The Birdcage Archives

Friday 14 August 2015

Nobel Speculation 2015

Hello Gentle Reader

The Beginning

Admittedly, I was a bit worried this year, when I started composing the following list. It appeared that speculation this year was not happening. I repeatedly checked numerous online forums, hoping to see a glimpse of some speculation. However my search often turned up past speculations. It was not until August 3rd, that World Literature Forum had begun its own speculation for this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature. It was thanks to the member: “Daniel del Real,” and a reminder sent to him, that speculation was underway. Needless to say there was relief, to see speculation and discussion follow suit. Though it were to seem that this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature speculation has all been a bit late or lack luster anyway, than to prior years. Hopefully though the conversations will begin to increase, and intensify as the date grows nearer, and the Swedish Academy will release the date in which this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced.

For the first time in its two-hundred and twenty nine years, Sara Danius has become the first women to hold the position of Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy. She precedes the former Permanent Secretary Peter Englund, and has officially taken the role and title on June 1st. The fact that this is the first female Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy; many are wondering about the criteria in which future Nobel Laureates in Literature will be chosen; what will be a concurrent theme of the Laureates, the chosen form in which they write (i.e. prose, poetry or theatre), as well as the gender divide since the inception of the Nobel Prize for Literature was first created. Out of the one-hundred and eleven Laureates (from 1901-2014) there are only thirteen women who have been awarded the prize; the last being Alice Munro in two-thousand and thirteen. It should also be noted that though Sara Danius is now officially the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, I speculate that she may be working with a list that has been approved and compiled by the former Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund. Also a quick note: Horace Engdahl is now the Director of the Swedish Academy. So in a tongue and cheek way, the fears of an American writer becoming a Nobel Laureate are most likely put to rest.

What follows is a personalised list of speculation, which is split into geographical area, writer, their country of origin, and a brief synopsis of the writer. Some writers have appeared on past speculative lists, alongside new writers included in the list. However there is always a sense of regret, of the authors that are overlooked, and authors that I am oblivious too, who should receive equal consideration. Please enjoy Gentle Reader!


[ There is a lot discussion that Africa requires recognition for its own startling literary endeavours that are taking place throughout the continent. Many state that the last true African writer to become a laureate was Wole Soyinka in nineteen-eighty six; and that recognition is overdue. This came the forefront, upon the death of Chinua Achebe. However the Swedish Academy truly has no debts. Numerous great writers have been overlooked throughout history, when it comes to the Nobel. One must remember that the Nobel is awarded to individuals who write great works of literature; not to countries who lobby for them ]

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

North Africa/Middle East –

[ The greatest issue with the Middle and subsequent writers of this geographical area, will always be politics. Unfortunately politics has its way of forcing itself upon the literature of writers. Be it fascism, communism, or authoritarian regimes or religious fundamentalism. In this sense, writers of these places must decide which side they are on. Passivism is often criticized for not standing strong for the human and humane ideals of peace, prosperity and freedom. Politics and their intricate complexities, often do not translate well and may of over shadow great writers. ]

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.

Bahaa Taher – Egypt – Taher, has been referred to as “Cairo’s greatest literary secret,” and this may have been true; until recently. Taher is getting translated into the English language more and more, and is gaining recognition. Taher’s literary voice is somber and wise. Yet being a writer, has not been a smooth and easy career for Taher. He was fired in the nineteen-seventies as a radio journalist; he then worked as a UN translator for fourteen years, lived in exile – and yet through it all has weather political purges, and regime changes. Yet despite this Baher is a literary writer, before he is political. His novels are plagued by the unfortunate fact, that like all fiction from the Middle East, will have political connotations; yet it is safe to say that Taher, skirts the overt political for digression into the human condition.

Elias Khoury – Lebanon – The greatest challenge that faces all writers from the Middle East is politics. Politics does not always translate well, into fitting into western held ideologies and thoughts on the continued problems, which plague the Middle East. Elias Khoury is of no exception to politics and how it forcibly shapes the literary themes of writers. His novel “Yalo,” depicts torture in Lebanon’s judicial system. “Little Mountain,” is depicted during Lebanon’s civil war. Yet for Khoury the facets of truth and discovering the truth always appear to be at the forefront of his work. This often leaves Khoury, forced to depict the brutalities of events and their realities without flinching and without blinking. Yet he is still a storyteller at heart, and perhaps one of the greatest writers of prose in the Arabic language. 

Amos Oz – Israel – Amos Oz 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.

H. A. Sayeh – Iran/Germany – Sayeh is considered one of the most eminent Iranian poets of the twentieth century. His first collection of poetry was published when he was nineteen, during the open period of Iran’s history following World War II; and was introduced by the famous poet Mehdi Hamidi Shirazi. During this time period Sayeh was involved with numerous literary circles and published in numerous magazines. However like many of his contemporaries Sayeh reframed from entering into any political discussions of the time, and maintained his own political integrity and social consciousnesses. However after the Iranian Revolution, Sayeh’s apolitical stance did not save him; and spent many years in prison, before leaving to Germany in nineteen-eighty seven. Sayeh’s productivity is considered very small, because of his attention to phraseology and exact craftsmanship. H. A. Sayeh is also known as a master of traditional lyrical formats as well. Though Sayeh’s age may work against, as he is currently eighty-seven.

Ibrahim al-Koni – Libya – al-Koni is a prolific writer. He has written over sixty novels, short stories, poems, essays and aphorisms. Which is quite an accomplishment for a writer who did not learn to read or write until he was twelve years old? Al-Koni 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, and is known as a rootless being, who looks to the culture and the world in which he was born, to which he has since left, and often writes about the strange world in which he left behind, tinged with imagination and reminisced memories.

Europe –

[ I always must feel it necessary to apologize for the largest part of my list, is always given to Europe. However there can be no doubt that Europe is still a literary and cultural powerhouse of the world, and it produces a great deal of literary work. Europe continues to be a fascination of literature to me, with its numerous years of literature produced and its continuation to produce such work. ]

Ersi Sotiropoulos – Greece – In her native Greece Ersi Sotiropoulos is considered part of the avant-garde literary scene. Compared to what is considered avant-garde in English literature, Sotiropoulos would be considered extremely accessible. However, the accessibility is only a facade. Sotiropoulos’s language is sparse and spare, but her prose lacks a concrete beginning, middle or end. The pillars of plot have been destroyed; and what remains is often a confusing surreal cul-de-sac that only has traces of déjà vu and nothing more concrete. Despite this, Ersi Sotiropoulos has written novels, short stories and poetry, and is considered one of the foremost writers in Greece and the Greek language. Her work details how modern people often seek connection, and the relationships that are formed in an ever changing world.  

