The Birdcage Archives

Monday 5 October 2015

Nobel Closing Thoughts 2015

Hello Gentle Reader

First, allow me to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to all of you Gentle Readers, for reading my speculation and for leaving compliments and participating in the conversation! It was a delightful year for that.

Its official Gentle Reader, the Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced this Thursday, October 8th.

The following are my closing thoughts for this year’s Nobel Speculation for the Nobel Prize for Literature. It will include commentary on the betting odds sites; and discussing the favourite authors there; and my own shortlist of writers from my own list, with a short passage, attempting to elucidate and explain why I had chosen the writer to be on the shortlist. The shortlist will consist of five to ten authors (roughly).

The Betting Sites 

Since the inception of the betting and speculation, the same frontrunners are in the lead once again; with no real change or addition of a new wild card to the list. The following is a list of the top writers listed on each of the following betting sites: NicerOdds and Ladbrokes. The lists are compiled from the top writers on each list.

NicerOdds – Svetlana Aleksijevitj
                   - Haruki Murakami
                   - Ngugi Wa Thiong'o
                   - Joyce Carol Oates
                   - Philip Roth
                   - Jon Fosse

Ladbrokes – Svetlana Aleksijevitj
                   - Haruki Murakami
                   - Ngugi Wa Thiong'o
                   - Joyce Carol Oates
                   - John Banville
                   - Jon Fosse
                   - Adunis
                   - Ismail Kadare

No real discrepancies between the two lists; with only minor changes between the two. Those small adjustments are the inclusion of John Banville, and Ismail Kadare at better odds with Ladbrokes. It should be noted that E.L. Doctorow, makes an appearance on both lists, despite his recent departure.

So far, I have not seen any real wild card or dark horse, come to the forefront of either list; like last year with the sudden emergence of Patrick Modiano, making an appearance on the lists, towards the end. This being said according to an article from “The Guardian,” announcing this year’s prize date, the booking websites have stated this year’s dark horses are the Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai and the South Korean poet Ko Un. It should be noted as well that there has been talk on other literary forms about Cesar Aira making headway recently as well on the betting sites. I think it may be a bit early for Krasznahorkai, as he has just come off a whirlwind of prizes, and his recognition continues to grow. For Ko Un, he has been a contender for quite a few years now, and each year it passes him, his chances slim. I don't personally consider either author to be a dark horse or a wild card at this point. 

My Personal Shortlist –

The following Gentle Reader is my personal shortlist of authors from my own speculation list of 53 writers in total. The following is compiled in no particular order, from my own list.

Sirkka Turkka – Finland – Turrka is not a poet well known in the English language. Yet her poetry is lucid, clear and pure. It is accessible open with its readers. It is by no means barque and self-indulgent. Her poetry however can come across as mournful; tough as it deals with loss and pain. Yet there is gentle side to her poetry. A natural side. The mole may have to borough through so many deaths; but in another a rooster falls in love with a shoe. Her poetry is natural, open, honest, and at times painful. But it also is playful as it is accessible. Turkka reminds me a lot of Szymborska in her own way. I am not a poetry fan, but Sirkka Turkka is a fine poet. It would be a joyous experience to see Turkka receive the Nobel Prize for Literature honour. She is a very little known writer, with a lot of talent in the company of animals and nature.

Jon Fosse – Norway – There is talk that the Swedish Academy may feel it needs award a writer, who is known for his or her dramatic works. The last playwright to be honoured with the Nobel accolade was after all Harold Pinter in two-thousand and five; and before him Elfriede Jelinek in two-thousand and four. Yet since that time frame there has been no playwright honoured. Jon Fosse is a well-respected playwright throughout Europe (with the exception of the United Kingdom, who just can’t get into his cool sparse dialogue. His plays go beyond the Beckettian minimalism, despite the comparison. Fosse it seems lacks the humour, and is more mystical and poetic as he is sparse. Fosse has been cited as perennial contender for some time now. If he wins there is no harm done; but no real surprise either.

Leonard Nolens – Belgium – I include Nolens because I have never forgotten Nolens. A few years back (the actual year escapes me) that he was tipped as writer that would be honoured. So far that has been proven false, as Nolens still has not received the award. But since learning of his name, I’ve had a particular interest in him; despite the fact that in English there is very little to find. Yet what I have been able to find out is, that in the late twentieth century Nolens was the singular poetic voice of Flemish poetry; and is a monumental figure of the language, and of Belgium poetry. What has always fascinated me with Nolens though is always how is dairies and his poetry coincide with each other. The fact that poetry and keeping a diary or journal is of equal introspection and introversion, that is both personal, confessional, and expressing the moment is quite intriguing. As for Nolen’s poetry; I have only read what can be found online. Yet he strikes me now as a sober poet looking back on relationships, love, and identity; no longer wishing to experiment with the baroque forms or push poetry past its limitations.

Gyrðir Elíasson – Iceland – Gyrðir Elíasson is the perfect writer between poetry and prose. I’ve only read one book by the author that has been translated into English; but I have read many of his other short stories online. Elíasson is sparse in his prose work; and economical. But not quite minimalist. Rather, Elíasson describes and presents a moment or experience, and gives it its own space, its own recognition as something important. The acts of the prose maybe ordinary. The acts of the prose maybe extraordinary in ordinary ways. At the end of the day, Elíasson often caught something quite unique. Yet it is paradoxical or ironic as Iceland is known for its saga’s, large ancient Viking tomes of stories and legends; one of Iceland’s greatest prides and joy; and on the flipside Elíasson writes these miniature epics; that convey a quick scene but linger long after the last page. Elíasson is a champion of the miniature not the grandiose epics and megabooks.
Kiki Dimoula – Greece – Dimoula is Greece’s poetess. She is frank, she does not suffer fools lightly in her court, and yet she is well respected, often saying little with the greatest impact. When asked about the current situation in Greece, Dimoula did not mince or mix her words: “Darkness and chaos.” Dimoula’s poetry is equally quick to the point. The white expanse of the pages is foreboding, as if somehow the page itself will take back the words and hoard them to itself. Yet after a while the white on the page is less and less, a foreboding and less a waste; and more and more its own metaphor for the faded photographs and the oblivion that often can be seen in Dimoula’s poetry. Dimoula however is getting a bit old, and each year the award passes her by, the chances diminish. As it stands as well, the only two Greek writers that have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, were also poets.

