The Birdcage Archives

Saturday 27 August 2016

Michel Butor, Dies Age 89

Hello Gentle Reader

In the nineteen-fifties the “Nouveau Roman,” (or “New Novel,”) was all fashionable and experimental way in which writers rejected the traditional elements of a plot, character, and omniscient narrator, in favour of a novel which acted in a chaotic manner in order to better capture the realities of ‘experience.’ Famous writers of this period include: Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marguerite Duras, Nathalie Saurratte; as well as two Nobel Laureates: Claude Simon (1985) as well as an earlier J.M.G Le Clezio (2008). Claude Simon contested his association with the literary movement, considering himself more inclined towards his literary predecessors: the modernists; particularly Marcel Proust and William Faulkner. J.M.G Le Clezio would later reject the formal experimentation of the movement, in favour of greater lyrical and adventurous stories. The “Nouveau Roan,” did eventually fall out of the fashionable style, and the literary world moved on. On August 24th, Michel Butor (one of the leading practitioners of the movement) died at the age of 89 years old.  Michel Butor was famous for his novel: “Second Thoughts,” often classified as a staple of the “Nouveau Roman,” where the novel chronicles a man’s thought as he travels to Rome to rendezvous with his mistress. The unique element of the novel is that it was written in the second person narrative style, utilizing the ‘you,’ component as the main character. Butor ceased to publish novels after the nineteen-sixty; instead focusing greater effort and time on other projects like essays and art books, while also teaching creative writing at numerous universities, and later retiring from the University of Geneva in nineteen-ninety one. Much like Claude Simon, Michel Butor was uncomfortable with the designation of being a part of the “Nouveau Roman,” in his earlier writings, but will be remembered for his experimental novels and writings, which helped shape the literary fashion of the time.

Rest in Peace, Michel Butor.

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

M. Mary

Saturday 20 August 2016

Ignacio Padilla, Dies Age 48

Hello Gentle Reader

It would be very difficult not to mention the Latin American Boom and its respective writers, when discussing the literature of the southern (south-western) hemisphere of the world. For instance the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez will soon be issued on Colombian banknotes, in recognition to his contribution to Colombian literature and culture.  However the days of the magical flora and fauna of the jungle, and the rural and parochial stories, of the boom writers has since, fall out of fashion. Though their achievements cannot be denied, the writers of currently at work have left the magic in the jungles, and the grandparent’s homes; while they reach the more contemporary modern and always consuming new era of technology; complete with their own manifestos and literacy movements. One such movement happened in Mexico in the nineties: The Crack Movement. The Crack Movement blatantly stated that the Latin America utopian (magical) paradise, no longer existed; and they had no nostalgia for it. They discussed the realities of the dark political situations of their countries, not with parables or allegories; but with the explicit language, grit and detail of the street. These new writers discuss the changing social structures of the world, how we communicate, the prevalent desire for urbanity over the rural and the countryside. One of the Crack Movement’s greatest writers and champions of this push forward, and to move away from nostalgic past was: Ignacio Padilla. Padilla would not be considered well represented in the English language with only one novel, and one short story collection translated: “Shadow without a Name,” and “Antipodes.” Yet he was instrumental in finding his voice beyond the Latin American Boom, influencing other writers to move past the nostalgia the magical realism; and start describing the new age, with greater scrutiny. However, today at the age of forty-eight years old, Ignacio Padilla died in a car accident. The Mexican literary scene has certainly lost one of its most innovative contemporary writers.

May Ignacio Padilla, rest in peace.

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

M. Mary

Monday 15 August 2016

Nobel Prize for Literature 2016 Speculation list

Hello Gentle Reader

My Dear Gentle Reader, I do apologize for the delay in this post. There have been a few technical difficulties on my part, and certainly apologize for my lack of prompt deliverance of this promised post. Here it is now though, please forgive the delay, and Enjoy.

The Beginning –

Here we are again Gentle Reader, a little over a month now, and the Nobel Prizes will be begin to be unveiled; but before then, it is time to speculate about this year’s Possible Nobel Laureate in Literature.

Last year the award opened the doors of precedence for many writers, as the new Permanente Secretary of the Swedish Academy: Sara Danius, had announced the year’s Nobel Laureate was the Belarussian journalist and nonfiction chronicler: Svetlana Alexievich. The announcement was met with applause and cheers by all those in attendance. It came as a surprise to some and not others, as Alexievich was often cited as a contender on the large lists of Nobel speculation (specifically speaking Ladbrokes and other betting websites).

Now as mentioned last year this is the first time the position of the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy has been held by a woman, and speculation was under way in what kind of writer Danisu will champion in the debates in the Academy. Last year it was heavily theorized that Danius was working with a list which had been formed prior to her official acceptance of the role of The Permanent Secretary; as she did not become the secretary until June 1st; by which the Nobel selection process had already been cut down to a secret short list. Now this time around, it will be interesting to see what kind of writers will follow last year’s decision. Will Danius champion prose over poetry; or poetry over theatre? Will she favorably lean towards filling the gender gap between the male and female laureates? One cannot say or give an absolute conclusion, as to what this year will bring; but it will be interesting to see with all the speculation which has already begun, and will soon follow.

Now Gentle Reader, what follows is a personalized list of writers in whom I have chosen to include in this year’s speculative list. As in years past the list is categorized by geographical area, then the writer, their country of origin (as well as literary language), followed by a brief synopsis of the writer. As many will note some of the authors included have appeared on previous speculative lists. However in continuing with personal desire, I do my best to research numerous authors that may have been overlooked or under looked by others, and hope to bring them greater attention; this personal goal though does lead to regret as I know for every discovery there are countless others I have missed, and failed to include. Yet Gentle Reader I welcome you, so please enjoy the list, and please do leave comments and suggestions, as I look forward to hearing from you!  

Africa –

[ Africa and subsequent writers remain very controversial issue on the literary map. Many have observed that great writers from this region have been overlooked. This came to the forefront a few years ago when Chinua Achebe died, and ‘unjustly,’ (as some would say) did not receive the Nobel. Since then and continuously so, I have been on the lookout for writers which would be suitable candidates for this list; and though it’s a small list, and has contained the same authors over the years, I am still in search of other writers who have gone unnoticed overlooked. ]

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o – Kenya – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is a highly speculated writer on most Nobel speculation lists. For a few reasons: (i) he is a writer from Africa, (ii) his work is written in a tribal language (Gikuyu). Thiong'o is also a social conscious writer, which can be seen in his theatrical works, where his theatrical process involved actors to leave the stage and seek participation of the audience; this according to Thiong'o demystified the theatrical process and ceased to alienate the observing audience, while awaking them from the passivity observation. Subsequently, Thiong'o found himself imprisoned by the authoritarian government and after his release would live in exile for many years. His literary work follows the magical realism tradition of post-colonial Latin American Boom writers: Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, in which surreal and allegorical events deal with political affairs

Nuruddin Farah – Somalia – The way, in which Farah keeps his failing and self-destructive country alive, is by writing about it. The late Nobel laureate and writer, Nadine Gordimer called him the continents greatest interpreter; and many have cited that Farah is long overdue the Nobel recognition. Nuruddin Farah’s work is also noted for being progressive wherein he writes strong female characters that create and choose their own destiny; he discusses the political wars of the clans, the greater political authorities, and the continual struggle of the common and everyday man to take make sense of a world and a country which has fallen to pieces in the international communities eyes. Despite the grandiose themes of his work; Farah is an intimate writer. His works often cite the beginning of a dictatorship can be seen in the family unit – the oppression of women by men; which leads to the acceptance of the oppression of the majority by one autocratic ruler.

Ben Orki – Nigeria – Before Eleanor Catton won the Booker Prize in two-thousand and thirteen, and became the youngest writer to win the award at the age of twenty-eight; Ben Orki had held the title of youngest Booker Prize winning author with his novel “The Famished Road.” Orki has been considered one of the great writers of post-colonial Africa, in which he is favorably compared to such writers as Salman Rushdie and the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His work is often considered postmodern; but this has heavily been refuted by other critics, claiming that his work moves against the typical skepticism of postmodern thought, he has been classified as a magical realist in a African tradition, where his characters commune with a spirit world; this is quickly noted in his novel “The Famished Road,” and the character of Azaro a spirit-child. However, Orki himself refutes being referred to as a magical realist author; claiming instead he follows a, ‘dream logic,’ with regards to the fantastical elements of his work. Regardless of categorization, Ben Orki remains one of the most prominent post-colonial writers of Africa. 

Pepetela – Angola – In the beginning Pepetela’s writings where noted for documenting the turbulent history of Angola; specifically the Angolan War of Independence and the Colonial Wars. The documentation of the Angolan War of Independence may have arisen from his own experience as a MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) guerilla fighter in the war of independence. Other such novels though deal with the disillusionment of the people, after the war. Recently Pepetela has broadened his themes of his novels and literary work, moving away from Angola, and instead discussing Angola in a greater globalized community. The settings and themes of his new millennial output range from Angola to the United State, use satire and allegory freely, and dealing with current political threats like terrorism.

Wilma Stockenström – South Africa –  Stockenström is a Afrikaans language playwright and poet, as well as a casual novelist. Her most recent English translation was her novel “The Expedition to the Baobab Tree,” translated by Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee. Her novel “The Expedition to the Baobab Tree,” shone in language and metaphor, as it grapples with themes of subjugation and freedom. In the novel an escaped slave, finds her freedom away from captivity and servitude, but the new world of freedom is equally frightening in the South African wilderness. Her major love however has been the theatre, as Wilma Stockenström has written many radio plays and performed as an actress in many theatrical productions. Poetry for the writer was a new venture, and she grasped the form with fully developed ideas, as well as a construct and understanding of language. Stockenström’s poetry is noted for its sober language as well as ironic stance in her themes; she is noted for eschewing poetic sensibilities like musicality and affectionate discussions; and in one poem aptly titled “I Mistrust Words,” describes her suspicion of language and its illusion in which it can classify and discuss the world with unbiased honesty.