Leonard Nolens – Belgium – Leonard Nolens was tipped a few years back, as being a possible future Laureate. 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 barque inspired and very experimental; yet as he matured his work eventually became more and more sober, to the point the style became spoke word, but did not lose its profundity. 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.

Viivi Luik – Estonia – Luik arrived on the Estonian literary scene, as a wonder child, at the age of eighteen with her startling and welcomed collections of poetry. However Luik has deviated from the path of poetry, a few times. Her novels are known for the same sensual and musical language; often depicting the fragility of words and language to truly represent life and the human condition. Despite this, her works are dense socially and politically engaged; but also show a certain talent for sensing the changes within the social and political realms. For this Luik has been compared to a canary in a coal mine. Luik is regarded as one of Estonia’s greatest literary treasures. She writes about nature, the dilemmas of human relationships, Estonia’s history and its place in the present, and its trajectory.  Luik’s poetry may have airy metaphors, a musical language, and often use fragile words and compositions to discuss  the world, her country, and her own sense of anxiety within a totalitarian state; she is in an almost blatant and veiled air: a resistance writer; whose sensual writing overcame the reigning ideological system of the time.

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.

Jon Fosse – Norway – Fosse is a name that is continually spotted on all lists, that speculate about the Nobel Prize for Literature. Fosse is a writer who has written: novels, short stories, children’s books, essays and most importantly plays. Fosse is Europe’s most performed playwright, and has been compared to Beckett and Pinter. However Fosse pares back the human experience in his plays, to a half banal and half mystical like format, creating almost performance plays based around sparse language that uses pauses and breaks, to discuss the human condition. His prose is no different, moving between banal and mystical, and is equally as sparse, and short, but often moving, poetic, but also claustrophobic; as well as a bit difficult to grasp upon first reading.

Magdalena Tulli – Poland – Magdalena Tulli has a small output of books. Four of her books have been translated into English; where a recently sixth book, published in Poland back in two-thousand and fourteen titled: “Szum,” which translates roughly as: “Noise.” With the exception of her most recent output, Tulli’s novels so far, are inclined towards the idea of creating worlds, and stories, in a metafictional universe. Tulli’s recent work: “Italian Pumps,” and “Noise,” are more concerned with the darkest days of the Second World War, and how history invades the personal; but they deal with memory, and becoming the master of memory and fate. Tulli herself comes from a family tree that includes: Italo Calvino, and Borges, as well as the late Marquez. Her earlier works construct and deconstruct concepts of stories and what a story is. Despite this postmodernism preoccupation with metafiction, her prose is divine. 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.

Sirkka Turkka – Finland – Finland’s writers often appear to have an affinity for nature. Natural landscapes and animals are as much characters to the writers, as are their neighbours or the stranger on the train or the person walking down the street. Sirkka Turkka is an embodiment of this in her poetry and prose. Dogs and horses are often held close to her heart; both are empathetic creatures, which embody more of the ideal form of the human spirit than most human beings. Ravens, reindeer, elk, fox – these are creatures that are Turkka depicts as, wiser than human beings, and embody a primeval and primordial wisdom in their often archaic humane teachings. Turkka’s poetry is precise and lucid. It references both literary culture (like Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,”) but also popular culture, with quotes from pop songs, or rock lyrics. By all means a quiet talent, that writes about nature and animals, as the world appears to enter greater environmental and climate disaster.

Petr Král – Czech Republic – If Beckett was the last modernist and the first postmodernist, Král is then perhaps in the traditional sense of the term: the last surrealist. In his earlier years, Král was known as a surrealist. He had immigrated to France in nineteen-sixty eight, and became a student of surrealism, but later abandoned it. The themes and preoccupations of Král is an eternal longing. This yearning has become central to his meditations and works. He searches for the essences of something gone or past. This search becomes a longing for another time, wrapped in nostalgia, and eventually comes the individual. Identity and the places we inhabit, become instrumental to the human experience, and Král is a writer that scourges the past and its lost shadows, in order to discuss the present and its dilemmas. Yet he is also an observer of the small inconsequential moments of being; often through objects: a fresh shirt, the relief of urination, crossing a street, or the time of day.

László Krasznahorkai – Hungary – It were to appear, that any time that anytime László Krasznahorkai, is nominated for a literary prize, he swoops in to take it. This includes two Best Translated Book Awards, and The Man Booker International Prize. 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.

Kiki Dimoula – Greece – The two former writers who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, that where from Greece, where both poets: Giorgos Seferis and Odysseas Elytis. Dimoula is the grand dame of contemporary Greek poetry. Her poetry’s most striking feature is the sparseness of the poems. The amount of white that lurks around the pages, becomes startling and even frightening; as if somehow the poems are underdeveloped and in the process of being undeveloped, the paper is wasted, for a few marks on a page, organized in a line format. However overtime one comes to see the whiteness of the page, is as instrumental to Kiki Dimoula’s poetry as the few words presented on the page. Her poetry often deals with disillusionment, oblivion and faded memory; but also the anxieties and insecurities of the modern man. Her work is filled with oblique photographs worn out by time, houses moved out of, and reoccupied, and forgotten or lost memories. Yet through it all there is always a sense of hope to her work, however smaller, it is there.

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.

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.

Doris Kareva – Estonia – Doris Kareva is a poet of the personal. The personal emotional experience of the individual is one ripple of a drop that reflects the entire ocean of the human experience, and the universality of the human experience in the thought of fluid emotions and feelings. Kareva connects the personal to the natural as well as the metaphysical. Kareva is also noted as one of Estonia’s global and universal writers. Her work has been translated into over eighteen languages, and is an accomplished translator herself. However the poetry of Kareva is also quite, miniaturist in nature. Not economical which may seem like the poet is attempting to be fiscally responsible with their words – rather its simple stating what needs to be said with the greatest impact placed on the words chosen and their phrases in which they work.

Adam Zagajewski – Poland – A Neustadt International Prize for Literature Laureate; Zagajewski is one of Poland’s most renowned contemporary poets He is a compatriot of Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska. However since the end of communism, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the themes of Zagajewski have since mellowed. However, that does not mean that the poets work has diminished. Rather than tackling themes of sociopolitical stances, the themes that Zagajewski now in turns tackles are far more existential and philosophical in nature. That past is rendered in the present, often in the most mundane and everyday events.

