors to win the Nobel Prize for Literature is small, because of my lack of understanding of that area’s literature. However the scrounging and looking that I have been able to accomplish has lead to some interesting authors, certainly worth taking into consideration for personal reading. ]

Mia Couto – Mozambique – Mia Couto is not a native of Africa; his parents came from Portugal when Portugal had colonized Mozambique. Couto just won this year Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and has been considered a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. His works detail the African Experience, in a violent magical realism, and fairytale like manner. It is a world haunted by spirits, and a bloody history; but also amazing with its sites, and natural beauty; and untamed brutality of its natural landscapes. Couto has been called a ‘smuggler writer,’ because of his unique style of stealing words and meanings to make them available in other languages. All of this gives birth to Couto’s experience as a writer of foreign origin in a foreign land that has become home.

Nuruddin Farah – Somalia – The self-imposed exiled Somali writer, who writes in English, has been an international writer from, the continent. He has won numerous international awards, which includes the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. His most famous work is perhaps the “Blood in the Sun,” Trilogy; a coming of age story, in a post-independent world. It is in fact the first part of this trilogy “Maps,” that has cemented his reputation as a heavy weight champion, in contemporary literature. “Maps,” uses the second person narration, to discuss cultural identity and post-colonialism; set during and around with the Ogaden Conflict of nineteen-seventy seven. Farah writes about his exiled homeland, to make it more real to him, and to keep it alive.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o – Kenya – Thiong'o is fascinating because he does not write his work in well known or easily accessible language. His novels are written in the tribal language Gikuyu /Kikuyu. Linguistically speaking this makes Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o a fascinating author in the use of language. His work are written in the magical realism style; where the horrors of his native Kenya are placed alongside the spirits of ancestors, and the war lords and dictators that rise and fall within the world around him. His works are both satirical and allegorical, but deal with political affairs much like the Latin American Boom authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes, and Mario Vargas Llosa had done so prior.

Ben Okri – Nigeria – Was once the youngest author to win the Booker Prize – until last year’s Eleanor Catton had won. Okri originally had won the Booker Prize for his novel “The Famished Road.” His novel depicts the detailed reality of his homeland, but also depicts the spirit world – another plane of existence where spirits reside. This often leads many to state that Okri is a magical realist. A term he often rejects; stating it’s a lazy word for critics to quickly pin his work down. Okri’s novels deal with the history of Africa (and his native Nigeria and its own civil unrest) but also take inspiration from the colonial worlds philosophies and ideas, as well as the oral tradition, of storytelling of his mother and ancestors.

Pepetela – Angola – Pepetela is a writer who has turned his gaze to the past of his homeland of Angola. Its historical trials – the most significant the Angola war of Independence or the Colonial Wars. But also of late, his work has become more socially critical of Angola’s ruling class, and the social problems of the country. However, as of late, Pepetela’s works have moved away from Angola, for the setting of his novels, and has since moved on to more international locations, and themes. His works have turned from their searching of the past, to the exploration of new horizons.

Corsino Fortes – Cape Verde – Cape Verde is considered part of the African continent. Yet in a global landmass way, it almost appears to engulf its own world entirely. It is an archipelago and not well known. Yet in a geographers mind it is as much a part of Africa as Cameroon or Chad are. Fortes is a poet; and like the great poets before him: Pabulo Neruda, Saint-John Perse, Czeslaw Milosz, and Octavio Paz; is also a diplomat. Corsino Fortes writes of the odysseys of the island(s) of Cape Verde that is reminiscent of Derek Walcott. His poems deal with the islands day to day life, and their hardships: such as droughts. His poetry also looks to a new and unwritten future for the nation of Cape Verde after Salazar had been overthrown; and Portuguese colonial rule waned. His poems also however deal with the emigration of the islanders of the country to the other corners of the world. But his poetry also gives voice to those who have stayed and wish to rebuild the independent country.

Wilma Stockenström – South Africa – Stockenström is a playwright, poet and casual novelist. She writes in her native Afrikaans. I have been aware of Stockenström for a while, but only because of her poetry. The way I always picture the author is, in a black and white photograph with a cat. She has appearance of being aloof or distracted by something; yet she sits with a regal and reticent pose. Whereas the cat, one paw raised; watches the camera with suspicion and paranoia. My first real introduction with Stockenström besides her poetry was her recently translated novel “The Expedition to the Baobab Tree.” The prose was dense, lucid, and lyrical. It has a certain playful manner of being a fairytale or a poetically shone tale of an African woman who had escaped to freedom, but finds a more frightening world in her freedom, in the African wilderness. It’s a beautiful novel filled with lyricism, metaphor, and a shifting sense of time, influenced by memory. Her poetry is unadorned and not overtly ornate. Her voice is satirical at times but always compassionate.

North Africa/Middle East –

[ Much like the stated African literary representation, a lot of Middle Eastern countries which can include North Africa, have also had a lack of representation with the award. The first Arabic language author to have received the Nobel Prize for Literature, was the Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, in nineteen-eighty eight. ]

Assia Djebar – Algeria –Djebar is considered one of North Africa’s most astonishing writers and most recognized and revered. Over the years she has come to claim many literary awards like the German Book Trade Peace Prize, as well as the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, for her contribution to world literature. Djebar is often seen as a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her work details the struggles of women, against the patriarch societies and the limitations that they impose on women. She has been elected to the Académie française; making her the first female writer, from the former French colonies of North Africa. Djebar is an international author, with an ever present international presence.

Amos Oz – Israel – Amos Oz recently won Franz Kafka Prize in two-thousand and thirteen. Other authors who have won the prize are Harold Pinter and Elfriede Jelinek. Both went on to win the Nobel. Politically speaking, Amos Oz in regards to Israel and the Arabic world has been cited as a left leaning intellectual. He supports the idea of a two state system between Israel and Palestine. Yet this does not foreshadow his own literary merit and output. He is known for his realistic characters, and ironic touch; with the accompanying landscape and life in the kibbutz. All wrapped up with a slight critical tone.