Mia Couto – Mozambique – Much like Pepetela, Couto is not a native of Mozambique, but rather a child of colonial settlers. Couto has however remained a writer passionate about Mozambique, and its unique traditions pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial. The world of Couto is a violent one; where spirits of a bloody history haunt the present world, which is marveled at the stark beauty of the landscape, which also fits with its violent past with its untamed brutality. As of late Mia Couto has gathered greater international recognition, which came with the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He is known as a writer who connects contradictory worlds, which can be exemplified when called himself white and an African. Couto has also been noted as ‘smuggler writer,’ where he uses different words and meanings to communicate via contradictory languages and worlds, often stating this unique literary technique often makes his sentences and paragraph read like poetry. As Couto gathers greater international appeal he will most certainly continue to be a highly speculated writer.

North Africa/Middle East –

[ The state of the Middle East and North Africa, continues to be a very violate region both politically and religiously. The Syrian civil war has given rise to ISIS, and the greatest refugee crisis the world has seen to date; even to the point where in this year’s Olympics, there is a designated refugee for these athletes. This aspect of the list has not changed much over the years, with the exception of one new author included.  ]

Adunis – Syria – With the rise of ISIS the civil war in Syria, Adunis’s homeland has been destroyed. This shattering and devastating destruction can be clearly seen all over the world. Everyday refugees seek asylum and sanctuary in other countries. Their arrival however is less then welcomed in some circumstances. A day does not pass when there is no report of terrorism, or a ship carrying refugees has not sunk and killed the passengers on board. As much as Adunis is removed from the political situation, he is no standard observer; recently his poetry and his books have been under attack by religious fundamentalist, as in two-thousand and thirteen where a cleric ordered his books to be destroyed throughout the Middle East and North Africa; and in two-thousand and eleven wrote a open letter to the president of Syria (Bashar al-Assad) pleading with him to end his violent oppression and crackdown on the country. Despite the political destruction, upheaval and controversy in the world, Adunis remains a poet of true veracity of the unflinching tenacity of the human spirit. He is a world renowned poet who has brought Arabic poetry to the modern age, and has helped reshape the message, form, and involvement it has in the human destiny; as he tries continually for a dialogue of ideas and ideals of peace, over the demagogue arbitrary nature of blind fundamental persecution and oppression. 

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. Baher though is a literary writer before he is political. His novels however are plagued by the ‘Middle East syndrome,’ in which his work is noted more strictly for its political connotations then it is for its literary craft. Still Taher does work towards skipping and skirting around political issues and digressions, and focuses more closely on the human condition.

Abdellatif Laâbi – Morocco – Laâbi is considered one of the most important Moroccan poets in the twentieth and early twenty-first century. This accolade and recognition has not always been so quick to follow his name though. The late nineteen-sixties, he founded a creative journal titled: “Souffles.” The magazine ran from nineteen-sixty six to nineteen-seventy two; before being abruptly shut down. The magazine was defined as a manifesto for emerging and budding intellectuals to herald forth new ways of artistic expression in Maghreb; and it achieved this mission despite its short run, the magazine accomplished its goal. However, Abdullatif Laâbi suffered politically for this magazine, as he was detained for: “crimes of opinion,” and would go on to suffer torture, and a ten year prison sentence, before being forced into exile in France. Throughout it all Abdellatif Laâbi  has remained a prolific poet, and advocate of freedom of expression and speech.

Ibrahim al-Koni – Libya – Ibrahim 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.

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 describes 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. On that notion though, Khoury is forced to depict the brutalities of the events and their realities without flinching and without blinking.

Amos Oz – Israel – If a Israeli writer were to receive the award, Amos Oz would most certainly fit the bill – at least on his political stances, in the volatile region; as he advocates for the two-state solution with the conflict between Israel and Palestine. He is regarded as one of Israel’s most famous writers, being translated into 42 languages (Arabic included) and published in 43 countries. He is noted for his realistic characters in his books, and his ironic pathos and humor. His books are set in the Kibbutz region. His memoir and coming of age tale: “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” details his own experiences in Israel’s first growing pains, as it fights to become a nation after the atrocities of the Second World War. “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” has become the first Hebrew language book to be included in a Chinese textbook, currently. Amos Oz’s political leanings, his intellectual searches, and his literary output often put him at odds with his fellow countrymen, but has gathered him greater appreciation abroad.

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 consciousness’s. 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.

Europe –

[ Once again Gentle Reader, I must apologize for the longest section of my list is centered around Europe; which often gives the list a sense of being Eurocentric. Europe however,  is still considered a literary and cultural hub of the world; if one were to quote Horace Engdahl loosely. For these reasons Europe retains the most writers on the list, with a total of twenty-five.  ]

Jon Fosse – Norway – When speculating about the Nobel Prize for Literature as of late, one of the most heavy hitting writer on the list, is none other than: Jon Fosse; a mystical and unnerving Norwegian prose writer, poet, and (world renowned) playwright. Two-thousand and fifteen was a rather large year for Jon Fosse; he ended up walking away with another big award. This time the: Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, for “Three Trilogy,” of novels which include: “Andvake (Sleepless),” “Olavs draumar,” (Olav’s Dreams), “Kveldsvævd (Weariness).” Jon Fosse’s trilogy will be released in English later this year. This trilogy has been critically acclaimed by critics and the reading public, and shows that prose has been Jon Fosse’s love from the start. Jon Fosse is known for his repetitive language in his work, and his structure of his novels being sparse and minimal; while his narratives are equally bare bones narratives, often employing a stream of-consciousness like style in his prose. Yet Fosse is best regarded as a playwright, and considered the successor of such literary giants as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, as well as Henrik Isben. There is no denying Jon Fosse’s claim for a Nobel; yet the Swedish Academy is known for shying away from predictability; but they may still strike the anvil while its’ still hot.

Kiki Dimoula – Greece – Dimoula is the Grand Ol’ Dame of Greek poetry. She came to her creative process out of survival, in which she documents the existential wonderings and wanderings of the poet in a time of political dissolution of the post-war era, and the subsequent dictatorship. Kiki Dimoula’s poetry language is known for its frank and honest demeanor, delivered in a sparse package, where the language is reshaped for emotive power and surprises of linguistic ingenuity. Her poems often deal with a sense of national disillusionment and state homelessness, as the homeland is no longer a welcoming place but a military ruled ideological dictatorship. Her poetry recounts faded memories, the onslaught of oblivion, and the progressively corrosive touch of time, which disintegrates everything; as well as the modern man’s attempts to escape his existential anxieties and insecurities of the modern age. Yet despite the depressing sense of her work, there is a grain of hope to all of it; as memories fade, new ones are created; as a home is departed it is preoccupied with new life; as photos fade new ones take their places. Such is the poetic language of the successful and acclaimed Greek poet.

António Lobo Antunes – Portugal – Antunes is a highly regarded Portuguese postmodernist writer. His novels follow in a similar fashion of other such postmodernist writers such as: Samuel Beckett, Thomas Bernhard and László Krasznahorkai; as they are lengthy works, often written in a manic monologue. His work is noted for having a simmering rage, an anger which stems from the authors own experience as a doctor during Portugal’s part in the colonial wars. In this fashion his novles often have manic narrators recounting their histories that showcase Portugal’s beauty but also its dark and brutality oppressive past. This is not just limited to Salazar’s fascist reign, but also the colonial brutality. Despite the authors scathing and vitriolic stream-of consciousness of his work, its been noted for its densely poetic form.

Doris Kareva – Estonia – Poetry in spite of its illustrious history (though currently waning in contemporary times), schools, generations and its numerous alumni and practitioners; poetry appears to always be divided between two worlds: the mind, and the heart. To be more practical or straightforward: the epic poetry (poetry of historical/political events, which seek to shape and give order to the world) and the lyrical school of poetry (love poems and poetry of resonate emotions). Doris Kareva, fits into the later. She is a pearl of a poet, who is submerged in the emotional ocean of the human condition. Her poetry burns and freezes with contrary intensities, in her miniature poetic forms; where the few words are atlas’s burdened with emotional weight to define the complicated and elusive nature of the human soul in its emotional language. Kareva is one of Estonia’s most renowned and esteemed poets; where her poetry has been staged and set to music.

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.

Eduardo Mendoza Garriga – Spain – Garriga is noted famously for becoming a lawyer, and then dropping the career to become a translator for the UN in New York, where he would write and publish his first novel: “The Truth about the Savolta Case,” which was considered a precursor to the democratic movement in Spain, as it was published a few months before Franco died. His most famous work though is his trilogy, about an unnamed detective who is actually a patient at a psychiatric institution; it is famous for its pastiche of different genres such as the detective novel, gothic narrative, and black comedy. In two-thousand and fifteen Garriga was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize (other such writers who became Nobel laureates include Harold Pinter and Elfriede Jelinek), the jury praised Garriga for his narrative skills, his sharp wit, as well as his humanistic approach to historical novels and the events they depict.