Gyrðir Elíasson – Iceland – Poet and prose writer, Elíasson straddles both worlds. In his short stories or fragments or vignettes or sketches, Elíasson as a poet comes through. His prose works are known for being very short – be it short stories in impressionistic vignette forms or his novels condescend into novellas. Elíasson is a writer, who will attract readers who enjoy their work condescend and in a miniature format. He is one of Iceland’s most renowned writers, and has gone on to receive the Nordic Council’s Prize for Literature. Despite Iceland being known for their Saga’s, Elíasson is a champion of the minute. Despite this his work is not by any means lightweight that cannot compete with larger tomes of novels. Rather Elíasson has the ability to write about the big with the least amount of verbose requirements as other writers.

Irena Vrkljan – Croatia – Vrkljan is one of those unique writers, who belong more to language than they do to national states. In the same vein as Nobel Laureate Herta Müller (German language and Romanian birth), Vrkljan was Yugoslavian (now Croatian) at birth, but writes in German. However, Vrkljan has not received the warmest of welcomes in Germany. She writes in German and translates her work into Croatian. Vrkljan is both poet and prose writer. Her prose is marked by poetic fragments of memory, imagination, and autobiography. She is often described as a ‘women writer,’ but Vrkljan is not strictly a feminist writer. If anything Vrkljan is a writer who chronicles the female experience, simply because that is her gender. She is not a writer of politics of sex. Her work is best described as ‘distant writing,’ and a alien experience of writing in a language which disposes her and detaches her from national borders.

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.

Cees Nooteboom – The Netherlands – Nooteboom is considered the best Dutch contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. The authors oeuvre is varied. 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, that 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 an international author, one that deals with a sense of displacement in an ever greater connected and seemingly smaller world.

Svetlana Aleksijevitj – Belarus – Aleksijevitj is an 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 revered 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.

Tõnu Õnnepalu – Estonia – Õnnepalu is often considered a ‘eurowriter,’ before he is considered an Estonian writer. His themes are open to the varied experience of an individual abroad. Õnnepalu himself had lived as an expat in Paris for some time. Before he rose to prominence on the literary scene; Õnnepalu was known as a poet; but it was his debut novel “Border State,” that had won him acclaim. The novel is lyrically charged, about a expatriate (homosexual) man who had murdered his lover/partner, and discuss his past of “the other country,” and his new life in France. Both are juxtaposed; and both are found to be terrible in their own unique ways: the oppression and paranoia of the other (old) country; and the materialistic nihilism of a western country. What makes Õnnepalu a unique writer, is that he has done away with national traditions and preoccupations, in favour of his own; which has opened up him to the greater literary world.

Péter Nadas – Hungary – Nadas has been compared to Proust, for his preoccupation with the past and memory.  Yet perhaps he is often compared to Proust, because of his absurdly long books. “Parallel Stories,” for example is extraordinarily large and long novel, 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. There is a certain personal bias to Nadas and his books. They are large, and take a long time to write; which will always lead to a sense of preapproved judgement to be passed; this obliviously leaves a sense of suspicion of his work and what he writes about. Yet Nadas door stopper books are renowned for their stylistic tendencies. Yet his work is often called: detailed, innovative, but also demanding

Olga Tokarczuk – Poland – Tokarczuk is one of Poland’s greatest writers. She is applauded by both critics and readers. Her works are best described as magical realism; which often mixes the real world with stranger and eccentric oddities – be it contemporary or historical periods. Tokarczuk’s most famous novel (at least to English readers) is “Primeval and Other Times.” The novel recounts a village where the joys and sorrows of life meet. Yet it is the eccentric characters of the village, which brings the village and book to life. The novel contains a woman who loves her dogs and is pursued by the moon; to an aristocrat that withdraws from the world, and plays a “rabbi games,” to discover the secrets of the world. The most loving aspect of Tokarczuk’s writing is her accessibility. In the author’s own words: “To me writing novels is telling fairy tales to oneself, moved to maturity.”

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 – or an oppressive society in the form of a dictatorship or a totalitarian regime. 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.

Lyudmila Petrushevskaya – Russia –Petrushevskaya is a Russian 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 now 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. 

Australia & Oceania –

[ Not much to say; if the list is supposed attempt to accurately represent writers from all over the world, then it should do its best to represent all of them equally. ]

Gerald Murnane – Australia – The dark horse and recluse of Australian letters; Murnane is no bush writer, or outback poet. Rather, he is the introspective and contemplative writer of Australian letters. One will be hard pressed to find one of his novels shortlisted or even mentioned for the Booker Prize. He is the kind of author, only a few readers speak of in hushed whispers, in order not to betray the secret of the author and his books. It should be noted Murnane is not what some would call a: cosmopolitan writer. Murnane has never left Australia and has in fact secluded himself to the province of Victoria, leaving to see other parts of Australia only a handful of times. It may sound parochial but no more than other writes, with their peculiar proclivity to their own homes. Despite this the fiction of Murnane is far more traveled. The author taught himself how to read Hungarian. Murnane is just the dark horse of Australian letters. He is not boisterous or self-promoting. His work finds its readers, and speaks for itself.

Asia & the Indo-Sub continent –

[ My greatest disappointment with this part of this list, first and foremost, is the lack of writers from India that I do not have a knowledge of. India is a vast country, with numerous languages. This makes it difficult to find a writer, who can be considered Nobel worthy. With the death of Vijaydan Detha in two-thousand and thirteen, it appears that Indian writers may be overlooked for a while yet. Below I could only include one Indian writer, who I knew of. Whether or not the fact that she writes in English hinders her or not, I cannot say. – Second below are three South Korean writers. It should come to no surprise that like China, South Korea is lobbying for a Nobel Prize for Literature; failing to understand that the Nobel Prize for Literature is awarded to the individual, not the country. The Nobel’s are not the Olympics. However it should be noted, that South Korea, has truly pushed and worked to get many South Korean writers, into international markets. ]

Anita Desai – India – Gabriel Garcia Marquez was the man who started the Latin American Boom, and made magical realism a literary genre; then Desai spear headed what would become the Lyrical India. She is often compared to Virginia Woolf, and introduced the psychological novel format into India. Her works are often considered in the vein of realism; but they often delve into the drifting hapless and worlds on the brink of extinction. For Desai the future is not at the top of the later, but rather a back door found in memories. Memories become attempts at finding something tangible or prosaic to grasp in order to cease a world from vanish from reality. Three times Desai has been nominated for the Booker Prize, and has yet to win. Her literal language is English – a fact that she has proclaimed, was not something decided on in a conscious manner. Her works are exotic and yet at cosmopolitan at the same time. Her novel “The Zigzag way,” was set in Mexico – a country that Desai has a particular fondness for.