Ibrahim al-Koni – Libya – al-Koni is a prolific writer. He has written over sixty novels, short stories, poems, essays and aphorisms. Not bad coming from a writer who did not learn to read or write until he was twelve years old. He studied at the Gorky University, and had worked as a journalist in Moscow and Warsaw. His life and identity often play out in his work. The writer is a product of traditional nomadic life, and yet post-colonial circumstances. He was born in the Tuareg Desert. He is a rootless being, who looks to the culture and the world in which he was born, to which he writes about the strange world that he has come to leave behind, and yet imagines and remembers.

Adunis – Syria – Adunis is the Grandfather in many ways of modern Arabic poetry; and often seen as a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. In two-thousand and eleven there was criticism, that Adunis was not recognized because of the Arab Spring. He is a rebellious figure that has broken though the already established poetic forms and expectations of the already set out formula for Arabic Poetry. With this Adunis has reshaped the poetic sphere of throughout the Middle East into something new and bewildering; and all that more international. His poems are sharp with political criticism; but also enjoy depicting the beauty of the world, as poetry is a place inhabited, between dreams and the clouds overhead.

H. A. Sayeh – Iran/Germany – An Iranian poet, who has been living in Germany since nineteen-eighty seven. He first published poetry while still a high school student. However Sayeh’s output has been small. He has an obsession with perfection – phraseology and philosophical discussion. This often leaves his poetry glittering in its well perfected craftsmanship.

Nawal El Saadawi – Egyptian – Saadawi is a psychiatrist and psychologist, as well as a writer. Her works take a feminist bent in a male dominated Muslim religious society. Feminist is often passed on to Saadawi as a mark of her character – as she has been often referred to as the “Simone de Beauvoir of the Arab World.” She is a writer who fights against oppression of any kind – especially those that have degraded women. Her non-fiction book “Women and Sex,” caused quite an, uproar with leading political figures and theological leaders, which lead to her removal from the Ministry of Health. Still she is one of the most respected authors in the Arabic world.

Europe –

[ I do apologize, that my European speculative list, is so long. Europe, is primarily my main focus as a reader, of translated literature, as its continent and history, and countries within it are so wide and diverse. My greatest regret with this entire list is the authors I do not know, the authors that I skip over or are completely oblivious of. This itself makes me realize my own parochial and insular, reading habits of the entire concept of world literature. ]

Ersi Sotiropoulos – Greece – A Greek poet, essayist, short story writer, and novelist. She is part of the Greek avant-garde literary world, but is still an accessible writer. Her works on the surface appear bare bone, and stripped of ornamentation; yet upon further reading into her works, one becomes more concerned with the lack of the beginning, the middle, or the end. To describe Sotropoulos works, would be a dark and surreal cul-de-sac in which a reader is led around and around, getting more lost in the familiarity of what is being read. Despite the lack of conventional beginnings and endings; her work has a natural lucidity to them. She is the first Greek writer to win both of Greece’s major literary awards: “Greek National Book Award,” and “Greece’s Book Critics Award.”

Leonard Nolens – Belgium – Leonard Nolens was tipped a few years back, as being a possible winner. Since that tip had come, I never forgot the poet and diarist; and always watched to see his name pop up again. He is in effect one of the greatest poets of the Flemish language. His earlier works were experimental and baroque; yet as he matured his work eventually became more and more sober. His works are considered the cream of the crop; and his oeuvre is astounding and prolific. What interests me most about Nolens is his journals; where the poet and the individual become intertwined, and his theme of trying to escape ones identity becomes all that more apparent.

Tua Forsström – Finland – Forsström is a Finnish poet who writes in Swedish. Her poetry is concrete with its attention to the everyday detail; but it is also existential. Relationships are analyzed in her poems; and all sense of the word relationship sits on the precarious thin edge of a knife’s blade. Her poems vibrate with the everyday objects that surround each of us; but what lies underneath is vulnerability in the awareness that everything is always at the mercy of time, and the inevitable obliteration. Forsströms world is threatened by loss. Everywhere the absence of individuals is more present then than their presences. Yet it is the epiphanies of life’s fullness that equally balance her poems. Forsström’s poetry engulf: the natural landscape and beauty of Finland, travel, and complicated human relationships.

Cees Nooteboom – The Netherlands – Is considered the best Dutch contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is a varied author. Nooteboom has written travel writing and essays, novels, short stories, and poetry. The author’s novels have been compared to that of Italo Calvino and Vladimir Nabokov – writing post-modern fables, the engulf the oddities of twentieth century and the now early twenty first century in its ethereal, whimsical and cerebral disorganized self. His works painstakingly remind the reader, that all novels are an inherent self-absorbed act of human validation; but go on to tackle such themes as wanderlust, in a jet-fueled world. The idea of ‘home,’ becomes an almost academic thought. His travel writing is often considered his best pieces of work – coming out in five volumes alone. He is by all means a international author, one that deals with a sense of displacement in an ever greater connected and seemingly smaller world.

Olga Tokarczuk – Poland – Tokarczuk is one of Poland’s greatest writers currently writing. She is popular both among critics and readers alike. Her works can be best described as magical realism; which mixes the real world with stranger and eccentric oddities that become facts of life. Her best known work “Primeval and Other Times,” recounts a village where the joys and sorrows of life meet; but it’s the eccentric characters of the village and their humanity that makes the book come alive; from a woman who loves her dogs and is pursued by the moon; to a aristocrat that withdraws from the world, and plays a rabbi’s game, to discover the secrets of the world. What is most beloved by Tokarczuk is her accessibility, and her enjoyment in writing. As she has stated: “To me writing novels is telling fairy tales to oneself, moved to maturity.”