Ersi Sotiropoulos – Greece – Sotiropoulos is a personal favorite; in her native Greece she is considered part of the avant-garde literary scene; yet on superficial level in English, Sotiropoulos would be considered extremely accessible, this accessibility only a façade and a great hook and sinker. Her language is sparse and sparse, but quickly one notes her narratives lack a concrete sense of a beginning, middle or ending. Rather the reader is tossed into a scene halfway, and is tossed out before any real conclusion can be mustered. Her work often is compared to a confusing and surreal cul-de-sac which traces moments of déjà vu after ethereal glimpse of a former memory. Ersi Sotiropoulos is noted for her novels, short stories, as well as her poetry; she is considered one of the greatest writers in Greece. Her work traces individuals in search of relationships and connections in this ever changing modern world. 

László Krasznahorkai – Hungary – It were to appear that any time László Krasznahorkai is nominated for a literary prize, he ends up taking it. This includes winning the Best Trnaslated Book Award twice, as well as the (former) Man Booker International Prize. Krasznahorkai has been commented as a literary ‘Master of Apocalypse,’ as is well renowned in both his native Hungary as well as Germany and English speaking countries. His prose style is a successor of both Beckett and Thomas Bernhard in regards to its slight humour, and the avoidance of a paragraph break; as well as the long winding sentences that will continue for pages, and often gives a sense of claustrophobia. Though Krasznahorkai is a difficult writer, he is also rewarding.

Sirkka Turkka – Finland – Sirkka Turkka is a noted Finnish poet; and like many Finnish writers has a great affinity with nature; where 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. For Turkka animals hold a great spot of importance to her then people; not stating she does not like people; but rather animals represent greater qualities of soul and spirit, which are typically reserved for human traits. 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, within her poetry. Dogs are loyal and empathetic, tender to the suffering of what it means to be human; and comfort far better than human beings. Turkka’s poetry is noted for its approachability in its references to pop culture, but also its intellectual street in its allusions to literary work. Her poetry however is best mentioned for its precise and lucid language.

Cees Nooteboom – The Netherlands – Cees Nooteboom – The Netherlands – Nooteboom is considered the best Dutch contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. The author’s 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.

Jaan Kaplinski – Estonia – Jaan Kaplinski is one of the most well-known writers currently at work in the Estonian language. Kaplinski started his started his literary career in in the Golden Sixties of Estonian literature, as a poet; or more precisely a poetic rebel. His poetry is noted for dealing with the world in which he loves; and he moves steadily away from hermetic styles, political dialogue, or fable like narratives to go incognito discuss social realities; rather his poetry discusses the individuals place in nature. Though it should be noted Jaan Kaplinski was offered a front row seat the twentieth centuries history; he observed Estonia’s occupation by both Germans and Soviets, and witnessed the Baltic gain their independence; and even served in the government. Kaplinski and his family did more than just observe history; they suffered it. His father died in a soviet labour camp.  Yet despite the arbitrary nature of history, the natural world and its landscapes held a greater hold over the poet rather than depicting the historical and social realties of Soviet Estonia. Kaplinski is also a noted prose writer and playwright.

Magdalena Tulli – Poland – Tulli’s literary family tree carries numerous autumnal berries, apples, and pears. Among them are: Bruno Schulz, Franz Kafka, Italo Calvino, and Jorge Luis Borges. Magdalena Tulli’s early work is characterized by its metafictional creation of worlds, and novels discussing concepts of storytelling, the authors place in their fictional world, and how their worlds are often constructed in a haste, which often leads to imperfections and absurd situations for the characters. The language of her work rattles with verbs, and explodes with pyrotechnic postmodern literary techniques, which is not pastiche or riddled with clichés. In her latest works of prose though, Tulli has moved away from the postmodern narratives of her early works, and began to create narratives within her works which accompany and waltz with her language with maturity and grace. Her two previous works “Italian Pumps,” and “Noise,” are more autobiographical in nature, in which memory and historical tragedy invades the personal sphere. In this instance, for Tulli it is the fact her mother survived the concentration camp of Auschwitz, where her emotions and nature of herself where hung up on the barbwire fence, or buried beneath the grass. Though her literary output is small, her literary impact cannot be ignored.  

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 preconceived judgement to be passed, which  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. His work is detailed and innovative; but also demanding and not for the wandering mind, or a casual read.

Tua Forsström – Finland (language Swedish) – Tua Forsström treats her poetry as a conversation; or as an act of dialogue, which often gives her poetry an admissible and approachable appearance. As a poet Forsström is known as taking on a gentle wisdom in her discussion of existential conundrums of human existence. The language of her poetry is noted for being sober, with insinuations of the melancholic. Forsström is noted for being of the most important Swedish language Finnish writers at work currently, as her poetry is praised by both critics and readers alike. Her publications often vary with regards to time; but when she does publish it is considered a literary event. Each of her collections produced shows a marvel of a mineral which has been polished to a gem. Her two most famous collections of poetry are: “Snow Leopard,” (1987) and “After Having Spent a Night Among Horses,” (1997) which won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize.

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.

Viivi Luik – Estonia – Much like Jaan Kaplinski, Viivi Luik arrived on the Estonian literary scene in the Golden Age of the sixties, at the age of eighteen with her first collection of poetry. Since then Luik has been a prolific poet, prose writer, and penned children’s books. The Estonian literary scene deemed her a canary poet. Much in the same way that a canary in the coal mine warns off impeding dangers, Luik sings about the changing social structures and realities of society. Despite the canary association she would not be considered a political poet. Her poetry is more revered for its perception of the world, often through the lens of nature in the countryside, juxtaposed against the rush and racing urban world with its steel and concrete. Her novels are noted however their critical view of the individual against the backdrop of history. Her debut novel: “The Seventh Spring of Peace,” is noted for its disrupting the illusion of the great soviet era childhood. In it a young child observes, perceives and recounts the strange world of her country and her village: the abandoned farms; the collective hysteria; forest brothers roaming the woods like monsters; all quite contrary to the Soviet utopia. Her second novel “The Beauty of History,” is noted for using the year of 1968 as a backdrop and metaphor of the fate of the individual caught up in the throngs of history; it’s a highly lyrical novel, which shows the realities of the time, and both the guarded ignorance of one individual versus her lover, who calculates and considers each step taken in his goal to leave the country. Viivi Luik is one of Estonia’s most beloved and critically acclaimed writers at work today.

Leonard Nolens – Belgium – The Belgian/Flemish language poet was tipped a few years back as being a contender as a future Laureate. Since that tip had come, I never forgot the poet and diarist; and always watches see his name pop up again. Leonard Nolens is one of the greatest Flemish languages poets currently at work. His earlier work were noted for being Braque inspired and experimental; however his more mature is more even in language and form. Its noted for its sober to point style and language, but has not lost its profundity. His work is considered the creme dela crème of international poetry; and his overure is astounding and prolific.
Olga Tokarczuk – Poland – Tokarczuk is one of Poland’s greatest writers. She is applauded by both critics and readers. Though last year found herself under fire from far right demagogue’s who viewed her recent novel “The Book of Jacob,” as a misrepresentation of Poland’s past; where the discussion of antisemitism within Poland is depicted as commonplace and an honorable act. Before this controversy, Tokarczuk is well revered for her magical realistic novels and stories; where the oddities of the universe often make themselves apparent to unrespecting individuals, who take note, but carry on with daily life. Her most famous novel for English readers to recognize is: “Primeval and Other Time.” A novel that recounts a village where the jos and sorrows of life converge. The charm of novel comes from its eccentric characters, and the almost charming scenery of the place; but is shattered by of course the opposing forces of both joy and sorrow.

Kjell Askildsen – Norway – [ as recommended by Bror Axel Dehn ] There has always been reservations about Kjell Askildsen in how he is marketed to English language readers, as he is often referred to as the Norwegian equivalent to Hemingway. Though, it should be testified: when something is marketed in the fashion of literary minimalism, it brings to mind the American short story renaissance and Raymond Carver, noted for his dirty realism; and Hemmingway and his machismo act of writing. Askildsen is noted for writing novels and short stories; but is particularly well known for his short stories, as that is he has published since 1982. His prose is noted for being muted and sober in tone and language, and his style stripped bare, to the essentials. One reviewer commented that his stories are much like ghost stories, with the sole exception they lack ghosts; but is haunted by absence. His scenery is just as bleak and displacement is everywhere; as his characters homes appear to exist solely in some void, and completely detached from human contact and companionship; in this sense his characters exist nowhere and have no place to call their own. At eighty-six years old Askildsen will either receive award or not; but since this recommendation came to me, I do plan on purchasing and reading his short stories, as the short story genre (when done correctly) is one of my favorite pieces of work to read.

Lyudmila Petrushevskaya – Russia – Petrushevskaya’s stories are noted for being dark fairytales or unhinged fables, or love stories and romantic tales, which have gone sour and rotten over time. Lyudmila Petrushevskaya is noted as being a figure, who recounts the daily life and struggles of the everyday mundane Russian individual; be it in the laundromat, the train or the bus, the Russian people open up about the bitter realities of their lives; and Petrushevskaya documents these little tales of rotten love; little dark fairytales, and makes them her own. During the Soviet era, the author was prohibited from publishing her work, not because they were political nature; but because they ‘darkened reality,’ or to be more precise, they did not fit into the acceptable social realities of the time; they did not praise the socialist utopia of the Soviet regime, which was to be propagated during those times; it rather described the common day realities of the people attempting to make sense or make do, with what little hope and choice they had. Now Petrushevskaya is considered a national treasure, and her work is published frequently and praised often. She is noted for her stories, novels, and plays, as well as paintings – and recently a cabaret singer.

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.

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 praised 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.