Ko Un – South Korea – Ko Un has been seen as a perennial contender for many years. He is a wonderful poet though. My favourite poems by Ko Un are his ambitious projects to recount the lives of people he has met in his poetry. If I recall the project is called “Ten Thousand Lives,” and continues. Ko Un’s poetry has a simplistic zen variety to it; and almost haiku like pattern. But he writes more of poetry of the fluidity of expression rather than mechanics. There are moments of experiences, mistakes, wisdom, laughs, and tears. Ko Un is a poet who writes of all these moments, as a man looking back and attempting to understand his life and his century.

Circe Maia – Uruguay – There was the Latin American Boom; and two of its writers have been honoured with the Nobel Prize for Literature (Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa); but Circe Maia was just like them in her own strive to bring the world to Latin America; if only though through poetry. Her poetry is direct, somber, sober and conversational; and is often quite delightful to read. Maia is a quiet talent, and would be a unique writer to receive the award, like the poet and Nobel Laureate Gabriela Mistral.

Viivi Luik – Estonia – Luik is one of the most treasured writers of Estonia. She was a wonder kid literary prodigy at a early age. She has sense changing political currents, and is accomplished poet, who has also dabbled into prose. The language of "The Beauty of History," is still quite an amazing feat, when I look back on it. She was a resistant poet of the Soviet installed ideology in Estonia; and her novels showcase how the idyll childhood, depicted in Soviet propaganda was false with her novel "The Seventh Spring of Peace." Even Luik's poetry for children is filled with the realities of life: illness, breaking, stupidity, desperation, defiance, loneliness, nocturnal fears; but also encourages the weak and the timid. Luik was a writer and is a writer, of change of moving forward and of human dignity. Viivi Luik is a champion of truth over ideals; life's wisdom's over comforting lies; and above also the demand and requirement of all human beings to receive the dignity in which they deserve and maybe deprived of. Viivi Luik is a champion of the undying human spirit, in all of those ways. 

Closing Thoughts –

That is my shortlist with the blurbs Gentle Reader. I by no means can state that any which of these writers will win or could win. Or are even nominated or made it to the shortlist. What I can say is they are the writers that this year I thought deserved a good mention, and deserved to be mentioned. I just noticed I have five poets on my shortlist despite not being a real poetry fan; and one playwright, and one poet and prose writer. But I will also now include some honourable mentions of writers that I think are contenders. Please note that I will not include writers that were listed on my shortlist or the ones named here from the betting sites.

In no particular order:

Ersi Sotiropoulos – Greece
Adunis – Syria
Bahaa Taher – Egypt
Mia Couto – Mozambique
Tõnu Õnnepalu – Estonia 

For now Gentle Reader, I wait until Thursday to see the announcement live from the new Permanente Secretary of the Swedish Academy Sara Danius. But to quote the former Permanente Secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund:

“It is not difficult to find worthy candidates. There are many: the world is so big .... The hard part is to select who will get it.”

Personally Gentle Reader, I’d like to see another surprise of a writer, one that will shock me, and bring awareness to a writer that I have not known about prior.

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

M. Mary


  1. Ok, I'm going to disagree a bit. I'm reading Svetlana Aleksijevitj right now. She's a Susan Sontag/Vivian Gornick to be sure, but I don't think that style wins prizes. Roth doesn't strike me as Nobel material; neither does Banville, Murakami seems too soon -- but to be fair, I haven't read much of his stuff after his first story collection., Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and Adunis sound likely (even though I've never read the latter). Any other name you mentioned which I don't recognize would be awesome too. I have a sentimental preference for JC Oates, based on the fact that I ate lunch with her once and that she would be the third Nobel prize winner I have met and have interesting anecdotes to tell about. (She's a lot more deserving than other writers -- though I'm afraid Alice Munro already stole her thunder).

  2. Hello Robert Nagle,

    I have yet to read Svetlana Alexievich myself, so I can't really comment; but the comparison to Susan Sontag is an interesting, at least if I do decide to read "Voices from Chernobyl," I have an idea of what I am walking into; style wise at least. Philip Roth has always come across very arrogant in my opinion, and I've attempted to read "I Married a Communist," some years ago, and was not impressed by the writer at all. Murakami, I've read a few of his books but does not impress me either. His writing appears superficial and very formulaic. When does go into philosophical moments, its only briefly, and never elucidates any further which is a real shame. As for Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, I have never read him yet, some of his novels are quite long, and that is very off putting to me; but if he wins by chance, I'll give him a try. Adunis from the few poems I have read by him, is quite talented, but what is going on in Syria and with ISIS may dissuade the Swedish Academy.

    That is interesting that you had lunch with Joyce Carol Oates, must have been an interesting and very good lunch! But I think you are right on that end Robert, Alice Munro stole her thunder. But what might always be in for a surprise!

    Personally I am hoping to see if its someone I've never heard of, and ia new author for me to discover; much like 2009's Herta Müller.

  3. I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. Thanks for posting it. pg slot