Jon Fosse – Norway – One of Europe’s most well known and revered playwrights, often compared to Beckett and Pinter, Fosse’s dramas have been performed throughout the world. His work is known for its sparse dialogue and sparse prose; but also its darkly comic wit. His work is claustrophobic, with air of damp dourness, reminiscent of his native homeland, Norway. His work depicts characters in self-induced isolation, which stems from their alienation of the outside world. Communication or the lack thereof; or too much; is central to his work. In two-thousand and thirteen Fosse was tipped to be the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, but it turned out to be Munro’s year. Still Fosse, from my short passing with his work with “Aliss at the Fire,” turned out to be a great short read, that is both troubling claustrophobic and filled with poetic impressions.

Svetlana Aleksijevitj – Belarus – Aleksijevitj is a investigative journalist, and writer. Her two known works to English readers are: “Voices from Chernobyl,” and “Zinky Boys.” The first deals with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of the late eighties, and “Zinky Boys,” details the accounts of conscripted soviet soldiers in the Afghanistan. Other than that, not a lot is known about Aleksijevitj work in English. Her output is small, but is well reviered and regarded by many who have read her work, both in English translation and Russian. She depicts life during Soviet occupation and post-soviet life, with the impartial eye of a journalist; but with the sympathetic ear for the emotional stories, that are told and transcribed in her work. In two-thousand and thirteen, she was speculated as the winner.

Tõnu Õnnepalu – Estonia – Õnnepalu is often considered a ‘eurowriter,’ by the hermetic literary elite of Estonia. His themes are open to the varied experience of an individual abroad. He rose to literary fame though with his debut in prose: “Border State.” A lyrically charged novel, about a expatriate who is by all means a unreliable narrator, discussing his life from the other country, and his new life in France. It’s a nuanced book, but because of its short length, and beautiful prose, it manages well. Õnnepalu though is often a poet as well as a prose writer. He is a ‘international writer,’ who has left behind the hermetic existence of being just a Estonian writer, has garnered some criticism because of it. He dropped national topics, and traditions, in favour of his own themes, and that of the other literary world

Magdalena Tulli – Poland – Magdalena Tulli has a small output of books. Four of her books have been translated into English; where a recently fifth book, published in Poland back in two-thousand and eleven titled: “Włoskie szpilki,” which translates roughly as: “Italian Studs,” “Italian Pins,” or “Italian Shoes.” Tulli’s novels so far, are inclined more towards the idea of creating worlds, and stories, in a metafictional universe. This leads her works to deal with the idea of stories and storytelling, and playfully in a fabulist way constructs and deconstructs them. She can be compared to Italo Calvino, Borges and the late Marquez. What is most delightful with Tulli is her prose and lyricism. Her sentences click with nouns, move with verbs, and are surpassingly astonishing with metaphors and descriptions. Though her ‘small,’ output maybe a hindrance. But her novels are well architected cities; whose base materials are cheap words that are refined and manufactured into great works of achievements.

Javier Marias – Spain – Marias is a beloved Spanish writer, and is well known in the English speaking world. Many well grounded and regarded English writes, have sung praise about his works. Is this perhaps because, Marias has an affinity with the English language – after studying English Philology – and translating some of the classics into Spanish; and lecturing at Oxford on translation? Perhaps; but no. I do think that Marias stands on his own ground, as a writer. His works deal with betrayal, the nature of time, forgery and translation. Marias strikes me as the kind of writer, who wishes to supersede and transcend the barriers and boundaries of culture and language; and write about the human experience – which could explain why his characters lose their own voice in favors of others, as they mimic or parrot the views of others. This is why Marias often calls his characters cousins or literary brothers, in their escape of their own identities and voices for that of others.

Kiki Dimoula – Greece – Greece has two writers, who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Both were poets; and both were male. The first was Giorgos Seferis in nineteen-sixty three; and Odysseas Elytis in nineteen-seventy nine. Kiki Dimoula a poet as well would be an interesting choice. Her poems are spare, and showcase a lot of white on the page. To the inclination in my mind, at preferring prose; I at first looked at this as a waste of space. Yet now I realize that the white of the page, equally recounts the nothingness in which Dimoula show cases in her poems, as always skirting about the edges. Faded photographs, lost memories, homes since moved out of and reoccupied by someone else. She writes of the disillusionment of the post-war era, the military dictatorship that followed the eventual oblivion of all and the insecurities of the modern man. Yet there always appears hope in Dimoula’s work. .

Péter Nadas – Hungary – Nadas has been compared to Proust, and other great writers. Perhaps he is often compared to Proust, because of his dealings with memory; or because of his absurdly long books. “Parallel Stories,” for example is absurdly long at a page count of one thousand, five hundred, and twenty pages; and it is no wonder that book alone took eighteen years to write. The length of not only this novel, but the time it took, and considering the works of prior work, often leave with a sense of biasness. Nadas writes large door stopper, books – does he have anything worth stating if that amount of pages. Yes his work is renowned for its stylistic tendencies, but it still leaves one with a feeling of suspicion.

Lyudmila Petrushevskaya – Russia – I, at times personally consider Petrushevskaya as a figure akin to that of Homer of Ancient Greece. Reading one of her stories often has the sense the story itself is being transcribed from over hearing someone else gossip or discuss the said action of the story that unfolds. The stories are like twisted dark fairytales, or heartbroken tales of love, and romance gone rotten. Petrushevskaya is not a political author; yet she was not able to publish during the Soviet period; for the sole reason that she did not meet party approved propaganda standards. She on the other hand displayed and wrote about the cruel truths of the ‘home,’ of the everyday individual and all their difficulties. For this she was accused of ‘darkening reality.’ Yet what has, been accomplished in the end is a witches brew of wisdom, irony and honesty.