Gyrðir Elíasson – Iceland – Elíasson is considered one of the great stylists of Iceland’s contemporary literature. He began writing poetry in the 1980s, and was noted for turning poetry back to its modernist tradition, after a decade of socio-political oriented poems of the 1970s. His prose follows the same direction. His prose style often depicts the realistic invaded by the dream world; often noted as lyrically fantastical, imaginative realism, and magical realism – though the author contest with such categorization. There is no denying though the writers poetic heritage or beginnings have found a welcoming place in his prose. His short stories are noted for being condescended and short, often offering just a small slice or impression of the characters’ lives, where the rest is left in the foggy edges of time, and for the reader to imagine and wonder over. Gyrðir Elíasson is a talented writer, though not well known in the English language, with only one small collection of short stories published. However he has gathered international recognition, most notably with the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize.

Petr Král – Czech Republic –Král is best defined as: 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.

Mikhail Shishkin – Russia – Shishkin is noted for his language above all else, and his considered a prominent Russian language writer. However Mikhail Shishkin’s relationship with Russia currently is best described as uneasy; as can be noted in 2013 win Shishkin pulled out of the Book Expo America as a representative for Russia, on grounds that he would not represent a criminal and corrupt government, who was reverting Russia back to the Middle Ages. Shishkin’s family history would reveal one, of complicate morals and tragedies. His grandfather was deemed an enemy of the state and would die in a gulag; his father at the age of eighteen went to war against the Germans in the Soviet navy; and years later Shishkin would find out the glories of his ‘papa,’ during the war, had complicated morals behind them; as his submarine was ordered to blow up ships carrying evacuating civilians and troops from the Baltics; as Shiskin would note his father fought one evil, but was manipulated by another one. Mikhail Shishkin’s prose is noted for being lyrical and concise, and is considered absorbing in its beautiful language, in which he contemplates his perennial themes of: life, love, death, and resurrection. He is favourably compared to great writers like: Anton Chekhov, James Joyce, and Vladimir Nabokov.   


Australia & Oceania –

[ No introduction is truly needed here, with the same writer included once again. As previously noted, this one writer is included on the list for geographical purposes, to maintain a sense of diversity. ]

Gerald Murnane – Australia – Gerald Murnane is one of those dark horses; a writer only whispered about, in which a reader comes across more by word of mouth then by discovering because of the awards he has won, or the movies produced based on his books. Murnane is the reclusive and legendary writer from Australia. He is as much a legend, as he is a reclusive and scholarly. He is as much a startlingly character in which he borders on both hermit and urban legend. It is often stated his lack of desire to travel has left him homebound to his native province of Victoria in which he only leaves ‘a handful of times,’ and has never left Australia. His legendary air only continues in which he taught himself to read Hungarian. Though he is most well known in Australia, Murnane has also gathered numerous followings in other countries, especially Sweden. His prose is noted for being visual, as the act of seeing a noted preoccupation of the authors work. It is safe to state without reservation, that Gerald Murnane is not what one would considered a typical Australian writer. He is not a bush poet; outback survivalist; or surfing crooner; he is spiritual, legendary, and an almost cult like figure in how he has achieved his literary success.

Asia & the Indo-Sub continent –

[ As noted in the past there is always disappointment with this section of the list, because of the lack of Indian writers in which I include on it. I continue do research on writes from this region of the world, and continually find myself a lack of information on them. This year I had discovered two writers, who I do not include on the list because of a lack of information. They are: Gurdial Singh, a Punjab language writer; and Ruskin Bond. What I did find out about Gurdial Singh, is he as a prose master, with numerous novels and short story collections to his credit. His literary work focuses on the economically and socially disenfranchised; as is one of the most celebrated writers of the Punjab language. Ruskin Bond is a prolific writer, known for his nostalgia inducing prose, which started with his first novel “The Room on the Roof,” which was conceived at the age of 17. Bond is also known for his children’s books, presenting his unique perspective as Anglo-Indian writer into his work which details, colonial, post-colonial, and post-independence India. This aspect of the list contains seven (7) new writers out of the twelve (12) included. ]

[ I would like to take a moment, and quickly discuss Japan and its literature. On prior lists, I’ve always attempted to include Japanese writers on the list. In the twentieth century, Japan produced some of the greatest writers including but not limited to: Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki and Natsume Sōseki. In today’s world the only Japanese writer who is often herald as a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature is Haruki Murakami. A notion in which I contest with, as I do not think Murakami compares with his predecessors and is rightfully called a lightweight pop novelist. I am under the impression that Murakami and subsequent similar stylists of his work such as Banana Yoshimoto; have found success with their novels and short stories dealing with youthful disillusionment and urban existentialism, as products of Japan being placed in the state of suburbia in the globalized era, where its known for: Samsung, Nintendo, anime and now also: Pokémon Go. Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe stated this fear clearly in a former lecture, where he theorized Japanese literature is in decline. Not being a Japanese literary scholar, I cannot comment on whether it is in decline or not; but it does strike me as interesting that authors who do receive greater appreciation or more translations often follow in Murakami’s sense of style, in writing for an: ‘international audience.’ In this one will note references to western culture such as music or films; there is no mention of traditional Japanese items such as tatami mats, or futons; and characters are most likely to eat instant ramen noodles or spaghetti. These cultural elements may have been excluded to avoid alienating foreign readership; yet it does also lose a particular cultural flavor, and may not represent the traditional or the unique society in which the culture is based. It’s a frightening concept, in regards to cultural imperialism in how mass market production is suburbanizing the entire world. As one recent co-worker who traveled said: it doesn’t matter where you go in this world, there is a McDonald’s on display, and it’s frightening how the location and language change, but there is a sense that a saturated idea of consumerism has become an infectious cariogenic which appears to be destroying either the novelty of traveling and seeing different countries, or just goes to show globalization has destroyed cultures in favor of interrelated sense of connectedness. This often has made it very difficult for me to include Japanese writers, as I often did my best to stay away from including writers who follow the international style of Murakami. Often I came across Yōko Ogawa, but failed to include her in the list, as there are often comparisons between her and Haruki Murakami. In complying writers from Japan, I strictly wish to exclude writers who appear to be students or followers of Murakami’s style. However, Ogawa has been praised by Kenzaburo Oe (a once notable critic of Murakami), and many other searches of her have also stated she has greater depth then Murakami. At the moment I cannot comment on either of these assertions, but will read her recent interlinked short-story/novel, titled “Revenge,” one of these day and hope to gather a fair opinion of the writer. For now though Gentle Reader, this year I was able to provide two Japanese writers, who appear to be writers based off their own merit, and do not follow contemporary trends. I hope to find future writers to include alongside other writers from the Far East. ]

Kim Hyesoon –  (South) Korea – Kim Hyesoon is often defined as a feminist poet. Her poetry is often described as visceral, grotesque and macabre. Illness and disease, become great metaphors; as well as scathing images, to describe and criticize both a patriarchal and capitalistic society of South Korea. Hyesoon’s poetry is the poetry of the outsider, where other writes, write about love and longing; Hyesoon’s poetry is filled with startling imagery which criticizes the former South Korean dictatorship and the neo-colonial capitalistic structure, which now invades and infects society. Kim Hyesoon’s poetry is not simple, nor does it describe an easy political stance. Rather her poetry carves societal standards on its own poetic body. The poetry of Hyesoon is noted for being violent and rallying against oppression in its protest, all within the words and the tongue of the outsider. Despite the visceral and grotesque categorization of her poetry, Hyseoon has found success and admiration from younger poets. 

Ambai (C.S. Lakshmi) – India (Language Tamil) – If it is one thing the Indian, Tamil language writer knows, its adversity; especially the adversity of being a women writer in a developing world. She is a renowned fiction writer, known for her lyrical and profound language, gentle humour of her work, and for portraying women as the main subject matter of her work. However the writer is also a noted women studies researcher, creating the SPARROW Archive (Sound & Picture Archives for Research on Women). Ambia, much like the late Mahasweta Devi, is known for her writings of social justice, and the unique (if often oppressed) role of the women in society. She is truly a writer and researcher who takes an interest in social justice issues, and works towards writing the human destiny in a more ideal direction, then where it currently finds itself.

Teru Miyamoto – Japan – Teru Miyamoto is one of Japan’s most widely read contemporary writers. His earlier works earned many prestigious awards in Japan; including the Dazi Osamu prize, as well as the prestigious Akutagawa prize. Miyamoto’s fiction deals with concepts of life, loss, death, and karma; in the setting of his native Kansai region. The Kansai region in Teru Miyamoto’s work is noted for its blue collar and working class neighborhoods. Yet Miyamoto’s work is noted for its pathos and humour, which often gives his work a greater humanistic feel to it. Miyamoto’s work is known for possessing autobiographical elements to it, and is immensely popular in Japan, while now getting greater attention in other Asian countries and languages, as well as Europe; but remains heavily unknown in the English language. 

Hoang Thi Ý Nhi – Vietnam – Ý Nhi is the recent recipient of the Cikada Award, and is the first Vietnamese poet to receive the award. The judges praised Hoang Thi Ý Nhi’s poetry for defending the sanctity of human life. This defense for the purity and sacred perception of life stems from her experience during the Vietnam War in which she worked as a journalist. She is considered one of the greatest postwar (Vietnam War) poets. Ý Nhi’s poetry has gathered great attention for its emotional appeal and modern form, in which she discusses the fate of women during the war. Her poetry is identified with its delicate word choice, the silence of the subject matter, in which a women’s loneliness is defined by loss; often in the form of love. This has had lead many critics to note her poetry carries a sorrowful air to it. Hoang Thi Ý Nhi has found herself translated into many languages, including German, Spanish, French, Russian as well as English. It is safe bet to say she will soon receive translations into Swedish as well.