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 an approachable writer. To read his poems is like walking through a garden with the poet, and coming to a mutual understanding of the world.

Kazue Shinkawa – Japan – A chameleon poet, and also one of the great motherly figures of Japan’s contemporary poetry. Kazue Shinkawa, is one of the poets who reaches beyond one poetic school or movement. She is both a surrealist describing and discussing metaphysical concepts, next she has written an ode to water and memory, then a lyricist master, a epicist of grand story telling feats, and a earnest confessor. Despite these numerous qualities Shinkawa is a poet nonetheless. Chameleon or nomad, she is a poet of profound talents. She has written more than thirty volumes of verse (and that includes her volumes of poetry for children). Upon discovery of Shinkawa, on the website: poetryinternational; there is an honesty and clarity to her poetry. No pretentions and no sense of being locked out of the poetry itself. It is lived, it is welcoming, and it is enjoyable.

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 earlier work was imagistic, and fragmented; over time however they have softened, and her work has veered discussions about 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 the effects of the war, and eventual crackdown on society, both from children’s perspectives, and 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 houses; she views an arbitrary history, and society, that has infected the homes of many and destroyed the lives of countless individuals.

Pai Hsien-yung – Taiwan – Pai Hsien-yung was one of the first Chinese modernists. I had stumbled across Hisen-yung, while looking into validation, on Mu Xin’s death. It had turned out that Mu Xin had passed away, and much like Eileen Chang – without a Nobel. However Mu Xin, was a great writer, and perhaps one of the last great Chinese writers to embody the traditional (or old) Chinese education.  Hisen-yung is described as a melancholic pioneer, and his work is known to introduce controversial material into Chinese literature; such as his novel “Crystal Boys,” which describes transient homosexual youths in Taipei. Yet his most famous book is a collection of short stories called: “Taipei People,” which is often compared to James Joyce “Dubliners.” The short story collection “Taipei People,” recounts and depicts those who fled Mainland China, during the Resistance War of Japanese occupation, and the eventual formation of the Peoples Republic of China. Its sensibility is reminiscent and melancholic, and is considered a groundbreaking book.

Hwang Sok-yong – South Korea – Homelessness is a theme of the South Korean author Hwang Sok-yong; both the home of one’s memory, and the literal loss of a home. Sok-yong has described Korea, as a homeless nation.  His works depict this, as they depict the divide of the nation in the physical sense and in the ideological sense. The psychology of home becomes instrumental for Sok-yong’s work. The loss of a community and the subsequent solidarity foreshadows his books, and the damaging impact is reverberated throughout an individual’s life. Despite the concepts and themes of displacement, the work often details the need and the attempts at building a home up for the ashes and the rubble; and once again creating a sense of community both literal and symbolic, and once again creating a home.

Can Xue – China – Xue is best described as China’s Kafka. She is a self-trained writer, whose work is known for its absurd and surreal qualities. If her name – a pseudonym; shows a surreal and often duality to reality – it can mean dirty snow, that refuses to melt; or the purest snow on mountain peaks. Xue’s work is often noted for his high experiments with prose and form. However Can Xue describes her work as: “soul literature,” or “life literature.” Her works are known for their demanding form and style. Her work is often cited as being imagistic and utilizing stream of consciousness like writing to often delve into her themes which unexpectedly change between personal and impersonal frequently; she also plays with the idea of perspective and the flow and sequence of time. It is often stated that Can Xue has taken the avant-garde as far as it can go. She has written numerous short stories, four novels, essays and criticism.

Mieko Kanai – Japan – Kanai has published short stories, novels and poetry. The writing of Kanai is often described as: abstract. Her work is surreal and experimental, with a penchant for the grotesque. Here themes deal with the complexities of relationships, as well as identity; especially the ‘psychic,’ problem of: “the other self who does not exist.” This other self often comes in the form of individuals or characters that mimic the actions and even the lives of other characters, right down to the miniscule details of the other character. This play of identity is often considered a reflection of the relationship between: writer, the reader and the characters. One of her greatest attributes is how her short stories are often compressed to the point that they can become multifaceted stones or crystals, which offers a new or perspective to a story; where choices made or the sequence of time or even events change; creating a dream logic landscape.

Bei Dao – China – There has always been speculation that if (and when) a Chinese writer would receive the Nobel Prize for Literature; the best bet would have been Bei Dao. Dao is the forefront poet of Misty Poets; a group of poets who wrote ambiguous and obscure poems, that defied the Cultural Revolution and its restrictive censorship. For this Dao was forced to become a dissident. However he returned to Hong Kong as its Professor of Humanities in the Centre of East Asian Studies. However with the recent crackdown and protests in Hong Kong and the proposed reforms to the education system, one can only wonder. Dao has six collections of poems to his name, and a collection of new and selected poems released five years ago. Along with his poetry he has written a collection of short stories, essays and memoirs.

South America & Latin America; with the Caribbean –

[ It is an interesting fact Gentle Reader that the most publications in the Spanish language, has moved away from Spain, and to the southern equator. South and Latin America produces now the majority of Spanish language literature, and also consumes the most Spanish language literature. An interesting feat, which means South and Latin America are now more predominate on the literary map. ]

Elena Poniatowska – Mexico – If one were to say: the Grand Dame of Mexican letters, they are referring to Elena Poniatowska.  Poniatowska is a journalist, whose main has been social and political issues; especially those concerning the disenfranchised: the poor and women. Journalism and her firm commitment to contemporary issues and history, won her the Premio Cervantes prize in two-thousand and thirteen; being the fourth woman to win the award. However despite this, her main enjoyment has been creative writing. Much like her journalist writings, her creative work, shows a similar soft spot for the disenfranchised. Her writing style is colloquial and is realistic to the details of the individuals its represents, and portrays. Social issues and human rights as well as dignities. Her work is best described as writing in an ideal direction.  