Pierre Michon – France – Michon is an interesting author. His writing is dense and intense. It’s not poetic babble though; at the same time Michon is a writer that requires patience. His writing is filled with a unique blend of language, which can be a frustrating read. His work is dense, and if you are used to reading fast, then Michon’s merits would be lost on that reader; as I had learned from reading his novel “Small Lives.” Yet Michon is an author interested in the lives of artists as presented in his novella’s “Masters and Servants,” but also the artist filling their niche, in regards to their place in history like “Eleven.” Michon is also interested in history – in the not well known sense, and writes beautiful passages in regards to the obscure people he can write about: “Winter Mythologies & Abbots.” Michon explores the microcosm in its place to the grander macrocosm of not only the world but also the universe.

Doris Kareva – Estonia – Kareva is a master of Estonian Poetry. Between the two scales of Estonia’s poetry of feelings and the rational – between writing about the human spectrum of emotions and experiencing the world; or the intellectual texts that try to understand the world – Kareva aligns herself with the first. She is a priestess of love. Doris Kareva writes of love: be it unrequited; unattainable; forbidden or passionate. Time and time again Doris Kareva opens the world up to her emotions and her poetry embodies these emotions. The love and the emotions Kareva discusses in her works are not simple. They are not for public showcase nor are they mundane in their everyday regards. Her work is pure and ethereal; and is clear as viewing the world form the mountain as the air stings the nose. Her poems are filled with dreams, dedictated to the ambiguous ‘you,’ and display a experience of the world that has been felt.

António Lobo Antunes – Portugal – Antunes is a postmodernist writer; and as it seems to be with postmodernist writer, he has written rather lengthy novels. His writing style is best compared to that of Samuel Beckett, Thomas Bernhard, or László Krasznahorkai. They are large one manic monologue, which are dense and disorienting. Narrative voices, struggle to find a voice on the page, and compete to state their lines. Yet beneath the density of his work, there is a simmering rage. An anger that stems from Antunes own experience as a doctor during Portugal’s part in the colonial wars. His works often have manic narrators, recounting their histories, that showcase Portugal’s beauty but also its dark and brutal past; not only on itself with Salazar the fascist dictator of the country; but also the colonial brutality. Despite its vitriolic stream-of consciousness late-modernist experimentation of his work; as one commentator has stated there’s a sense of poetry to his work.

Adam Zagajewski – Poland – A Neustadt International Prize for Literature Laureate; Zagajewski is one of Poland’s most renowned contemporary poets. A compatriot of both Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska. In his younger years Zagajewski was a protest poet, of the communist regime. However since the end of the communist era, the dissolution of the Soviet Union; Zagajewski themes have become more mature and mellowed out. One theme that haunts him the most, is how the historical and the past often can reflect and influence the present – often in the most everyday ways.

Drajo Jančar – Slovenia – Jančar is Slovenia’s most prominent contemporary writer. The themes of Jančar’s works come from the early modernist traditions. His novels are characterized by the individuals struggle against oppressive institutions: prisons, psychiatric hospitals, military barracks and galleys or ships. However despite the heaviness of these themes, he is known for his laconic and highly ironic writing style; often utilizing tragicomic events, to lighten the mood and twist the novel into different directions. Most of his novel take place in historical era settings (presumably twentieth century) Eastern Europe, as a metaphor for the human condition. Even though Jančar is a novelist and short story writer, he is also known for his essays and political engagements and civic commentaries.

Claudio Magris – Italy – Scholar, essayists and novelist, Magris is known for his far reaching historical novels. He is most well known for his non-fiction book “Danube,” which traces the disputed origins of the Danube River, to its final destination. The travelogue/historical analysis traces, the cultural and literary histories of the countries, in which the river passes through. It also adds human elements and stories, into the book, through folktales and poignant observations. Magris in the novel has an eye for details, which give each visited town, and city its own personality. The language itself is poetic and graceful flowing with the Danube’s course with ease. His novels are equally as intense and philosophical in their discussions of the culture and history of the twentieth century.

László Krasznahorkai – Hungary – Krasznahorkai is the literary darling of the Hungarian literary scene; that has found a place not just in his home country, but also is well renowned in Germany and, in English speaking countries, who read his work. He is a follower of Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard, in regards to the slight humour of his prose, and his avoidance of paragraph breaks; and the often long winding sentences, become slow moving rivers of black texts of lava. This often leads his work to have a sense of apocalyptic claustrophobia. Krasznahorkai is a difficult writer; but also a rewarding writer. He is the master of the apocalypse, and a poet of impending doom. Yet the language itself is a complete contrast the writers themes and works. It is beautiful winding and poetic.

Juan Goytisolo – Spain – Novelist, poet and essayist Juan Goytisolo is one of Spain’s most acclaimed and greatest contemporary writers. Both of his brothers: Luis Goytisolo, and the deceased José Agustín Goytisolo are also writes. Juan Goytisolo, was a fierce opponent of the Franco dictatorship that had engulfed Spain. For this opposition Juan Goytisolo found himself in exile in Paris, where he worked for many years. Despite the liberation after Franco’s death, Goytisolo has remained an adamant critic of Spanish society. He has found a love for the Middle Eastern cultures and Islamic traditions; as he has learned Maghrebi Arabic and Turkish. He has flayed the identity of ‘Sunny Spain,’ to reveal its Moorish heritage and Jewish roots. Juan Goytisolo has a keen sense of history that stems from his own life. His a vitriolic critic, and intellectually reaching; but is known for his avant-garde writing and often unapproachable work.

Mircea Cartarescu – Romania – Cartarescu is poet and prose writer. In Cartarescu’s youth he was a rebellious poet of the “Blue Jeans Generation,” writing quick playful poetry; however after maturation he has become a writer of more international standard. He is the most well known contemporary Romanian writer, of its current generation of writers – many of whom he has mentored and taught; one of them being the Romanian [prose] poet Doina Ioanid. Cartarescu’s work describes the chaos of life, with absolute confidence and precision. In a way the author is able to organize the chaotic mess that he writes about into a coherent form; allowing for the sense of chaos to be seen but not confuse the reader. Like many great writers before him, Cartarescu has a literary city – and that city is Bucharest; a city in his work that is described with mythological proportions, and a place where nightmares and dreams clash and come true. Much like Fernando Pessoa’s Lisbon, or James Joyce’s Dublin, or the Cairo of Mahfouz; or Kafka’s Prague.