Can Xue – China – Can Xue is the pen name of Deng Xiaohua. Her pseudonym contradicts itself, as it means both dirty snow which refuses to melt; and the purest snow found on the highest peaks. This often contrary side of language can be seen in her literary work as well, where the surreal and the unconscious often warps and distorts reality for the characters. Her abstract prose style and narrative technique have received numerous interpretations over the years. Many have interpreted Can Xue’s earlier stories as political allegories depicting the Anti-Rightist movement of China as well as the Cultural Revolution; though the writer herself has denied all political commentary her work. Yet Can Xue did directly experience both events. Her father was labeled as rightist, and the family was tossed in hardship and ended her formal education. On these grounds Xue is a self-taught writer and literary success was not easy for the writer either, as many critics once stated she was certifiably insane, for her unconventional work. Now, Can Xue is one of the greatest literary exports of China, and is well revered a world away.

Ko Un – (South) Korea – As previously mentioned in my introduction, Ko Un is often seen as holding the South Korean dream for a Nobel Prize for Literature. Ko Un though is a unique poet in world literature. He is noted for writing a variety of poems from Zen poems, to character sketches, political commentary, as well as nature poems. Ko Un himself however has had a complicated history. He was jailed repeatedly by the South Korean dictatorship for his protest and sentiments for a democratic South Korea. He experienced the Korean War first hand and worked as grave digger before becoming a Buddhist monk.  Ko Un’s poetry varies in forms and subject matter; but he is well known for his thirty-volume series “Ten Thousand Lives,” where the poet vowed to remember every individual he met in a poem; this cycle was completed six years ago in 2010. As in many years prior, Ko Un is considered a perennial contender.

Anita Desai – India – Anita Desai is often compared to Virginia Woolf, for introducing the psychological novel format to India. Though her works are often considered to be written in the vein of realism, they often delve into the drifting haplessness of worlds on the brink of extinction. In these regards Desai is not a writer who views the future as the top of the ladder, but rather views it as a back door found in ones memories. Memories in her fiction become attempts at discovering something tangible or prosaic to grasp in order to cease a world vanishing from reality, with regards to the onslaught of modernity in today’s world. Anita Desia has been nominated for the Booker Prize three times, but has yet to win. Her work is also noted for being cosmopolitan in its writing, as her novel “The Zigzag way,” was set in Mexico.

Shuntaro Tanikawa – Japan – Tanikawa is considered one of Japan’s most revered and influential contemporary poets. Contrary to most post-World War II writers in Japan, whose poetry was characterized by fear, angst, sadness and the looming cloud of death, Tanikawa wrote began to write in a more progressive and democratic movement during the nineteen-fifties in Japanese history, as the allied occupation ended and greater socio-political progression and changes were commenced that Tanikawa set himself aside from other post-war poets, and added his poetic voice to a new Japan. Shuntaro Tanikawa’s poetic language is known for its simplicity and purity of language, along with the honesty of the poets voice. Along with being a poet Tanikawa is also a noted translator, translating “The Peanuts,” into Japanese, as well as English rhymes for children into his native tongue.

Moon Chung-hee – (South) Korea – Much like Kim Hyesoon, Moon Chung-hee is considered a feminist poet. However, unlike Hyesoon whose work is visceral and virally infected; Moon Chung-hee’s poetry is more: politely feminine. Do not consider ‘polite,’ to mean or be lightweight; Chung-hee is still rebellious in her poetry. Though her themes, are romantic in their conscious meditations on loves, loss and loneliness, her poetry also began to describe life from a female perspective, with existential themes, and social awareness; because of this Moon Chung-hee is considered one of the greatest postwar (post Korean war) poets of Korea. Moon Chung-hee and her poems changed the direction in which other female poets, would write and discuss concepts facing their society, and the feminine place they are subjugated to. To this day Moon Chung-hee is one of the most reader writers in Korea, win the crystalline language of her poems.

Duong Thu Huong – Vietnam – Duong Thu Huong is a writer and political dissident in Communist Vietnam. Huong belonged to the Communist party up until 1989, when she was expelled from it, for her criticism of corruption within the government; and was later imprisoned by the government for her highly critical writings, and was once forbidden to leave the country; but now currently resides in Paris France. Before the publication ban, Duong Thu Huong was marveled by the populace as being of their most renowned writers. However, since her fallout from the Communist party and her exile from Vietnam, her works have not been published or allowed back into the country; but Huong has found greater appreciation and acclaim outside of Vietnam. Like most dissident writers, Duong Thu Huong holds hope for the future of her country, to see beyond its current state and achieve democracy.
Hwang Sok-yong – (South) Korea – Much like Ko Un, Hwan Sok-yong observed the tragedies and realities war, though this time during the Vietnam War, where he was charged with ‘clean-up,’ operations, where in the individuals involved in erasing the civilian massacres and burying the dead. This period of Sok-yong’s life proved to host many philosophical questions for young aspiring writer, as he was left question the difference between his father’s generation of being drafted into the Imperial Japanese army in order to strengthen Japans national interest in the Asian sphere; and his own draft into the American army to strengthen Americas place in the Asia continent in regards to the Cold War. His experience in the Vietnam War also allowed him to produce his first famous short story “The Pagoda.” Sok-yong has been critical about the state of Korea calling it a “state of homelessness.” Sok-yong is also noted for his political activism in Korea, in which he championed democratic reforms, organized protests, wrote pamphlets and plays, as well as hosted a clandestine radio show. Now Hwang Sok-yong is considered one of the greatest prose writers of South Korea in which he documents the turbulent 20th century of the nation, being split, and used as chess piece by larger foreign powers in a game of international politics.

South America & Latin America; with the Caribbean –

[ South and Latin America are moving farther an father away from the Latin American boom writers: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes. The post-boom writers have moved further and further away from the perceived elitism of their forebears, and their magical realism tendency, instead writing in a more simplistic language, and using more realistic depictions of the world, in which they seek to represent the everyday layman of South and Latin America. ]

Ricardo Piglia – Argentina – Ricardo Piglia is one of the most critically acclaimed South American writers the post-boom generation. Piglia’s work is noted for its postmodernist tendencies, as his work often take the form of ‘paranoid fiction; where everyone and every character, is a suspect of the novel, which often employees the detective novel style and form. Much like Orhan Pamuk with his two novels: “The Black Book,” and “My Name is Red,” – the detective novel style and format, is merely a superficial element in which Piglia explores the hysteria of life and the bombardment of chaos of the modern world.

Rodrigo Rey Rosa – Guatemala – The late Roberto Bolano praised Rodrigo Rey Rosa as being one of the best writers of his generation. Rosa is known as a wander lust writer, as his rootless journeys have taken him across the globe, as well as under the tutelage of the American expat writer Paul Bowles who would translate Rosa’s work into English, and Rosa was a literary executor for Bowles after his death. Rosa’s work is international in style, yet his work is 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.

Frankétienne – Hati – In years past Frankétienne was tipped as a possible winner for the Nobel Prize for Literature. One of Hati’s leading intellectuals and writers, often referred to as Hati’s “Father of Letters”. His literary work is noted for its unique use of language in the form of neologisms; but is also ill-mannered for its depictions of vulgar sexual encounters and violence. His work is noted for its mystical atmosphere, and its almost voodoo folkloric roots; as I once put it: Wole Soyinka was writer who was influenced by the Yoruba people’s myths and folklores; Frankétienne’s mystical heritage (found in his paintings, poetry and prose) stems from the Hattian voodoo of his country.  

Circe Maia – Uruguay – Circe Maia is a national treasure of Uruguay; though she has lived through political upheavals that the country has suffered. Her husband was arrested for his political involvements, and Maia was only spared because she had just given birth to her youngest daught at the time. The dictatorship and personal tragedy had once silenced Maia is a poet. However once the civil-military dictatorship fell, Circe Maia began writing verse once again. Her poetry is noted for being direct and sombre, and delivered in a conversational manner. She has explained that poetry is not an act of obscurity or hidden meaning, but rather, poetry is a showcase of the possibilities of language in its exploration of a multitude of subjects, emotions, observations and thoughts.

Cesar Aira – Argentina – There can be no denying Aira’s prolific body of work, in which his industrious ability as a writer is exemplified by the fact that he is known for churning out two to four novellas in a year. Aira however is a professor a unique writing technique, which he refers to as: ‘flight forward,’ where he bypasses edits and revisions, and begins to change direction of the novella, when he views the work is headed towards literary or stylistic traps and dangers. Om this sense Cesar Aira utilizes a sense of literary improvisation when he writes, where his styles changes, and even the literary genres like pulp science fiction or a soap opera motif are used to help move the narrative forward. Cesar Aira is often considered one of the most successful post-boom and postmodernist writers currently at work in the Spanish language.

In The End: Closing Thoughts –

There it is Gentle Reader my Nobel Speculation list of 2016. As previously noted in my annoucnment and introduction, there is 56 writers listed (three up from last year); and this was compiled after whittling the list down from over sixty writers earlier.

Here are the stats for this year’s list:

A total of 56 writers
38 of them are male (up four from last year)
18 of them are female (one down from last year)

In speaking of nation with regards to the writer, on average each country had either one or two writers listed; two countries in particular have three authors hailing from it: Estonia and Poland; while only one country (and this was not intended) has four writers hailing from it: South Korea. The following list shows the writers from each country.  

Estonia – Jaan Kaplinski, Viivi Luik, and Doris Kareva

Poland – Magdalena Tulli, Adam Zagajewski, and Olga Tokarczuk

South Korea – Kim Hyesoon, Ko Un, Moon Chung-hee, and Hwang Sok-yong

It’s interesting to note: Estonia and Poland have two female writers on their list; while South Korea has two female and two make writers, and three of the four writers included, are poets.