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. Piglia is a post-boom writer with postmodernist tendencies. 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. 

Circe Maia – Uruguay – Circe Maia is a national treasure of Uruguay. She has lived through political upheavals. Once her husband was arrested for his political involvements, and she was spared only because she had just given birth to her youngest daughter at the time. The dictatorship and personal tragedy had caused Maia to become silent. However, upon the fall of the civil-military dictatorship, Circe Maia began writing verse once again. Maia’s style is direct, sombre and conversational in nature. She has explained that poetry is by no means an act of obscuring the language to hide the meaning. Rather poetry is the blooming of language, to show the meanings of a multitude of subjects. This allows her poetry to become conversational in tone, as if the poem and the reader, were conversing as though they were good friends talking over a cup of coffee in the morning.

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.

Maryse Condé – Guadeloupe – Condé is one of those great writers that have yet to find their recognition from the rest of the world. It was not until the 2015 “Man Booker International Prize,” that I had finally learned about Maryse Condé. The themes of Condé are oppression, race, gender, but most importantly the search for an identity, and social justice in a post-colonial world. Maryse Condé writes about the complexities of human destiny, and probes the social injustices in which we perpetrate upon each other: be it from superiority or from our own kin. These complexities (usually in a historical setting), become the grounds in which Condé develops her themes. Yet her work is not blaming any particular group over another. It is a quest of identity in the African Diaspora, but also the quest for social justice, that eludes all.  

Frankétienne – Hati – He was rumored to be on the shortlist for the two-thousand and nine Nobel Prize for Literature, and then once again, on the two-thousand and eleven award. Frankétienne is Hati’s leading intellectuals and writers. His work is explosive, and creates a unique use of language; often utilizing neologisms. This being said, Frankétienne’s work can also be quiet scathing, and almost vulgar in its depictions of sex and violence. If Wole Soyinka was a writer who was close to the Yoruba people’s myths and folklore; than Frankétienne is a writer of voodoo roots. His paintings, poetry, and prose often radiates with a, certain mysticism.

In The End: Closing Thoughts –

There we have it Gentle Reader, the Nobel Speculation list for 2015. Though generally I give myself a limit of fifty writers, this year there are fifty-three. I am not accountant, and decided not to play the game of: debits and credits, with this list. The stats with this year’s list are as follows:

34 – Male writers
19 – Female writers
53 – Writers total

Three nationalities received three speculated writers: Estonia, Poland, and South Korea. Both Estonia and Poland have two female writers, and one male writer. They are respectively listed via appearance on the list below:

Estonia – Viivi Luik, Doris Kareva, and Tonu Õnnepalu

Poland – Magdalena Tulli, Adam Zagajewski, and Olga Tokarczuk

South Korea however is the opposite, with two male writers, and one female writer. They are respectively listed via appearance on the list:

Ko Un, Oh-Jung Hee, and Hwang Sok-yong

On average author and national state represented are one or two writers.

From my knowledge only two writers on this list write in English, they are as follows:

Gerald Murnane, Australia
Anita Desai, India

In the end though Gentle Reader, I cannot proclaim any writer will win or will not. The list attempts to bring to attention numerous authors from a multitude of countries and languages. These authors may generally be overlooked by other speculations or betting websites. Though in the end, until the announcement comes in October, there is no real way of knowing, who this year’s Laureate will be. Though I suspect it will be an interesting year, and hopefully it’ll be a writer who deserves the recognition – on literary merit. My advice, don’t place any bets on this horse race – you won’t see the horses, and you may not even know if your own horse got out of the gate.

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

M. Mary


  1. No Les Murray ?

  2. Wow, thanks for this list! I will definitely check out some of the names here I see for the first time. I would add Alberto Laiseca to the Latin American group, but his writing is too crazy for the Nobel committee to even consider him as a possible candidate.

  3. Anonymous - I did not include Les Murray, as he was tipped a few years back to be that years Nobel Laureate; since then I think Les Murray has become a rather well known writer, and I decided to include Gerald Murnane instead; as I think Murnane is a less known writer of the two. But that does not diminish or increase either authors chances to become a Nobel Laureate.

    theuntranslated - Thank-you for the compliment! Also, thank-you for the suggestion of Alberto Laiseca, My knowledge of the southern continents literature is very weak, so any suggest writers and reading that has been translated, is always welcome!

    I am glad that both of you enjoyed the list! Thank-you so much!

  4. Great list! But Corsino Fortes died last month ( and thus is no longer eligible for the prize.

  5. Kiki DIMOULA will be a great great pick, but she's 85 years old...

  6. SoManyBooks - Thank-you for the compliment; also thank-you for informing me of the unfortunate news that Corsino Fortes had died, that is a real shame.

    Anonymous - I go under the idea that if Doris Lessing could become the oldest Nobel Laureate at the age of eighty-seven, those that are a few years younger have the opportunity. But you are right, Kiki Dimoula is a great poet, I was just reading her last night

  7. (Excuse my eventual mistakes - I'm from Denmark, so English is a second language)

    Great list, thank you.

    There are some writers I think could be missed:

    Peter Handke - Austrian playwright and author (though I understand why you wouldn't mention him - because of his political situation)
    Dag Solstad - Norwegian writer of novels (mainly)
    John Ashbery - American poet, tipped for the Nobel Prize for many years.
    Lars Norén - Swedish poet and playwright

    But, as always, lists like this could go on forever - furthermore I am interested in knowing more about who you personally hope to win? Do you have your own "top 5" or something like that?

  8. Anonymous - Please don't apologize; you are very articulate in the English language, so please there is no need to apologize.

    Thank-you for the compliment!

    I didn't mention Peter Handke, like you said because of his unfortunate political comments. Which is a real shame, because Handke is quite a talented writer, and really interesting.

    Dag Solstad - I have never read his work, but if I recall correctly some years ago, while I was shopping for books. I noticed his novel "Professor Andersen's Night," I don't think it was in stock at the time, and since then I had kind of forgotten about the book. Thank-you for reminding me of it!

    In regards to John Asherby, I do my best to avoid English language writers on the speculation; because I find they are given more speculation then other languages and countries.

    Lars Norén - I have actually never heard of him, but after doing a quick search he looks like a really interesting author! Thank-you for the name as well!

    I don't have a top 5 quite yet. Come Monday October 5th I plan on having a blog ready, to discuss my closing thoughts on the speculation for this year.