Mikhail Shishkin – Russia (currently Residing in Switzerland) – Shishkin is a young author, but is a forced to be reckoned with. Though his debut in English with his novel “Maidenhair,” left little of an impression on me; many had called it the best book of twenty-twelve: ‘period.’ Its language was thick and poetic – which generally is not an issue, but it became unfortunate that the book eventually felt like it had gone into territories that it was not capable of handling, and without a concrete sense of plot, it felt aimless and wandering, and overtly connived of its own self-importance. However based on the themes of book, and the redemptive qualities of that book alone, it is understandable that Shishkin is a forced to reckon with and is one of the great contemporary Russian authors at work.

Australia and Oceania –

[ My knowledge Australia and New Zealand and other countries of this area is incredibly limited. This is why I will only include the one author once again, who is not well known throughout the rest of the world, but is considered one of the best authors working in the English language; but is obscure because of his own reclusiveness. ]

Gerald Murnane – Australia –Murnane is a reclusive author; to the point that reading about the authors limited travels, within his own country – only rarely leaving the state of Victoria; often gives one the image of a snail more interested in its own shell then the rest of the world. I wouldn’t say that Murnane has no interest in the outside world – but he appears to have found a place to call home, and has since never left. Murnane’s fiction is metaphysical and philosophical. His sentences are grammatically long, yet they deal with the themes of landscape, memory and the process of writing and telling stories. “Barley Patch,” deals with the self-interrogation of the author, as he writes about the real world around him, and the fictional characters that come to inhabit the writes mind before they are released on the page. His earlier works detailed adolescence and childhood – before subaria was changed with cars and televisions; and the sexual frustrations of living in a, devote catholic home.

Asia and The Indo-subcontinent –

[ When Mo Yan became a Nobel Laureate, I was not alone in my ambivalence and eventual contempt for the author. However that has since passed, and redemption can always be on the forthright. Despite its own, turbulent history Asia as a whole has produced some amazing authors – some who had become Nobel Laureates: Rabindranath Tagore of India, who was more than just a writer, but an artistic jack of all trades; Yasunari Kawabata, and Kenzaburo Oe of Japan. Yasunari Kawabata: known for his lyrical psychologically probing and delicate novels, of Japan during the early twentieth century. Kenzaburo Oe: a socially critical, and existential influenced write, who took personal tragedy and made it into a universal metaphor for human suffering, hardship and the eventual fullness of realizing one’s own redemption in a time of misfortune. ]

Ko Un – South Korea – Much like Adunis, Ko Un is a perennial favorite. He is a zen poet, and a very approachable poet. His poetry steps out of the ivory tower; and is the work of someone who has lived a varied life, and observed the horrors that have split his country apart. If you can count on anything from Ko Un, in his poetry it is gentle grace, wisdom, and a truly understood sense of compassion for everything. There is a lighthearted touch to the poet’s poems; but also a tangible sense of sorrow of events that have passed. Un is the kind of poet I turn to on the whims of a moment, for graceful honesty and a sympathetic ear, and empathetic understanding when needed. He is not a foreboding poet, but a approachable writer. To read his poems is like walking through a garden with the poet, and coming to a mutual understanding of the world.

Anita Desai – India – if Gabriel Garcia Marquez spear fronted the Latin American Boom, Desai led the way for what would become the Lyrical India. She is an Indian writer, whose literal language is English. She has admitted though she feels about India as an Indian, she thinks about as an outsider. Desai has been nominated for the Booker Prize three times. Her works often detail a vanishing or vanished world; a forgotten place. Time is not necessarily a ladder towards the future, but a descent into the past in which one finds the door to the future. Her works chronicle the forgotten, and the fading, often relying on the persistence of memory.

Oh-Jung Hee – South Korea – Hee is often dubbed the Virginia Woolf of South Korea. She takes a feminist stance, against South Korea’s prevalent patriarch and male dominated society. Her works in the beginning or imagistic, and fragmented, over time however they have softened, and their works turned towards domesticity and the lives of women in South Korea. Her works however are socially and historically aware, of the turbulent past of Korea. They detail t he effects of the war, and eventual crackdown on society, from children’s perspectives, but also perspectives from the home, and how the war had fragmented and split up families. In this sense, Oh-Jung Hee is more than just a chronicler of the home – from the windows of apartments and homes, views a arbitrary history, and society, that had infected the homes of many and destroyed the lives of many.

Hwang Sok-yong – South Korea – Hwang Sok-yong deals with the effects of the Korean War. Home for this author is more than just a place that one grows up in, and is mentally and emotionally attached to, via memory; it is a community. Sok-yong chronicles the affects of a war, which has destroyed the concept of home and community for its people. His works psychology probe the displacement of its people; and the loss of solidarity of what can be called a community and the hearth in which one grows up around; both symbolic and real. His works deal with the devastation of war, and the cold observational powers of history in times passage, and the loss of humanity in times of modernization and a military system. On the flip side Hwang Sok-yong deals with the theme of rebuilding and creating a new healthy live, rising from the rubble and ashes, and reclaim a sense of peace and control over one’s life, against the arbitrary movements of history and larger scale events.

Bei Dao – China – Bei Dao is not a strictly party approved Chinese writer. He is a lot like Gao Xingjian; he is a expatriated writer, who refused to bend and mould to the party approved concept of art, and culture. Rather than writing to a scripted formula; Bei Dao turned to the more obscure poetry to mask his social criticism and personal beliefs, towards the Cultural Revolution. He is the most notable poet of the Misty Poets – who were known for the oblique poetry. Yet Dao is not inaccessible in his obscurity and masked sensibilities. His poetry feels natural, and contemplative; but not overtly intellectually driven, to the point everything is rendered down to detached and obscured observations. His work has a sense of the surreal in the everyday; and hums with a solitary disposition; that invites well warrant company.