On this year’s list there is a total of 14 new writers included, they are listed as follows:

Ben Orki – Nigeria

Abdellatif Laâbi – Morocco

Jaan Kaplinski – Estonia
Tua Forsström – Finland (language Swedish)
Kjell Askildsen – Norway
Mikhail Shishkin – Russia
Eduardo Mendoza Garriga – Spain

Ambia – India (language Tamil)        
Kim Hyesoon –  (South) Korea
Moon Chung-hee – (South) Korea
Teru Miyamoto – Japan
Shuntaro Tanikawa – Japan
Duong Thu Huong – Vietnam
Hoang Thi Ý Nhi – Vietnam

One can note from the above listed of the new writers included, Asia and the Indo-subcontinent received the most newly acquired writers to be noted

There is no point in vouching, proclaiming or even beginning to see if any of the above listed writers have a chance to win the Nobel or not; and that is certainly not the case. One of the beneficial aspects about the Nobel Prize for Literature is the ability to discover new writers in waiting for the announcement to come, as well as seeing and hearing the fierce debates about readers and their chosen literary champions. One highly speculated thought is will the Swedish Academy award two female writers in a row; the general consensus has been this is an unlikely possibility, as the Swedish Academy is notorious for shying away from predictability, and with the first female Permanente Secretary of the Swedish Academy currently holding the position, such a move might be considered predictable. Danius cannot be overlooked just yet, in regards to her position, it will be interesting to see who this year’s laureate will be, what literary form they choose to write in, and what is the ‘ideal direction,’ they perpetrate in their work? Will the writer be well known such as recent laureates: Alice Munro (2013), Mario Vargas Llosa (2010); or will they be more obscure or less recognized such as the following laureates: Herta Müller (2009), Patrick Modiano (2014). No one in particular can comment with absolute authority on this subject matter. Questions remain also remain in regards to the “African Neglect,” as well as the “Indian Drought.”  Yet the past few years have been rather exciting for the Swedish Academy, they have recognized well known writers, they have recognized obscure writers; they’ve broken the gender barrier with a high ranking position, and earlier this year finally condemned the fatwa raised against Salman Rushdie; which saw Academy members resign over in protest.

For now though Gentle Reader we are left to wait to see who this year’s Nobel Laureate is; be it perennial contender or dark horse.

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

M. Mary

** If you would like to see my introduction and honorable mentions please follow the below link **

** Closing thoughts on this years speculation of the Nobel Prize for Literature **

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Announcement: Nobel Prize for Literature 2016 Speculation List

Hello Gentle Reader

It’s that time of year again, with a few months remaining to October, which means once again to speculate about this year’s possible Nobel Laureate in Literature. My personalised list will be coming on Sunday, August 14th 2016. 

Here are the quick stats of the current speculation list:

A total of 56 writers have been listed.
38 of them are men.
18 of them are women.

Writers by Geographical Area:

Africa – 6
North Africa & Middle East – 7
Europe – 25
Australia & Oceania – 1
Asia & The Indo-Subcontinent – 12 
South & Latin America; Including the Caribbean – 5

To see the complete list, and those writers that have made it on the list, please come back Sunday August 14th to review the entire list. Comments, thoughts, and other suggestions are always welcomed, and I would love to hear from you!

Big Government & The Nobel –

Now, I’d like to discuss some current thoughts, running around the Nobel Prize for Literature, at the moment. There is no denying the Nobel Prize for Literature is coveted, by writers. Philip Roth’s continual desire to achieve the greatest pinnacle of literary recognition is well-known. Yet it is not just writers that covet the prize; governments also seek the recognition, with equal vehement. One of the greatest examples, for this desire for cultural recognition, was China, who it has been whispered about, has been seeking the acknowledgement to validate their own culture; both contemporary and ancient. After the slip up of a few congratulatory remarks in China for the Nobel Laureate in Literature of 2000 Gao Xingjian, their stance towards the laureate and that years Prize, was cold and indifferent, going so far to congratulate France on their new Nobel Laureate. China’s statement was interesting though. The fact the government congratulated France for their new Nobel Laureate, shows their perception on the Nobel Prize for Literature, as well as writers. It can be argued – via the statement; that China views the award, as a national honour, rather than an individual honour for the writer. It is true, when discussing any Nobel, nationality and country of origin or current residency is often brought up; but it’s a myopic detail. The Nobel’s, are awards of individual achievement, which seek to better understand, the human condition, or advance human thought process further to greater understandings. The Nobel’s be it: Literature, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine or Physiology; are not the Olympics, where Countries compete via their athletic representations, in a horse race to achieve a medal. The Nobel’s are quite the opposite, as they are based around extrodinary individual achievement. Yet governments continue to push and lobby for one of their writers to receive the accolade. China may have shown success, finally in 2012, when one of its party approved writers finally received the award for literature: Mo Yan. Yet it is not just large authoritarian governments, who push for their writers to be recognized. South Korea is also lobbying greatly for a South Korean (or Korean) writer, to finally receive the accolade as well.

South Korea is now pushing its literature to greater international markets. It should come to no surprise when Dalkey Archive Press published numerous books in its: “The Library of Korean Literature,”; series that the publisher received a rather large and generous grant from the Literary Translation Institute of Korea, to publish the twenty-five books by Korean authors. This is just one example of how South Korea is pushing for its literary culture to reach greater international markets. However the battle is not just on international frontiers for South Korea, the literary battle is also at home. South Korea has a high literacy rate of 98%,, but when it came down to its citizens reading leisurely the country ranked 31st, below other countries like the United States of America at 23rd, and India ranking 1st. Now the South Korean government is campaigning for its citizens to spend its leisure time reading more. This is an extreme cultural change for South Korea, who thirty years ago was less interested in the frivolity of reading and literature; but more concerned with the seriousness of the logical and analytical studies of science and mathematics.

The, resources in which South Korea is shoveling into training and educating translators, getting Korean writers published in international markets, and into foreign languages, is admirable. Yet there is a sense that something is missing in this entire formula. There is no argument, against South Korea’s desire and dream to have a Nobel Laureate in Literature; but perhaps the South Korean government fails to realize, the prizes greater individual understanding. It certainly cannot hurt, for the government to make Korean literature readily more available to international markets and promote its writers and its literature abroad. However, to openly lobby and in a formal or semi-formal manner for the Nobel Prize for Literature, could be more consequential then beneficial. The desire and dream is prestigious and noteworthy; but again it reiteration is required: the Nobel’s are not the Olympics; and the frustration of Korean literary enthusiasts abot a lack of a Korean Nobel writer, are best summarized by one literary supporter: Yun Jang, from the article: “Can a Big Government push bring the Nobel Prize in Literature to South Korea?”:

““It’s a very sophisticated language, Korean. Personally, I believe there’s lots of good literature in Korea. It’s frustrating. I think the Nobel committee needs to learn Korean first. Then a Korean will win the prize.”

Of course the sentiment is understandable. All cultures – especially as unique and ancient as Korean; have a pride in their culture. However, it can be noted now, that South Korea is just entering the world stage, with greater prominence, and appreciation of their culture will become more steady and loyal, as they expand their global reach to foreign markets and languages. However, there are also cautionary thoughts also presented about this drive to acquire a Nobel Prize for Literature, as a professor and translator Charles La Shure states: 

“If you look at the authors who have won the prize in the past, it’s not something that you really campaign to do, it’s not something where you come up with a battle plan and then be like, ‘We’re going to follow this plan and it’s going to end up with us winning the Nobel Prize,’”

[And continues . . .]

“That’s not really what happens. Nobel Prizes aren’t generally—at least in literature—manufactured.”

 If there is anything to learn from Korea’s current desire to get its literature and culture more open to the world, it is how they have gone about it. The financial funding, the educational seminars—in which it is driving its work to international markets, is a model in which numerous countries and cultures can take stock of, and attempt to replicate the a similar system, in order to allow international access to literature and culture.

A Note on Korean Writers –

The only Korean writer, which has been (to my speculative understanding) nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, is Ko Un. Before Korea began its extensive marketing strategy to put its products into foreign languages, Ko Un would have been the only writer to emerge from Korea, in which most readers would have some knowledge of; be it they’ve read his poems or not. Ko Un is a unique voice from the twentieth century Korean perspective. He was a Buddhist monk at one point; a political activist, as well as a prisoner for his political activism. After his release from prison however, Ko Un began to publish at an extremely quick speed; and his poetry ranges from nature poems, to political analytical poems, to even biographical poems, and sketches of individuals. He has been an extraordinary writer to admire. Yet Ko Un is not popular among the South Korean reading public. Yet, the countries Nobel dreams reside and rest on him. Ko Un is considered the best chance, and currently there is no other writer, who is at that stage in their career or life, which can hold the nations dream; let alone achieve it.

Even if Ko Un were not to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature; the efforts of the Literary Translation Institute of Korea has achieved a great amount of success in getting its literature and its unique voices into new markets. Dalkey Archive Press, Autumn Hill Books, White Pine Press; just to name a few publishers, have each produced some Korean literature, and the works produced have been startling – from the dystopian to the mundane; the voices vary from the deranged to the subtlety socially critical. They writers and their books are startling and welcoming, and with this rise and outpour of writers being translated into English there are a few worth mentioning.

Shin Kyong Rim – Shin Kyong Rim would best be described as a peoples poet. Rim did not produce any work since his debut with three poems in the fifties; afterwards the poet immersed himself in the working class life of the people of his country. He worked as a farmer, miner and merchant, before producing more poetry. A striking feature of Shin Kyong Rim’s poetry, is the ‘we,’ collective used to narrate the poems, rather than the authors own authorial voice. The poetry of Shin Kyong Rim, is not sympathetic in observation of the poor or working class, rather it is a shared experience, where he documents and chronicles, their suffering, their small joys, and their disappointed hopes. Along with Moon Chung-hee and Ko Un, Shin Kyong Rim is one of three Korean writers to be awarded the Cikada Prize.