    At the moment, I still review my speculation list, and often find my hopes change from writer to writer, at times. If I am to answer your question right now from going over my list my "Top 5," would right now look like the following in no particular order:

    Sirkka Turkka – Finland –
    Leonard Nolens – Belgium -
    Circe Maia – Uruguay –
    Gyrðir Elíasson – Iceland –
    Ko Un -- South Korea --

    Again though the thoughts may change, in the next couple of days, as excitement and anticipation begin to increase, in the coming days.

    If I may ask you a question: are there any Danish writers that you think or believe have a chance/deserve the Nobel Prize for Literature? (I just noticed that I don't have any writers from Denmark on my list, and was hoping you may have any suggestions)

    Thank-you again for writing all the way from Denmark! That's a country that I would love to see, and it is nice to see that my list was able to reach you across the pond from here in Canada.

  9. An excellent list, and lots of names I don't recognize (and many I do). I am surprised that Kadare is not on your list; are you not a fan? A lot of his works have been translated to French and to French to English. I'm reading his Palace of Dreams, which I think is great. He writes modernist and almost self-aware allegories, and there is a fascinating story of his biography and walking a tightrope with a totalitarian regime who lavished praise on his works.

    But lots of names here which I'm eager to pick up.

    Robert Nagle

  10. Thank-you Robert Nagle for the compliment!

    I did not include Ismail Kadare, because he has been touted as a possibility for many years, and is often one of the most speculated writers to be honored with the Nobel accolade. The goal of the list is always to give attention towards writers who maybe or often are overlooked; though I do not always succeed in this goal all the time. I have been meaning to read a book by Kadare, and yet somehow another book always appears to cat my eye, and he is always pushed to the back burner. But I do know that Kadare is a well respected writer, and often high on many speculation lists.

  11. Kadare writes slow Kafkaesque allegories. Try "Ghost Rider" by Kadare. I just want you to know that this compendium of names is going to cost 100+ dollars in book purchases on Damn you! By the way, I currently run the shrine/publish the stories of recently deceased author Jack Matthews. (If you're into re-reading ebooks by Americans, drop me a line idiotprogrammer at gmail , and I'll be happy to send a free copy to you of his new (and best) short story collection....

  12. Hello Robert Nagal,

    Thank-you for the suggestion with Kadare. I shall try "Ghost Rider," when I go on another book binge as I call them. I know in the past I looked into "April," and "The Pyramid." I do apologize, for the new purchases you will make, but I most certainly do hope you enjoy them! I shall look into Jack Mathews, and if interested shall most certainly hit you a line, thank-you for the offer!

  13. To start off by answering your question: Before her death, many people in Denmark (and the rest of Scandinavia) anticipated Inger Christensen, Dane mainly known for her poems, to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. She's also known to be a favourite of Katarina Frostenson who sits in the academy. However, since she died there hasn't been a serious contender in my eyes. If I should mention someone who stands a somewhat minimal chance (and who I would also love to read your opinion about):

    Henrik Nordbrandt - mainly a poet, known for his unique style that blends a sort of classic lyric tradition with a somewhat childish and even banal poetic outlook. I have an ambivalence towards his whole oeuvre, but when he peaks I think he's absolutely clear-visioned and delicate. Of english translations I would recommend his Nordic Council Prize-winning collection 'Dream Bridges'. The collections I love the most includes this one as well as '84 digte (84 poems)' and 'Støvets tyngde (The Gravity of the dust)', the last being my favourite. I don't know if these are translated.

    Pia Tafdrup - poet, novelist, translator. Won the Nordic Council Prize the year before Nordbrandt (which is very remarkable - two poetry collections from the same country, two years in a row!) with the collection 'Dronningeporten (Queen's Gate)'. She has a stunning poetic language, which indeed is indebted to her two greatest poetic idols: Paul Celan and Gunnar Ekelöf.

    But to be honest, I feel that Norwegian and Swedish writers (whom I feel almost as close to, as Danes both read and understand these two languages without any problems) are far more interesting these days.

    I still think you should read Solstad - and not that about Professor Andersen. Read instead 'Genanse og verdighet (Shyness and dignity)', one of his greatest literary achievements. I read it on bokmål the other day with great excitement. Peter Handke has also written a very favourable essay about this book in his new collection of essays called 'Tage und Werke'.

    Kjell Askildsen, norwegian short-story writer. He's been labelled as "an author's author" in Scandinavia, mainly for his great influence upon danish writers like Helle Helle and Pia Juul.

    Göran Sonnevi, swedish poet, a personal favourite of mine. He's amazing. Unlikely to win the Nobel Prize, but a favourite of many critics as well as poets and of course normal readers in Scandinavia.


    Of your list I've never read Sirkka Turkka, Leonard Nolens nor Circe Maia. Where should one start?

    And: I look forward to read about your speculations on the Nobel Prize in Literature 2016.

    If you could choose the five writers who've been most important to you (Nobel laureates or not), who would that count?

    As we say in Denmark - bedste hilsner.

    1. Bror Axel Dehn - (Part I)

      TThank-you for your reply!

      Its ironic to a degree that you mentioned Inger Christensen. I was watching a video interview with Herta Müller on youtube, and Inger Christensen came up. It is obvious the two writers, were admirers of each others work, and after watching the interview, I quickly sought out poems by Inger Christensen, and immediately, was disappointed, she as well never received the Nobel recognition. Still though she was a talented poet, and accessible as well.

      Admittedly, I have never heard of Henrik Nordbrandt or Pia Tafdrup. Of the two (from the small sample, that I read of both writers) I think I find Pia Tafdrup rather enjoyable! Thank-you for the recommendations, and the new discoveries!

      Thank-you for the recommendation of “Shyness and Dignity,” I will certainly will be jotting this one down on my list of books to purchase next. Thank-you!

      I have heard of Kjell Askildsen before. His "Selected Stories," was recently released in English, but I was a bit off put by the comparison to Hemingway. I've never been a Hemingway fan personally, and the zealous desire to compare writers to him; either for marketing or prestigious appeal; I'f always found it off putting. Hemingway to me has become more of a writer, in which 'students,' or young writers are told to emulate or manufacture their own written work in a similar vein, and I think its breeding a culture of stagnant writers, who are writing mundane minimalist works. But after, looking a bit more closely now at Kjell Askildsen now, I think I was a bit quick to pass judgement on him, and will most certainly have to give him greater consideration as well for future reference when I go on another book spending spree. Thank-you for reminding me of him.

      If I may ask, I have heard of Helle Helle, but not Pia Juul. Would you recommend either of these two writers as well?

      Göran Sonnevi, I will openly admit that I have never heard of him before, but after just reading up on him, he appears to be a unique poet, and a very socially consciously engaged writer as well, meditating and mulling over current socio-political current affairs, which are currently gripping the world. The problem though, I often find, when speculating about the Nobel Prize for Literature, especially if they are writing in the Swedish language, is they are doomed for controversy if they win the award; as in the case of 1974 when both Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson shared the award. I do think this has left quite a red flag on any Swedish writers opportunity to win the Nobel. But win or not; Göran Sonnevi is certainly a strikingly unique writer, in whom I would love to get better acquainted with.

    2. Bror Axel Dehn - (Part II)

      You mention Sirkka Turkka and where should one start with her. I'll be honest with you, my discovery of Sirkka Turkka, was purely accidental on two occasions. I first discovered the poet, via the now defunct website/magazine "Books from Finland,"

      ( )

      and the second time, was via another website: "Poetry International,"

      ( )

      On both occasions, I found a delight in her work, which reminded me a lot of the Polish poet Wisława Szymborska. Her poetry appears, deceptively simplistic, and full of earthly wisdom. As I am not a huge poetry reader, this two qualities, immediately struck me as a poet, in whom I could get along with. Yet alas, I have not been able to find (let alone purchase) any of her works in English translation, but I do hope to someday. But if you are interested in this unique Finnish poet, I would recommend giving the above links and articles a look, and read some of her work which is on display their. Hopefully, you have better luck in finding her in Danish, then I have in English.

      Much like Sirkka Turkka, Circe Maia was another serendipitous discovery. The story behind Circe Maia, came from a co-worker who is fascinated (and desires) to travel to South America. When I had told him about, how small my South American portion of my speculation list was, he reminded me that in the current Spanish language (statistically speaking) book market, the greatest consumers of literature (and presumably producers) were in South America. So once again, I took to the internet began searching for at least one more writer. Enter then Circe Maia, whose first English language translation ("The Invisible Bridge," was being reviewed before it was released, and some of her poems were being displayed, to help promote. It was with the following poems, which attracted me to her:

      ( )

      I found the artwork was fitting with the poems as well. From there, I began to read up, on her biography, and she struck me as a writer, who can possibly fit the bill.

      I came across Leonard Nolen's a few years ago, when he was tipped to be a runner up for the award. Since that year though I have not heard anything more about his chances. But since he 'possibly,' came that close to being a Laureate, I've always kept him on the list, as a possible contender, and not someone who can be done away with quickly or without a second thought. I think Nolen's is a great poet, but because of a lack of collections or background to his poetry in full, it is difficult for me to appreciate him, to I think the full extent of the possibilities in which I think his poetry posses. I can offer a few links and articles about him, but beyond, I am afraid I cannot offer any greater informed opinion of the poet.

      ( )

      ( )

      ( )

    3. Bror Axel Dehn - (Part III)

      I look forward to having a further discussion of writers and literature, in regards to this upcoming Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. As we speak, I am gearing up to begin doing research for new writers for this year, and certainly hope to introduce new writers.

      You've asked a very difficult question, to limit my to five writers, almost feels like, asking a parent who their favourite child is. I have adored a lot of great writers over the years, but if I am limited to five writers (Nobel Laureate or not) I would go with the following in no particular order, with a brief reason why.

      Herta Müller -- Since I first learned about Herta Muller in 2009 when she became that years Nobel Laureate, I've been continually shocked and amazed by her writing style, which reduces every object, every feeling, every action down to its poetic essence, but shows how a ideology corrupts and gives new meaning to objects, people, and the language itself.

      Wisława Szymborska -- If there has ever been a poet, who speaks to reluctant poetry readers, and made it enjoyable, it has been the late Wisława Szymborska. I remember reading the poem "Cat in an Empty Apartment," years ago, and rejoicing at the unique and fresh narrative, as well as the odd perception, used to discuss death. I found her deceptively simple, wise, and ironic; and immediately fell in love. Going through High School and being forced to read poets like T.S. Eliot and John Milton; Szymborska was a welcomed and wonderful discovery. To this day, I read a poem of hers at least once a week before I go to bed.

      Antonio Tabucchi -- I still remember reading "Pereira Declares," and absolutely loving it; to me, it struck me as a novel that was tackling political concepts, without being politically polarizing; but rather preached simplistic concepts of freedom and justice. After that, I sought out to get my hands on more of his work, and found immense pleasure in his short stories, which shared an equal depth to his novels, but appeared to deal with the ambiguities of life, rather then social or political themes of some of his novels.

      Mu Xin -- Undertranslated, and overlooked. Mu Xin, in my opinion was one of the last great classical Chinese writers, before the Cultural Revolution. His prose, is graceful, artistic, and lyrical; and I still go back to his only collection translated into English "An Empty Room," for continual insight in how to write with lyrical grace, with an almost airy touch. Needless to say, I have yet to discover it; but he is admirable.

      Alice Munro -- The short story (at least in the English language) has always been overlooked, and looked down upon as the novel's ugly cousin. Munro has taken the short story to a similar height, and in doing so the short story has gotten its deserved recognition, as being compared on its own merits as a literary form, and no longer living in the shadow of the novel.

    4. Bror Axel Dehn - (Part IV)

      Sorry for so many comments, my answer was too long to publish in one, according to the website.

      I'd like to ask you now the same question:

      If you could choose the five writers (Nobel Laureate or not) who have been the most important to you, who would you count?

      I look forward from hearing from you!

      Best wishes ( and I hope I got this right: til næste gang)

      M. Mary

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. About the Herta Müller video you saw – I believe you’re referring to the one taking place at Danish art museum Louisiana, and I was actually there for most of the talk. As well was a friend of mine who serves as Herta’s Danish translator. He’s an amazing translator, having among other things also done the greatest translation of ‘Ulysses’ in Danish yet. Besides that, Horace Engdahl, whom he also translates, points him out as a stunning translator and a man of great linguistic knowledge in an interview.

    On Askildsen: Forget about the comparison – Askildsen is nothing like Hemingway at all! I totally agree with your view on Hemingway – I, being a young person writing, have found his influence on young writers very bad because he mythologizes the act of writing, which is, for me, not an act of mythology, but an act of clearance, sympathy and vulnerability. (And which can’t be conceived without being sober). That being said, I count ‘The Sun Also Rises’ as well as some of the short stories as major works.

    Of the three poets I mentioned to you, Sonnevi is definitely my favourite. I don’t like Tafdrup that much, and only half of Nordbrandt’s oeuvre stands out for me, but I think both of their contributions to Danish poetry should be mentioned.

    Helle Helle and Pia Juul are two good writers, the latter is also a respected poet – but not translated I believe. Personally I think there’s a lot more depth in the work of Askildsen (whom they both consider to be their sort of mentor). But if you have the time you should try and read ‘This should be written in present tense’ by Helle Helle, the only translation of her works I believe. It would be interesting to hear your opinion on that book.

    1. Bror Axel Dehn,

      I can only express a great degree of admiration with a good dose of envy, that you were able to go see the conversation with Herta Müller. Your friend and colleague, sounds like a very interesting individual, and to get the praise from a former Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, certainly says something of his skills and command of language, when transitioning one text into another language. A feat I can only imagine being quiet difficult with "Ulysses."

      After doing some research, I can see that Askildsen and Hemingway have very little in common; perhaps only the essential sense of minimalism and brevity in common, but beyond that, the two writers are entirely different. I am glad you agree as a young writer that Hemingway is a bit over the top as a literary influence.

      I shall certainly look into Sonnevi more, and see if his work is offered in English; and thank-you again for mentioning the two Danish poets.

      I shall certainly look into Helle Helle a bit more thoroughly, as I do recognize the title: "This Should Be Written in the Present," -- stemming for a "Guardian," book review a few years back; I shall have to look into it now a bit further.

  16. Five amazing writers – thank you! All of whom I have a sort of relationship to – Tabucchi is not represented on Danish, at least not enough: Only two novels – ‘Little misunderstandings of no importance’ and ‘The missing head of Damasceno Monteiro’ – are these two worth reading? The one you mention, ‘Pereira Declares’, is available in Norwegian, but I would of course prefer to read something from the library first. He seems to be very interesting.

    Mu Xin is amazing – and actually, it was on your blog that I read about him first! I got so excited that I ordered ‘The Empty Room’. I think he’s probably the closest I’ve come to discover a sort of “universal writer”, in which prose, poetry and everything in-between feels interconnected and true. Often I can’t read the prose of poets, and the poetry of prose-writers, and although not having read Mu Xin’s poems (for which I’m deeply sad) he strikes me as nearly complete – and the fact that he’s not complete, makes him complete in a way. His background also seems to be very remarkable.

    Five writers is a tough one, I agree with that. Maybe it’s ever changing, but if the world depended on it, I would probably choose these:

    Peter Handke, whose whole oeuvre has a certain “stimmung” to it – He speaks for the wanderer, the various outsider-positions of civilization, and I recognize my own desire for outskirts in his writing. He touches something very undefined in my core, and I believe he has the most beautiful way of communicating.

    Tomas Tranströmer, whom I read almost every day. My reason is more or less the same as that of the Swedish Academy.

    Jon Fosse/Lars Norén – though they could have their own spot on this list, I think they’re too close (not stylistically, but geographically) to have one of their own. Of Jon Foses work, the novel ‘Melancholia I-II’ has meant a lot to me. With Lars Norén it has been something else, a very personal “relationship” because I have learnt a lot from his integrity and personal life – which is very close to his work. His poems has meant a lot to me, as well has his plays. I would recommend this rare interview, probably one of the strongest interviews I’ve ever seen:

    Besides all the classics, I’ve a special relationship to a lot of poets, for example Paul Celan, Rene Char, Adonis and Szymborska as well. I would also rate some of Modiano’s works with these names. Which Modiano is your favourite?

    You got it very right! In Danish one would often say “Alt godt” which translates as “All good” and indicates that one hopes everything goes well for the receiver until next time.

    So: Alt godt!

    1. Thank-you for the compliment.

      If the only choices you for Tabucchi is "Little Misunderstandings of No Importance," and "The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro," - I would strongly encourage "Little Misunderstandings of No Importance." The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro," was my lest favorite novel, by Antonio Tabucchi that I have read as of late. Happy readings of course!

      I completely agree with you, on Mu Xin. I strongly think, that Mu Xin, was a renaissance writer. He was a poet, prose writer, as well as painter, and scholar; though his life and work, was usurped by political upheaval during the twentieth century. But now after his death, Mu Xin is beginning to gain the recognition in which he deserves, especially in his homeland of China, where a museum has been constructed to honour him and his work.


      Peter Handke, is a writer I wish was more available in English (he's been difficult to locate) and his work is strikingly unique, and he is an innovative playwright. You pick a really good writer with Handke. It is a shame, though, that Handke is a writer more known for his mistaken political comments, then his actual work.

      I agree with your decision of Tomas Tranströmer, deceptively simple in his poetry, yet strikingly profound. Though there was quiet the controversy over some of his translators, and their view points on translations. But the few poems, in which I have been able to read by Tranströmer have been rewarding, and the documentary presented on the Nobel website, was well done!

      I've missed the buck on reading Jon Fosse's novels "Melancholy I - II," but I have read "Aliss at the Fire," and will be reading "Morning & Evening," by him after I get through a few books started already. Lars Norén, is a new name for me though, and when I searched to see what books are available there is not a lot to choose from; it appears most are plays. Could you tell me more about this writer? As I certainly plan on taking a look at the interview you have provided as well!


      I couldn't agree more with the poets you also named. Specifically Adonis, as well, another unique writer. As for Modiano, I've read a few books by him, but the one that resonates the most with me still, since I first began reading him, his novella "Suspended Sentences," included with two other short novels, but "Suspended Sentences," in particular remains the one closest to being a favourite.

      Alt godt indeed then! I look forward to hearing from you!

  17. I would also recommed the Carinthian Slovene writer Florjan Lipus. Read his 'The Errors of Young Tjaz' - a favourite of Peter Handke, who translated it in the late seventies. I would love to hear your opinion on that book! Many great writers hold him in high esteem.

    Bedste hilsener

    1. I just did a search to see if "The Terrors of Young Tjaz," is available; it is and will be adding it to the list as well! Thank-you for the recommendation.

      Take Care! Looking forward to hearing from you soon!