South and Latin America –

[ An interesting article had explained: in the entirety of Spanish language literature, as of now; is being produced in South and Latin America; as well as the most books consumed in the Spanish language are in these regions. With the exception of Javier Marias, contemporary Spanish language writes that pop into my mind, are from the Southern Continent. Writers like Cesar Aira, and Roberto Bolano, are among the first to pop in my head. A co-worker of mine, who often gets the unfortunate gabbing of my Nobel infatuation, believes this year it will go to a South and Latin American author. It is an interesting prospect, that most of Spanish language literature is now not coming from Spain, but from South and Latin America, where it also being consumed more. The reason for this: the global comic crisis, which had hit Spain hard. ]

Elena Poniatowska – Mexico – Poniatowska is the Grand Dame of Mexican letters. She is a journalist, who has an interest in the tragedies and atrocities of her home country. Her most famous book “Massacre in Mexico,” details the slaughter of students, at the hands of the army, because of their protests. However despite her fame from journalism, Poniatowska enjoys creative writing far more. Her creative work is a cross between literary fiction and historical construction. Just like her journalistic writings, her creative work, has a soft spot for the disenfranchised. Her writing style is colloquial and as realistic to the individuals being portrayed, as a fictional counterpart can get. The works deal with human rights and social issues. From farm labourers to women. Poniatowska writes about them all, and takes social injustices seriously. She is a writer whose work has been written in a ideal direction.

Rodrigo Rey Rosa – Guatemala – Rosa is an author who flies under the radar. His works are based around myths and folktales of his native Latin America as well as those of North Africa. His novel “The African Shore,” was shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award. He has been praised by the late Roberto Bolano, as being of the best authors of their generation. His works are international, yet are grounded in the myths of his homeland and that of North Africa. He is not a typecast Latin American Boom author; but someone who rejects the term or idea of Magical Realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and instead goes into more mystical realms, of legend and myth. Rosa is an author whose work stands on its own; and his obscurity or rather the lack of information on his personal life, make all that much more difficult to comprehend as a writer. Though I have not read his work (yet) I have been watching his output closely.

Cesar Aira – Argentina – Aira is a prolific author – to the point of being a industrious writing factory, churning out words; like a factory churns out textile goods. Aira is known to publish between two and four novella length books a year. However what is unique about Aira is his writing style. Rather than edit and make revisions, Aira utilizes a technique he calls “flight forward.” When he begins to see that he is writing himself in a trap, he changes direction of the book. In a sense it’s a literary improvisation, as Aira’s style changes, and even using less literary genres like pulp science fiction, or a soap opera to help keep the story moving. His works are always in a continual movement never losing momentum.

Eduardo Galeano – Uruguay – Galeano a journalist who had turned to fiction, and creative writing; and is now considered the poet-laureate of the anti-globalization movement. Galeano offered poetic flare to his journalistic writings and non-fiction accounts. The author himself has stated that non-fiction writing and journalism is the darker (or nadir) side of the publishing world’ where novels or ‘book writing,’ is the zenith of such a pursuit. Galeano however, believes that all that is written including graffiti is constituted as literature. Eduardo Galeano is a writer, of realistic works. He is a writer with an impartial observational eye. He depicts the harsh realities of the world in his work, with a sober sense of a documenter; with a poets understanding of language. Eduardo Galeano is a writer of his continent and his country. He is a writer of the most ideal ambitions; and yet has realistic perspective to always keep them in check. He is a writer of historical stories and chronologies; as well as a journalist with an eye on political stories.

Ricardo Piglia – Argentina – Piglia is one of the most critically acclaimed South American contemporary writers of his generation. He has written novels, short stories, and criticism. He is a post-modernist, but also a post-boom writer. His works take the form of ‘paranoid fiction,’ where everyone and every character, is a suspect of the novel – which at times take the form of a detective style novel. However Ricardo Piglia does not fall into the already set out formula of the detective novel. Much like Pamuk with “The Black Book,” and “My Name is Red,” – the detective novel, is merely a format or a loose stylistic characteristic, which formats the novel or story. Piglia’s narratives mimic the hysteria of life; and the endless bombardment of chaos, and testimonies that contradict each other.

Ferreira Gullar – Brazil – Gullar is a poet, essayist, playwright, and television writer. Gullar is known for his most famous and political poem: “The Dirty Poem.” The poem alludes to his decision to stop writing poetry, to the increased persecution to those who had been exiled – most found dead; the poem also hypothetically alludes to his own theorized death. The poem itself contains two-thousand verses – in its entirety. It takes from memories of childhood and adolescents, to discuss the longing and pain of being away from ‘home.’ Ferreira Gullar is one of the most influential poets of twentieth century, in Brazil. He created the neo-concrete poetry movement in Brazil. He is a beloved poet in Brazil, and is one of the leading intellectuals in Brazil. He is a poet of political resistance tinged with saudade and melancholic nostalgia.

Nelida Piñon – Brazil – Is a Brazilian novelist and short story writer. Her family originally came from Galicia in Spain, before their relocation to Brazil. Her first novel “The Guidebook of Archangel Gabriel, concerns the protagonist discussing Christian doctrine with her guardian angel. After which in the nineteen-seventies Piñon is noted, for her highly erotic novels. After which however, came her greatest success “The Republic of Dreams.” The novel “The Republic of Dreams,” is her most autobiographical book, as it deals with a family immigration from Galicia to Brazil; throughout the novel the Grandfather and Granddaughter, converse and give testimony to the collective memory that, becomes threatened by the onslaught of time, and death. Piñon is one of Brazil’s most famous and renowned novelists. She was a friend of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Her novels though varied from Christian doctrine, to the erotic, to family memories, all showcase her broad range interests.