Jung Mikyung – Jung Mikyung first debuted as a playwright, but after the first success of her first play, she stopped writing for a decade, and re-emerged on the literary scene as a prose writer. Since emerging as a prose writer, Mikyung has found great success. Jung Mikyung is noted for her traditional format of her novels and short stories, but writes with a scathing sarcastic critique of the twenty-first century. The greatest source of vitriol for Mikyung, in the information age, and this shimmering technological century, is the rampant consumerism, with desire for materialism, and the falsities, which exist in todays saturated socially connected world.

Yi Mum-yol – Yi Mum-yol, is the first Korean writer, to be published in the New Yorker, in the year two-thousand and eleven, with his short story “An Anonymous Island.” Mum-yol’s however has been turbulent. The greatest haunt of his early life, was the fact that his father had defected from the south to North Korea. For this transgression, Yi Mum-yol was treated as a child of a: “political offender,” and was often ostracised for the actions of his father. After dropping out of university, and winning a literary contest, he began his literary career. His work discusses the divide of Korea, into South and North; but pays particular attention to the imperialistic change over(s) of Korea through the years, as well as the military dictatorship, which had grasped the country. Yi Mum-yol is considered one of South Korea’s greatest and most treasured writers.

Honourable Mentions –                                     

These are writer, who are not included on the list. However, the following writers are honourable mentioned for a multitude of reasons; from subjective and perceptive observations, in order to mention either their merits, or their contribution to literature; or the highly speculative nature that they are a possible or plausible contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature; or are mentioned in order to elevate them beyond their parochial confines they may (or may not) find themselves in. 

William Trevor – Ireland – Now at the age of eighty-eight, it can be clearly stated, that William Trevor, will most likely not receive a Nobel Prize for Literature. The oldest Nobel Laureate (in any category), was Doris Lessing at the age of 87, in two-thousand and seven. Still Nobel or no Nobel for Trevor, his success as being called a master of the shorty story, for showcasing his well noted wry sense of humour, as his characters go through the often comedic motions of their existence. Though Trevor found initial success with his short stories, Trevor is noted for his novels. William Trevor’s novels are known for being more complex than his short stories, with multiple narratives used to comment on the same subject, and a heavy use of unreliable narrators to often present a fragmented narrative, to mimic and emulate the current state of the modern world. Beyond the short story and the novel; William Trevor has also written plays and childrens books.

Tõnu Õnnepalu – Estonia – Before this year, Tõnu Õnnepalu (Emil Tode, Anton Nigov) has been a perennial fixture on the list. Õnnepalu is seen in Estonia as a “Eurowriter,” rather then specifically an Estonian writer. Tõnu Õnnepalu came to international reputation, with his short novel “Border State,” in which he discusses an expat homosexual man’s confession of murdering his lover/partner in Paris; as well as discussing the duel hells of both a former Communist Eastern European country, as well as the materialistic nihilism of a consumerist western country. Since then only one other work of fiction has been translated and published into English by Tõnu Õnnepalu; the large and disappointing novel “Radio.” Õnnepalu’s work deals with homosexuality openly, and the individual’s plight in a world stuck between dimensions: the communist past and the consumerist present.

Lygia Fagundes Telle – Brazil – Lygia Fagundes Telles is a Brazilian novelist and short story writer, as well as one of only three women members of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Telle received the Camões Prize in 2005. Lygia Fagundes Telle is most well-known for her novel “As Meninas,” or in English: “The Girl in the Photograph,” which tells the story of three young women during the backdrop of the 1970’s and the dictatorship which had gripped Brazil at the time. Earlier this year, the Brazilian Writers Union announced that they’ve sent in a nomination for Lygia Fagundes Tell to be considered for this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature. Lygia Fagundes Tell is 93 years old, and this may work against the odds for Lygia Fagundes Telle. However, she is considered one of Brazil’s foremost contemporary writers.

Kazuo Ishiguro – England (born in Japan) – Ishiguro would not be considered a prolific writer by average standards. He has seven novels to his name; the most recent novel was published in two-thousand and fifteen: “The Buried Giant.” However, Ishiguro is most well-known for his emotionally stunted, and obligatory character “Stevens,” from his quintessential English novel: “The Remains of the Day,” as well as for his ‘dystopian,’ novel set in the past “Never Let Me Go,” where the discussion of cloning, human souls and what it means to be human is discussed. Beyong Ishiguro’s novels, he has one short story collection, as well as four screenplays added to his resume. Speculation about Kazuo Ishiguro got interesting on the World Literature Forum, with a post on a thread about the Nobel Library, where one member, posted that ten of Ishiguro’s novels (duel copies) where out at the time of their investigation, and would be due back in May. It was theorized; this meant that Kazuo Ishiguro was inducted on the longlist for this year’s Nobel. However, the last English language writer to have become a Nobel Laureate in Literature, was three years ago with Alice Munro, it is hard to tell if this will help or hinder Ishiguro’s chances. This being said though, two English language writers were awarded relatively close, in the beginning of the twenty-first century: Harold Pinter (2005) and Doris Lessing (2007). Only October will tell Gentle Reader.

Göran Sonnevi – Sweden – It is with welcoming thanks to: Bror Axel Dehn that Göran Sonnevi came to my attention. Göran Sonnevi is one of Sweden’s most renowned contemporary poets, who (as previously stated) in 2005 won the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize (the ‘little Nobel,’) and in 2006 won the Nordic Council Prize for Literature; a rare accomplishment. Göran Sonnevi is a contemporary of Tomas Transtromer, but the two poets differ immensely in their subject matters. Transtromer’s poetry was nature inspired, and discussed the mysteries, awes and wonders of daily life. Sonnevi’s poetry is more topical in its discussion of current events; from the Vietnam War, Cold War, 9/11, globalization, and cultural/ethnic conflicts; but rather then close his poetry with his own opinion or view point of the matter, Göran Sonnevi leaves them searching and questioning, on the search for something beyond the historical context in which they have been documented and laid to rest. Göran Sonnevi writes poetry which is complex and complicated, but rewarding to diligent and patient readers. His poems are epicist in their scope and content.

Sjon – Iceland – If Bjork was Iceland’s musical and cultural export, to have been welcomingly received by Western countries, Sjon is then their literary export. The comparison between Sjon and Bjork is not limited to their national identity; both musician/singer and writer have had a working relationship as well, with Sjon writing numerous lyrics with Bjork. However, Sjon has made his own mark and debut with his novels, which the writer asserts are his bedrock. The writer has written twelve novels, along with twelve collections of poetry, with one collected collection of poetry. Sjon’s first foray into writing was when he was fifteen years old, and published his first collection of poetry. His greatest success however, has been his short novel “The Blue Fox,” which would receive The Nordic Council Prize for Literature in 2005. Since the publication of “The Blue Fox,” three other novels were published; the most recent “Moonstone: The Boy That Never Was,” recently released this year.

[ Please Note Gentle Reader, the following two writers from China, I had once remarked as concerning, given their status as prominent writers within the country, and immediately found this concerning, as it may be viewed as a Mo Yan repeat. Yet of the two, I did realize Wang Anyi, experienced her own upending of life during the Cultural Revolution, and had made a serious name for herself as a writer since then. Chi Zijian remains a fascinating writer; however, her political loyalties or learnings remain unknown, and is viewed with slight political suspicion. This being said, her literary work has been proclaimed as stunning and original. ]

Wang Anyi – China – Wang Anyi is well revered writer in her home country of China, but is scarcely known outside of it; despite being nominated for such international prizes like the Man Booker Booker International prize in 2011. The lack of interest in her work, could be because of Anyi’s aesthetic. She does not occupy herself with large narratives, which deal with themes of China’s cultural history, or its political issues today. Much like Eileen Chang, Wang Anyi writes about the ordinary lives of the public, and their romances, their surprised desires, their dreams (both clung too, and shattered); and yet, Anyi is not a writer of psychological realism in the western tradition, her characters inner thoughts, desires, and dreams, meld into the external landscape; landscape and the individual exists on similar existential planes, both as victims and landmarks of history and time. Much like her predecessor, Eileen Chang (who Wang Anyi is favourably and endearingly compared to), Anyi captures the essence, spirit, soul, and sounds of shanghai in her novels and stories.

Chi Zijian – China – Zijian is a relatively young writer, at the age of fifty-two, but her work was taken note of immediately when she first published as a junior in college, for its narrative technique, and mastery. Her only known book to be published in English is “The Last Quarter of the Moon,” which relates the story of a unnamed narrator, of the Evenki – reindeer herders in the northern part of China, on the border with Russia; the novel was masterful as reviewers noted, for its startling and realistic depiction of the landscape, and shamanistic traditions of the peoples; but also of the threat of modernization, and a cultural extinction, which looms over them. This is just one example of her ability to capture the unique land of China and its inhabitants. Zijian’s novels and stories are often known for their unique settings – historical and contemporary; and their often fairy tale and magical glow, which radiates from them. Chi Zijian is noted for her poetic eye for detail, but her contemporary writing methods, often gathering her praise, for writing that is both old and new, in a fresh pastiche. The mixture of her graceful lyricism is contrasted with the contemporary dialogue, often making her a unique writer. 