North America –

[ For the sake of variety, I’ve decided to include the North American Continent. However, North American Literature is predominantly English written. The purpose of this list is to present authors not well known, to readers. ]

Jacques Poulin – Canada (language French) – Poulin, is a writer who writes about love, and the beauty of Quebec; and deals with history – personal and political. Yet his writing does not hold a hint of sentimentality or melodrama at all. Poulin’s works are airy, and move in a landscape that can go from beautiful golden light and budding spring trees; to a ballet being performed by the snow, which goes quickly to a frozen white out. His novels are at times emotionally awkward; but are tender. These novels bring one close to the fireplace, and invite you to get lost in the world, that is equally as warm and inviting. Poulin’s works have a certain sense of a fairytale quality to them.

And The End

There you have it Gentle Reader, my Nobel Speculation list for two thousand and fourteen; fifty authors, from across the globe. I have done my best to find unknown authors, and possible contenders, for the Prize throughout the world. I have done my best to avoid the most usual suspects, as best as I could; and chose some of my own personal favourites, as my own contenders. From world renowned masters in their crafts, to the obscure hidden talents, of those tucked away in their parts of the world, each of them in a sense has their own equal chance. Some have greater chances then others perhaps, but it is always hard to say. The Swedish Academy is eclectic but is also solemn. Their tastes vary year after year. This year’s Nobel, I suspect to a degree has a high chance of going to a Poet or a Playwright/dramatist. The last poet to be awarded was Tomas Transtromer in two-thousand and eleven; and the last playwright was in two-thousand and five with Harold Pinter. Last year’s win, going to a writer exclusively writing in the short story format, was a huge delight.

In The End:

To describe speculation on the Nobel Prize for Literature, is best to akin it to that of a horse race – with some discrepancies. The Nobel Prize (if it were a horserace) is hidden by a large sheet. Bets are placed, and when the race starts, you have no idea if your horse crossed the line, let alone left the gate. Come October, Gentle Reader, we will learn who this year’s Nobel Laureate for Literature is. Until then, the speculation can only continue; with frustration and enjoyment; with debate and understanding.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

Monday 11 August 2014

Nobel Prize for Literature Speculation List coming Friday

Hello Gentle Reader

My personal speculative list for the Nobel Prize for Literature will be coming this Friday, August fifteenth. Fifty authors Gentle Reader, from all over the world, are named and discussed. Its warming up to being that time of the year.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

Tomorrow Night, I shall Stroll No More

Hello Gentle Reader

Tonight Gentle Reader, I took a lovely stroll on the town. It turned out to be rather uneventful. But I had discovered a few things while out and about. First off, when walking, the first thing anyone fails to mention to you when discussing the benefits of walking is: that you have only yourself for company. Presuming you take a leisurely soul searching stroll, by yourself. Tonight while taking such a leisurely stroll, I discovered that my soul was nowhere to be found. Instead I was left with my own thoughts; which shared nothing profound. In fact these thoughts were mundane. There were no bewildering observations to be made. No other lonely stroller to see or spot. All there was was the full moon, which also was a super moon. However it failed to produce any stimulating conversation. My walk took me to a rink, and its hidden parking lot. There I discovered a second understanding. When partying in a parking lot, there are three ingredients that are needed. First off you need trucks. Trucks are loud. They are also obnoxious. They also like to go vroom, vroom with vigorous enjoyment. The second ingredient: alcohol. Alcohol makes everything more fun; more social, and loosens everyone up. The third: People. To share the company of another makes one understand that: though they are a singular individual in the world, the word individual can also pluralized, to include others. As it turned out, one cannot have a party in a parking lot by themselves, with no truck or alcohol, or friend to call on. For the party will not last more than thirty seconds; and will amount to you talking to yourself – and realize you are no better at conversations with yourself out loud than you are in your head. This led me to abandon the parking lot, and its dewy eyed concrete filled with sleep. I turned my sights to the cemetery. My peeps their share, a similar enthusiastic view on life; matched only by my own. In an unfortunate turn of events, they had turned in for the night, and had locked their gate. After a stroll through the neighborhood, and the disappointment at finding only the blue light of televisions reflected in the windows; I turned my sights home. The absence of people became unnervingly alienating. This Robert Walseresque walk, had so far produced nothing of interest. Walking down First Avenue I decided to entertain myself by blowing raspberries. That is until I came across a gazebo. I stopped in and had cigarette. I watched moths flutter about the warmth of the light, at the top of the gazebo. I realized then that even though I had two feet and a heart beat; my feet had become wary; my heart beat, beat as normal and my mind had succumbed to boredom. I called someone for a ride. I came to accept the monotony of my life. Yet smile at my attempt to do something interesting; to defeat the mundane ennui of my existence. I enjoyed my walk to a degree. It passed two hours. It has made me tired. It also had its health benefits. And yet Gentle Reader, tomorrow night, I shall stroll no more.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

P.S. I write this as a play on Mu Xin’s story “Tomorrow, I’ll Stroll No More.” The short story collection by Xin, has turned out to be delightful. I write this as a precursor to the review that will appear shortly.

Thursday 7 August 2014

The Expedition to The Baobab Tree

Hello Gentle Reader

A baobab tree is as quintessential to Africa and its image of its landscape, as that of a poplar tree to Canada, or the maple tree. The baobab tree trunk is bloated, thick and wide – while in some cases the tree itself towers like a green topped skyscraper. The thought of these surreal trees populating the expansive, and blood soaked tortured history of Africa; in their solitary rooted existence, are as much African in the stereotypical sense. Much like rooibos tea; scrub brush from the karoo; and wild animals of the most exotic breed roaming the plains, and hiding in the jungles.

Wilma Stockenström is a poet and a playwright. With her novel “The Expedition to The Baobab Tree,” her talent in language, is clearly showcased. In Afrikaans language, and its subsequent literature; Stockenström is one of its greatest practitioner. She has enriched the language, and its literature, with her satirical and at times obstinate; but always compassionate voice. She has been a radio announcer; as well as an actress. Yet in the end, Stockenström first loves and her first writings; was for the theatre. Her two act plays: “Babblers,” and “Passing Through,” were published in two literary magazines of the time. Two more plays followed. However, despite these dramatic, inclinations; and the four previous published plays: “Babblers,” “Passing Through,” “Dawid the Fat Dumb Cat,” and “Three Penny’s Worth of Batata,” – she was not taken seriously as a dramatic writer until her play: “Last Meal at Midday,” that recognition became more apparent. In regards to Stockenström’s poetry, it came to her as something to do with fun. Yet her poetry soon began to appear in local literary magazines amongst, other great poets. When approached in regards to publishing her poetry, Stockenström only had twelve poems ready for publication; and came up with the idea of publishing the poems on beautiful stationary, and typesetting the font of the poems in large print. Her humour came through when she suggested titling the poetry collection as: “For the Near-sighted Reader.” Her poetic oeuvre, Stockenström had done away with poetic forms of sensibility. No affectionate adornments, nor rhythm or rhyme; and the musicality is left for the previous generations. Her work is sober in its language; and has an ironic sense to it. This alone makes her work appealing.

Personally I was attracted to “The Expedition to The Baobab Tree,” because of the author’s experiments and foray into poetry. As by personal opinion, I’ve always thought that at times poets often make the best prose writers. They have an understanding of language. An understanding that many prose writers, often overlook when writing a novel. Poets have an understanding about what to say; and what to leave out. Their syntax is odd, and yet makes the reader, think and re-read, until comprehension is gained. Their works are compressed, because they understand, that in order to gain the greatest momentum and effect from a reader in regards to literary craft; they need to be quick and offer a small explosion of text and image, in order to make their point. Personally any novelist, who writes a novel of five-hundred to a thousand pages, leaves me to wonder: if anyone needs to write that much in order to say something; it’s not worth saying. With Stockenström language, and the fact that her novel clocked up to one hundred and twenty-nine pages, it certainly appeared to be a book, which would be worth the read.

The intensity of the lyricism of the language of the novel in itself is astounding. The syntax may appear odd or strange, to some, but one must remember, the point of view of this novel; is that it is told from the point of view of an escaped slave woman. That should often be kept in mind while reading this fable. For that is what this book is. Is it is a poetically evocative fable. It’s a tale of, being taken away from one’s own landscape, and thrust into another world. A world of hard manual labour. From working in the spice merchants, backyard, toiling in the heat; under the threat of having ones tongue cut out; and under the watchful eyes of his shrew of a wife. To being bought, simply for human objective purposes – in the sexual sense. Then the other kind of human objective purposes: to benefit from the owner; the kind of man who adorns, and collects, and showcases one off; like they would a rifle, or a piece of jewelry or art work. The entire novel flows back and forth through time. Yet time is not fluid. Time changes its own course, and routine; much like our narrator tries to change and hide behind her green and black beads, to escape times claw; to escape its deteriorating grasp and its corrugating effects.

“A gulp of water, baked bulbs, and I am ready to resume my struggle against time. We fight in an endless round about circle. I do not manage to divide him up and segment him, so as to form a pattern and control him, in spite of my ingenuity with beads. I sometimes get confused and forget when I linked what to what. Green and black mixed up in accordance with my mood. I cannot shake time off me. He squats continually before my tree.”

Still the novel is not deprived of its realistic situation either. The unnamed narrator, the escaped slave women, discusses using a ostrich shell as her scoop for water; a clay pot for cooking; the gifts of food, from surrounding natives, who take the fruits of the baobab tree; the leather apron and hide outfit she wears. Nor does the novel move away from the atrocities of the past either. Children taken away from their mothers, once they are weaned. The poor narrator even tries to think, could she recognize her own children now? Will she see herself in their faces, in their hands, limbs? Would she show at all in their lives; and would she ever come across their midns, as they do to her? It must be painful knowledge, knowing that somewhere out there is your child; taken from you, and thrust into the world; without a motherly hand guiding them. Where could they have ended up, is a though that is entertained. Another city? Perhaps another country. In the end their absences are felt more close to the heart, then any crack of the whip, or any threat of losing one’s tongue. The pain of losing what is rightfully one’s own, and being left with nothing from them, is far worst then any physical repercussion, I am sure. The pain throbs close to the heart. It does not bleed, but can continually be felt weeping. It cannot be nursed slowly; and then one can go on back to their life. It is an endless suffering pain, that the said individual will suffer over and over again; until their heart stops beating.

One of my favourite passages from the book is the following:

“Every time I step out from the protecting interior of the tree I am once again a human being and powerful, and I gaze far over the landscape with all its flourishes of vegetal growth and troops of animals and the purple patches of hills that try to hedge it on the horizon. Reborn every time from the belly of the baobab, I stand full of myself. The sun defines my shadow. The wind clothes me. I point to the air and say: air makes me live. And when the scrub warbler calls, the calls in my name. I am all there is, he calls.”

I enjoy the passage of how the narrator, says, that once she has left the baobab tree she is once again a human being. Once again she is free. She is defined as such: a person. She is not a slave; not someone else’s belonging. She is once again a human being.

The novel is an interesting and fascinating fable. I love for its length, and lyricism. I love the book because it was to poetic, and elusive at times in its language, and its metaphors were simply beautifully crafted, as was the language in its use. It’s not a harrowing political or historical account of one slave turn free human being; and the trials and tribulations of their life. Rather it’s a lyrical account and poetically licensed, novel that details the suffering of one, against time, and against the past, with a future left completely uncertain. It’s a great novel. One that can be read, and re-read in how time becomes less linear, and shifts and bends like light. How time casts unfavourable shadows. Yet there is a great deal of dignity in this novel. What it means to be a human being. Yet it is not a sentimental book either.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
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M. Mary