Nicanor Parra – Chile – Parra is an influential Latin American and Spanish language poet. He is also a centennial at the age of 101 (going on 102 in September). Despite being a poet Parra did not study writing in his university education; rather he studied mathematics, physics, and cosmology; writing it were to appear was simply a artistic passion which he did on the side, while the ‘hard,’ sciences were at the forefront of his education. Nicanor Parra is not a typical poet, as he has renounced the pomp and stylistic formalities of poetry, in favour of a more down to earth and colloquial form of poetry.  He refers to his style as ‘antipoetry,’ where he deconstructs preconceived notions of poetry, and instead binds the elements of his poetry to life itself, expressing the realities of life and their social realities, in a plan language format. With his revolutionary style and language, in which he discusses the everyday while deconstructing held prejudices and perspectives of poetry, Parra has become one of the greatest Spanish language poets, and has been revered and appreciated because of it. Going on 102, there would be strong doubts about his ability to receive the Nobel accolade.

Two Nonagenarian Poets –

Philippe Jaccottet – Switzerland – In years past, Jaccottet was included on the list along with two other nonagenarian poets; Jaccottet always appeared at the bottom of the three, because he was the youngest of the three, now at the age of ninety-one. Now this year he will go first, as the youngest of the now two (as Yves Bonnefoy departed earlier this summer). Philippe Jaccottet is a critically acclaimed poet and translator from Switzerland writing in French; and because of his French language, he was included in the ““Bibliothèque de la Pléiade,” (Pleiades Library),” in two-thousand and fourteen; Jaccottet is also one of the four Swiss writer to be included in the library, and a rare writer to be included while still alive. Despite this critical acclaim, Jaccottet, like all foreign language poets (or poets period) he is not well known, or has been cast aside by contemporary culture as a practitioner of an obsolete form of communication. Still what poems I have read by this poet, show an individual who has refined his perspective over the years.

Friederike Mayröcker – Austria – Mayröcker is considered one of those refined great Austrian contemporary poets. Despite this though, she like Jaccottet has not been widely translated into English. Friederike Mayröcker’s poetry has often been defined as avant-garde and experimental; two terms when referring to poetry, which will put off any general reader, and any publisher, with the expectation of some who specialize in such work, and readers who devour it with ivory tower exceptionalism. Despite this Mayröcker’s years of writing and devotion to poetry cannot go under estimated or undervalued. Her poetry has been called a deeply personal obsession, which eschews sociological content, and disassociates itself away from grander ideas and concepts of a social entity, which makes her poetry a more concrete and colloquial literary mode of writing, but this often does risk alienating readers from other languages, and her poetry upon first reading can often be seen as poetry which one would distribute to graduate students studying comparative poetics. In the end though Mayröcker has shown herself to be a disciplined patron and practitioner of poetry, and such years of servitude cannot go underappreciated.

Lest We Forget –                  

There are always writers whose time comes before the Nobel accolade has arrived. Some call these oversights the Nobel snubs, when referring to famous writers: Leo Tolstoy, Anton Checkhov, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, and Virginia Woolf among many others. Nobel or no Nobel, these writers stand the test of time and remain great writers. Listed here are great and memorable writers, who did not receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. The following list includes numerous personal choice writers who it’s unfortunate to say could not be included on the speculation list; however there works shall stand the test of time.

Mahasweta Devi – India (Bangladesh) – Devi was a well-known social activist and writer within India. She died this summer at the age of ninety (some reports state ninety-one). She was a persistent socially aware writer, who showcased great sympathy towards the tribal communities within her country; specifically though in: Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya, Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.  Devi’s work is known for its critical view of supper society and how it treats the less privileged, the untouchables, the poor and the tribal. Writing for Devi, was as much a form of activisms, as was her early research, teaching of working women. If there ever was a writer who embodied the ideological perspective of progressing mankind in a positive direction, Devi certainly fit the bill, as she tackled social issues, anthropological issues, as well as gender issues. The writer herself may have passed away, but her work shall hopefully persist on in her legacy.

Yves Bonnefoy – France – Before his death at the age of ninety-two, Yves Bonnefoy was considered one of the greatest poets of contemporary French literature. However, Bonnefoy’s interest extended past poetry, as he was also well known artic critic, but also lecturer. Yves Bonnefoy’s poetry is known for his stark language which is combined with a deeper felt sensuality, and a sincere longing for somewhere else. Though his work has been noted to have hints or subtle flavours of surrealism, Bonnefoy reject such statements, as he thought that surrealistic language and images in poetry would obscure and alienate readers from the everyday and its immediacy.

Mu Xin – China – The twentieth century is filled with innumerable amount of victims who have passed on to oblivion and been whitewashed by the hands of time. Those who do survive the corroding touch of history are either painted as villain or victor or victim; or in some cases collateral damage, and it’s just statistical data. Mu Xin was one writer was best defined as both victim and victor. Xin was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution of China; he was one of the last writers to remain classically trained, and was born to an affluent intellectually defined family. However during the twentieth century, Mu Xin’s family and fortunate future were crushed by political upheaval. His art work and writings were destroyed, and the persecution and torture of his soul and spirit, would be underway shortly after, as he found himself a political prisoner. However, Mu Xin did survive this political persecution and would later flee into exile and continue to write and paint; but found no real place for his work to be published and few places in which his art work gathered any notable acclaim. However, while in exile Mu Xin practiced his art and produced literature, despite its inability to be published in his home country. In these regards Mu Xin was a quiet giant of literature, who went heavily unnoticed and underappreciated; then something changed in his twilight years. The relaxation of censorship or perhaps communist ideology overtaking personal liberty, allowed for Mu Xin’s work to be published and enjoyed at long last in his native country, and soon after the writer himself was welcomed home. Xin, however died in 2011, and since then a museum has been erected in his home town of Wuzhen, which is aptly called: [the] Mu Xin Museum of Art. Currently there is only book of Mu Xin’s available in English, and that is titled “An Empty Room.” Hopefully in the coming years, the rest of his work will also reach the English language.

Assia Djebar – Algeria – Before her surprisingly and untimely death, Djebar was a fierce lioness critical of the obstacles that faced women in Middle Eastern and North African countries; and was a repeated and speculated contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Despite not receiving the award, Djebar did achieve numerous other literary accolades including the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, as well as the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Djebar was also the first North African born writer to be elected to the Académie Française. She was a proponent for women’s rights, and a feminist writer who wrote extensively about women oppressed under patriarchal societies.

Antonio Tabucchi – Italy – Antonio Tabucchi was often considered the heir of Italo Calvino in Italian literature; but Tabucchi himself brought a different dimension to his works, as a scholar of the esoteric and mystical fragmented Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. As being a scholar of the poets work, Tabucchi often straddled two countries, two languages, and two cultures in his work. Tabucchi famously learned to speak, read and write Portuguese in order to gather a greater appreciation of Fernando Pessoa; and in doing so wrote on his novels: “Requiem: a hallucination,” in Portuguese. Tabucchi also differed from Italo Calvino in the fact that he did not hide any political inclinations and leanings in his work, and was an active dissident and opposed totalitarian governments; whereas Italo Calvino was often quiet on political matters, but had a stint as a resistance fighter during the second world war; but after his disillusionment with communism, remained silent in regards to political matters. Tabucchi himself would have been a fine writer for the Nobel, an intellectual, a master short story writer and writer; as well as a writer who decried political authority which reveled in oppression.

Clarice Lispector – Brazil –  In honour of host country, hosting this year’s summer Olympics it would only be appropriate to include the: witch of Brazilian letters: Clarice Lispector herself. Lispector was a literary hurricane, she wrote to the beat of her own drum. She wrote in different styles and literary schools like a wandering ghost, completely unaware of the formal stylistic matters in which she adopted for her own benefit. She moved from modernism, to surrealism, to postmodernism, and often delved into the esoteric mystical introspection which would often been hallmarks of her work; though as some of her short stories can testify to, Lispector was not above realistic narratives either, they however just received her signature introspection in how they were outlaid and delivered. Lispector died at the young age of fifty-seven, and though at the time her work often fell into cult like status, readers in the English language who have been introduced to the writer have come to appreciate and admire, one of Brazil’s greatest writer of the twentieth century.

Vijaydan Detha – India – Detha was a modern short story master, who left eight hundred short stories behind upon in his death in two-thousand and thirteen. Detha was well known for his documentation and colourful take on local folk tales of Rajasthan which he would publish. Vijaydan Detha was often herald as the Indian equivalent of Shakespeare, in regard to his literary achievements and becoming one of the greatest colossal giants of Indian literature. In two-thousand eleven Detha was speculated to be a serious contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature, that year’s winner was the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. Still Detha is one of those marvellous writers who was capable of showing how a myopic or insignificant event could usher in more powerful thoughts and ideas, as well as contemplation of ones place in history.


Well Gentle Reader, so ends my introduction to this year’s speculation list. This year has been finicky for blogging, as I continue to be bombarded by my studies; at the moment I am in process of studying (and I use the word studying loosely and in very lukewarm terms) for a exam, while also battling with a political science course which has proven to be both fascinating, enlightening; but also controversial and frustrating. I do plan though to set aside greater times of the day shortly, to sit down and read, as currently I have too many books on the go, and certainly do plan on finishing them eventually.  

Still the above introduction, introduces you to the general stats for the upcoming list; it discusses the process of lobbying for cultural superiority by governments, as exemplified by South Korea’s government to realize the dream of seeing a writer from the country receive the award. For more information on the South Korean government’s desire for a Nobel worthy writer please see Mythili G. Rao’s article with “The New Yorker,” titled: “Can a Big Government push bring the Nobel Prize in Literature to South Korea?” – a link will be provided in the end. Included also with this list are my honourable mentions, as well as those who have departed without the accolade, but do deserve the mention as well.

Thank-you for reading Gentle Reader, I look forward to your comments as well as your suggestions for future lists, and of course for future personal readings!

Until then though Gentle Reader,
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

P.S. As promised the article: