The Birdcage Archives

Saturday 29 October 2016

I Once Said

Hello Gentle Reader,

I once said: “tomorrow night, I shall stroll no more,” which proved to be true for two years, and a little over two months. Yet tonight – or rather this morning – the vow was broken. Stricken with insomnia and a persistent cold; complete with a dry cough and a tap for a nose; I once again engaged on a nightly stroll. Though this time my stroll was more condescend. Before, my unassuming, uneventful, and otherwise extremely dull, monotonous and tedious walk had produced no thought provoking internal conversations; no soul reaching affirmation or change; no profound sense of self-awareness. And this time. .  . Well the results were ultimately the same; unchanged from their previous discourse. My feet had moved in the same rhythm as before. My right leg striking harder on the pavement, with my heel making a distinct ‘click,’ with each step; while my left foot and leg did their best to pass by, unassuming and without much noise. After a few rhythmic drums of my feet in my ear, it was time for music. Which – may I add – I was not armed with on my prior stroll. Enter now, Lisbonne Télégramme and their song: “Miroirs d'automne.” A song whose English translation is: “Fall Mirrors,” certainly sets the mood nicely. I’d like to add at this point Gentle Reader, I do not understand French (wish I did) but alas I do not. However, despite the language barrier, the song is enjoyable; despite the fact I do not understand a lick of it. It’s a funny thing Gentle Reader. The nightly light of autumn and winter. As the night grow more overcast; more crowded and clouded; the light becomes more claustrophobic. Everywhere, every shape, silhouette, shadow – takes its contoured form. Trees, park benches, fences; all on full display; no longer cast aside as a nameless or forgotten fixture in the night within the dark. Now they are apparent, defined and near; clearly visible – or at least distinguishable. Nearby the house, there is a creek, which in its serpentine and watery fashion, slithers alongside the walking path in which I stroll. Perhaps though it’s the other way around; rather the walking path slinks alongside the creek; in its manmade imperfection. The sky overhead is close and ominous, and the light brings everything close, rather than illuminating the distance. With no destination set in mind, it really doesn’t matter. As I walk ‘Miroirs d'automne,’ continues to play. I am immediately struck by how the band or the song, could either write album or be a good companion piece of music to one of (if not all) Patrick Modiano’s novels, in which his autumnal tomes of memory, amnesia, oblivion, and the consumption of time; all unfold in the sweet perfume of nostalgia, and time now long since passed and unattainable. Besides me as I think of this, is a storm pond: stagnant and still watered, within its hidden depths a moonstone cataract gaze.


Now on to business. Now returning after licking my wounds from the news of Bob Dylan’s Nobel announcement. It appeared; I had forgotten and missed some news which I was watching before. Those two being the winners for this year’s Booker Prize and German Book Prize.

This year’s German Book Prize winner is: Bodo Kirchhoff for his novel: “Widerfahrnis,” || Or || “Encounters.” The novel traces a serendipitous pair’s journey, as they leave behind their lives – Reither and his publishing businesses, and Leonie Palm who ran a hat shop. Together they set off on a road trip with no predetermined destination. Their travel soon takes them to Italy, where they come across a girl who joins their voyage wordlessly.

The jury praised Bodo Kirchhoff’s tightly woven narrative in which he depicted the directionless of an older couple, who only have one setting on their compass, which is south. South with its warm weather, red wine, and the dream of love; it is all one grand adventure later on in life. Yet the appearance of the vagabond young woman soon raises age old questions for the older couple. Questions about: loneliness, loss, parenthood, and radical new adjustments and beginnings. Kirchhoff’s novel is more than just a road trip, of an aged wistful couple. It tackles political themes as well. As the couple make their way south, they observe the plight and flight of many moving north for work and a better life. The novel is a masterful one in which the personal and the political intertwine within each other.

Following Bodo Kirchhoff and his German Book Prize grab; this year’s Booker Prize, went to the first time an American writer Paul Beatty; and for the second year in a row Oneworld Publications, has seen one of its own published titles receive this year’s Booker, after last year’s Marlon James novel: “A Brief History of Seven Killings.”

Paul Beatty’s won this year’s Booker Prize for his satirical novel: “The Sellout.” Which much like, Marlon James’s novel was rejected numerous times by publishers before being picked up by Oneworld Publications. Beatty’s agent opened up about the novels tough sell; stating a total of eighteen different publishers had turned down the novel in the United Kingdom. The reasons why are not entirely clear. Perhaps it was because the novel dealt with racial segregation, slavery, the racial tensions currently taking place within the States; or perhaps more than anything else, it is because the novel itself was satirical and farce like manner in how the subject matter is dealt with. The judges however, praised Beatty and his book, comparing the writer to Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift. His caustic satire of US racial politics, is very relevant in the current mood of his home country; where the country is divided between a billionaire plagued by self-inflicted scandal; and a well weathered high ranking politician and former first lady, whose is plagued by her own scandals of alleged corruption and misallocated use of government resources on personal hard drives. The campaign and election, has been nothing short of train wreck, and a slow ugly dispute of mudslinging and slander from both sides and parties.

The praise for Paul Beatty has been warm, welcoming and noteworthy. The chair for this year’s judging panel, Amanda Foreman, has noted that the book may be difficult for readers to digest, but also pointed out that the book being difficult to sit through, is not a bad thing; citing:

“The truth is rarely pretty and this is a book that nails the reader to the cross with cheerful abandon . . . that is why the novel works.  While you’re being nailed, you’re being tickled. It is highwire act which he pulls off with tremendous verve and energy and confidence. He never once lets up or pulls his punches. This is somebody writing at the top of their game.”

“The Sellout,” has been called painful and funny. A novel which can make the reader laugh and wince, with the realities being depicted, as does away with every sacred cow and taboo subject, and forcefully wrenches the reader to face the realities of the current world, and the situation currently unfolding.

Beatty’s win took four hours of deliberation, and was unanimous decision to recognize him with this year’s award. “The Sellout,” in all its abrasive joy, will certainly shock and force awareness on the reading public, as it frequently swears, and uses the n-word. Paul Beatty’s book is an unflinching depiction of the current realities and racial issues which plague the United States.


Unfortunately Bob Dylan has yet to fade from memory and mind. After remaining silent on his Nobel nod, Dylan has finally spoken up; but not after the controversy surrounding the Nobel Prize for Literature’s selection. As we speak the fires have reignited; and the smoldering coals of once cooled down coals, now burn with a new intensity. The other night on the CBC Rex Murphy gave his point of view; with regards to Bob Dylan receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. In which Murphy states the backlash towards Dylan has been paramount but unjustified; and the Nobel committee’s response to Dylan’s silence (in which I quote Mr. Murphy: “ignorant and rude.”) is actually misinformed. The Nobel Committee did not refer to Dylan’s humble silence, as ignorant or rude; nor did the Swedish Academy in its multi-voice chorus. Rather, it was a member of the Swedish Academy who expressed his own personal view on Dylan’s humble silence or holier reticence; Per Westberg of Chair No. 12, verbally expressed his frustration with Bob Dylan’s silence by calling the singer and musician: “arrogant and rude.” Needless to say the Swedish Academy went on damage control with Sara Danius expressing the opinions in which Per Westberg had proclaimed where those held by him, and did not reflect those of the Academy with regards to this year’s Laureate. With those regards, Rex Murphy was misinformed with who said what with regards to this year’s Laureate’s silence.

Now a few days later, Bob Dylan has been in contact with the Swedish Academy. According to the press release, the singer and musician were left: ‘speechless,’ by the news. Though many questioned if he was so speechless by the news, what was he doing parading and singing about, while he was on tour, completely retaining his silence on the matter of the award? Though he humbly informed the Permanent Secretary Sara Danius, that he greatly appreciates the honour which has been bestowed upon him, but also he accepts the prize.

Still Gentle Reader, there is no mention of whether or not Bob Dylan will be attending the Nobel ceremony in December, and whether or not he will give the traditional lecture or now perform a Nobel concert. Time will tell.

For now though Gentle Reader, I say goodbye. I am currently reading: “Angel of Oblivion,” by Maja Haderlap, and am loving it! This being said, allocating time for reading, along with work, and studies has proven at times to being difficult. Though I shall certainly attempt to get through the novel as quickly as possible, while enjoying it. For now though Gentle Reader, I must confess and say a short farewell, and will be returning k with a review of “Angel of Oblivion,” in November – unless of course something interesting pops up in the literary world.

For now though:

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

M. Mary

If you would like to see the press release about Bob Dylan's Nobel acceptance you can see it here:

And of course, here is the video of Rex Murphy Defending Bob Dylan's silence. 

Monday 17 October 2016

Neustadt International Prize for Literature 2016 – Winner

Hello Gentle Reader

Since the controversy of the Nobel Prize for Literature and the heated discussions, debates, dissertations of dissent; along with laments, elegies, and mournful wails – nothing else hasd the room or the orating space in which to make itself heard. The literary controversy continues to burn, as many contemplate whether or not poetry has been redefined; and if it has what does it mean for the literary world, when it can be invaded by a reluctant musician. Yet, now for the good news, which was sadly eclipsed by controversy and the intensity of still fanned flames.  

The Bi-annual Neustadt International Prize for Literature (often considered the ‘American Nobel,’) has announced (last Friday) this year’s Laureate for the prize: Dubravka Ugrešić. The ‘post-Yugoslav,’ or Croatian writer, has been gifted with this year’s silver feather, and the $50, 000 prize money. Her novels and essays have been well revered in Europe as well as internationally, has her work has been translated into twenty different languages. She is noted however, as much for her literary output, as well as her political stance. In nineteen-ninety one, as the former Soviet State of Yugoslavia began to dissolve, the dogs of war would soon be released, with the trumpeting of nationalism. Ugrešić took a strong anti-war stance as well as anti-nationalistic stance. She was vocal in her criticism and published them, which soon would receive the ire from her follow intellectuals, writer and public figures in now Croatia; as she was soon herald as a traitor, an enemy of the public, and deemed a witch. As the attacks, the slander, and the defamation continued, Dubravka Ugrešić would later leave her fragmenting homeland, and live in exile in Amsterdam. Exile has become one theme for Dubravka Ugrešić. She writes about the painful loss of home, as someone who entered exile; but also rejoices in its freedom.

Congratulations to Dubravka Ugrešić, for becoming the Laureate for this year’s Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Dubravka Ugrešić now joins the ranks of other Laureates: Mia Couto (2014), Czesław Miłosz (1978), Francis Ponge (1974), Tomas Tranströmer (1990), as well as Assia Djebar (1996).

I’d like to note Gentle Reader, for this year’s Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the shortlisted contained seven female writers:

Dubravka Ugrešić,
Can Xue,
Caryl Churchill,
Carolyn Forché,
Aminatta Forna,
Anne-Marie MacDonald,
Guadalupe Nettel.

While only two men where shortlisted for the award:

Ghassan Zaqtan
Don Paterson

There has been great talk over the years, about female writers being overlooked or not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. Literature should be genderless; but it were to appear the Neustadt International Prize for Literature has decided to lessen the gap in disparity between female and male writers, with this year’s award.

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

M. Mary

Thursday 13 October 2016

Post-Nobel Prize for Literature Thoughts 2016

Hello Gentle Reader

My apologies in advance my dear Gentle Reader, for the vitriolic sentiment which soon spill fourth from my recently cleaned keyboard, cleared of the vomit which had just inhabited a few hours prior.

Needless to say, at 5:00am this morning, when I heard the news live from the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Sara Danius lips themselves, I had the impression and feeling that I had suddenly been kicked in the stomach. Had the nightmare come true? In years past I vehemently claimed this same reality was: never possible; never going to happen; that hell had a better chance of freezing over. Hell now has certainly frozen over, and I am still whirling from how definitive I was and thinking I was arrogantly right; to know how disappointedly wrong I was and am. It is true Gentle Reader, Bob Dylan the singer the musician the “pop icon,” today became a Nobel Laureate in Literature.

The citation for Bob Dylan’s chosen Laureate status is as follows:

“for having created new poetic expressions within the great tradition American song tradition.”

However, since the Nobel Prize for Literature’s announcement was delayed a week (due to a mathematical detail) I was anxiously awaiting for today. This exciting day, where once again a lucky writer would receive the life changing phone call where they will be told they received a certain: Nobel nod. I had high suspicions this year would be a poet. The last poet being awarded in two-thousand and eleven with Tomas Tranströmer; and through the prior decade (2000 – 2009) a sole poet was not awarded; though three writers known for their plays and theatrical text did receive the Nobel accolade: Gao Xingjian (200), Elfriede Jelinek (2004) and Harold Pinter (2005). Throughout last night, I had high hopes for a poet to receive the phone call. I entertained the thought of: Tua Forsström, Doris Kareva, Sirkka Turkka, though had a slight understanding the likeliness of any of these poets to receive the Nobel accolade, would be highly slim, as they are female. So the better chances were: Adunis or Ko Un; and possibly Leonard Nolens. Yet on all accounts I was wrong.

Last year the Belorussian journalist and chronicler of the human experience: Svetlana Alexievich became a Nobel Laureate, for being the human ear, and documenting the plight of the Soviet soul, and chronicling a history of emotions. In awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to Svetlana Alexievich, it became clear the Swedish Academy was beginning to broaden their horizons of what is considered great contemporary Literature. Alexievich was unique because of her literary mode of expression, but also because of her slim output and bibliography. When she received the award however, it was a breath of fresh air, but was bound to happen at some point in time or another.

This year’s award with Bob Dylan is neither broadening the idea of literature; nor is it a breath of fresh air. It’s a travesty. It’s a travesty; and a sign of the weakening importance and presence that Literature has with regards to the world. Many have been supportive and kind towards Bob Dylan’s Nobel nod; the news has been over joyed with the announcement, stating the singer and musician requires no introduction, and has been generously playing his music. These same media outlets, are also elevating Bob Dylan beyond his singer and musical status, and have put him into a new category as a poet – however, the Swedish Academy has also decided to place the singer as a poet before his musician status. Yet to be fair; Bob Dylan cannot be blamed for this unfortunate event; he’s as much a causality as an ulcer, with regards to the news. Bob Dylan himself did not nominate himself repeatedly for the prize; not that he could as he does not meet the criteria. Furthermore if we recall from years back, Bob Dylan’s nomination was a protest nomination, against Horace Engdahl and his comments he made with regards to the literature of America. Bob Dylan was and only ever should have been a simple protest nomination. Why others or someone, in the literary community with the ability to nominate chose to nominate a: musician who parades himself as a folk artist and vagabond poet; who is in reality a populist icon of pop culture, and a burnt out nostalgic hippie; for the most lucrative and prestigious literary prize in the world, is baffling and asinine.

The criticism outlaid by the former Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, was harsh and scathing in its critical dissertation of the state of American literature; but not unjustly so. Though the comments could have used a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down a bit, there was a lot of truth to the remarks. First and foremost, English language readers and consumers do not enjoy translated literary works; this is a simple observation in which Engdahl mentioned the parochial reading habits of English language readers – he just happened to word it in a more direct stance towards American readers and its literary culture. Though I do not agree with Engdahl’s sentiments about insularity; he did make a valid point with regards to a lack of translation and participation in the larger literary world, and its exchange of ideas, ideals, and artistic expression though literature. (Please note: Literature)

Eight years later, it appears the academy is still grappling with the comments made by Horace Engdahl prior; in which they were repeatedly under fire by critics for a presumed or apparent: ‘Anti-American,’ sentiment; despite the sentiment possibly not existing, and the plain reality and fact being: that perhaps there was no American writer who was mature or refined enough or ready to receive the Nobel accolade in comparison to other writes. Yet the Nobel nod for Bob Dylan appears more of an appeasement or a panhandling towards these critics; a pacifier of sorts to quiet down the rabble rousing and to prove that American writers have not been black balled by the Swedish Academy or excluded from the Nobel. Still the Nobel nod for Bob Dylan is more an insult then it is an appeasement. Try as they may; the defenders will come to Bob Dylan’s defense, and subsequently the Swedish Academy’s defense as well by supporting the decision and the fact that his work transcends songs and singing, and has become a sense of ‘oral poetry,’ put forward with music. What a pompous statement. What a ludicrous thought. It’s an apologetic sentiment, which passively aggressively denies the fact that Bob Dylan is not a writer and by further extent not a poet!

Bob Dylan’s now Nobel Laureate status is greater insult then it is blessing for a few reasons. It brings into question the state of ‘poetry,’ in America or in the English speaking language. So long, now to the ode, the sonnet, the coupling and the limerick. They’ve been replaced with another form of expression; a dear distant relative who happened to spring out of the wood work and decided to takes its place alongside literature not as an equal but rather as being a part of the canon itself. Music it seems, is now being harbingered by this decision and its avatar Bob Dylan has overstepped its place as an expressive model, where it is meant to be enjoyed in elevators, long car rides, sporting events, dance halls, clubs and a multitude of other venues; but Literature? It is not Literature, and should remember its place in the world of artistic models and expressions. What a day of mourning for the future of poetry if this is what its future holds.

Now if Bob Dylan is the most worthy Nobel Laureate that America has been able to produce since Toni Morrison won in 1993, then it must certainly be in an insult to Philip Roth and Don DeLillo; and to a lesser degree Thomas Pynchon and Joyce Carol Oates. It’s safe to say that John Updike is rolling in his grave along with Jorge Luis Borges and Vladimir Nakabov.

This being said, I am sure others would be more accepting or at the very least more tolerant of this year’s award. I can only imagine Wisława Szymborska taking a drag off her cigarette, and a sip of her coffee, before declaring with greater grace then I am currently in possession of, that she’s delighted that poetry is evolving but would have preferred: Ella Fitzgerald. Samuel Beckett, always up for the irony of an occasion would most likely treat this blight with indifference with a dry sarcastic remark, such as: “You wanted a surprise. Here you go!” While Seamus Heaney and I suspect Tomas Tranströmer would accept the award; Tranströmer perhaps the greater defendant of the musicality of poetry. Yet through it all and on the contrary the musicality of poetry, comes from its words, comes from its images, its emotions, its expressions – not the instruments banged about around it!

Tim Stanley with “The Telegraph,” best describes the train wreck of the day:

“Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Why not? If the Nobel Committees can give a peace prize to Henry Kissinger then it can give a literature prize to a man who hasn’t written any literature.

This is not a question of taste. Bob Dylan is a great folk artist, maybe the greatest alive. But the Nobel is supposed to be awarded not on the basis of what the public likes (if it were, Doris Lessing wouldn’t have won it) but on ability matched by idealism. Dylan has both, but his body of work falls far short of that produced by past winners: Yeats, Gide, O’Neill, Solzhenitsyn etc. The scale of their output and the thematic density of their texts outstrips Dylan by light years. He is a dim star strumming a guitar; they are suns around which we orbit. We are lucky enough to live among them today.”

Tim Stanley is very much so correct. Bob Dylan is a faint star when compared to the pantheon of past writers who include but are not limited to those listed, along with: Herta Müller, Octavio Paz, and Wisława Szymborska. Bob Dylan is outshined and cannot hold a candle to their torches, as they burn with great literary intensity; as he is supported by the continual hot air of his music.

Tim Stanley continues with greater insight and further agreeable comments:

“If the Committee wanted an American then it could have chosen Don DeLillo, Philip Roth or even – why not? – Thomas Pynchon. It did not have to make this choice. So why did it? Nostalgia. Politics. To please the crowd. To name someone who would shatter the Committee’s reputation for intellectual snobbery – a reputation that it only has among those uninterested in literature. It’s like worrying that the Davis Cup is too closely associated with tennis. And if popularising the prize is the aim, then why not Leonard Cohen or Paul McCartney? Why not Debbie Harry, who crazy folk think invented rap? Moreover, why popularise a prize which isn’t elected but chosen by the knowledgeable on the basis of achievement? This is the Nobel Prize for Literature. Not Sweden’s Got Talent.”

It is a horrifying sentiment to think, the Swedish Academy is trying to distance itself from perceived intellectual snobbery or cultural superiority in favour of impressing and gaining favour with a grander public, who until today did not know who Alfred Nobel was (or the Swedish Academy) and what the Nobel Prize for Literature was.

Now the best is certainly saved for last, as Tim Stanely laments the mortification of the state of Literature and what precedence this leaves the prize in and its terrible legacy:

“Ah, but this is where we are in cultural terms. Distinction is gone; discrimination is a dirty word. Egality is in. Emotion is in. Nothing matters unless it sells. But anyone celebrating the death of quality – anyone imagining that the elimination of elitism leads inexorably to justice – should be very wary of what they wish for. A culture that gives Bob Dylan a literature prize is a culture that nominates Donald Trump for president. It is a culture uninterested in qualifications and concerned only with satisfying raw emotional need. There is pandering on the Left and pandering on the Right. It becomes very hard to engage on the basis of reason because reason is discriminatory. It requires thought and effort not only to use it but to understand it. Much, much easier to go with your gut. It’s not a huge leap from saying “Dylan because I like him” to “Trump because I feel like him.” It's all lowbrow.”

Where Tim Stanely states: “discrimination is a dirty word.” Couldn’t be more to the point. Yes its true discrimination is a nasty term in today’s world. Wherever we look discrimination is lambasted in some form or another; but does this mean we must compromise and accommodate on all subjects? Yes its true discrimination based on ethnicity, skin colour, sexual preference, gender, age or whether or not one prefers cats or dogs (heaven forbid you prefer bird or fish; and don’t let anyone get started on your preference for dust bunnies); but the truth is discriminatory practices are not entirely evil in their intent. There must be some critical evaluation based on some merit, especially when it comes to the arts. Writing and literature are completely different from their cousins such as dance, acting, and music; and completely foreign to sculpting and painting. But it would not be fair to call any of them one or the other. Now these forms may have overlaps: such as a dancer and actor or a musician/singer being considered performers; or a writer writing the dialogue for a play in which an actor brings to life; or the written words for a song to be sung; they are still separate by their expressive means, and their distinct classifications for how they are separate. Yet distinction has been tossed to the wind; while society apparently favours emotional resonance and a sense of egalitarianism with regards to the arts. Apparently it has been deemed fit we must break down the barriers of what distinctly defines each art form, so that each may share in the others glory; despite the lack of interest in the qualifications and differences of each one in comparison. No matter though, it needs to be done.

Tim Stanely goes on to state the obvious, that he will be called snobbish, fogey, as well as elitist. And so he may; but those are not criticisms or knives to stab or harm; those words my dear Gentle Reader, those are badges to be worn with honour on such a dreadful occasion. In daily life, in mundane existence we are humbled, modest, and are expected to remain beneath the polite yoke of these attitudes in order not to have a sense of superiority over anyone else. Yet if it is one thing Literature has gifted those who read Literature in its true pure and merited form, it is it allows a sense of cultural elitism, a sense of superiority beyond the typical dime store novels, penny dreadfuls, mass market paperbacks, and the overtly saturated market of a dime a dozen formulated novels. It allows us the sense we may go beyond the masses and achieve something more obscure, but bright, more recent, more alarming, and more refined. The Nobel Prize for Literature, up and until this point has bridged worlds, languages, and writers by bringing the obscure to the lime light. Without the Nobel Prize for Literature, I suspect Orhan Pamuk, Herta Müller, Patrick Modiano, Wisława Szymborska, Elfriede Jelinek – and so on; would have passed me by and I would have missed out on some of the greatest literature and writers I have had the pleasure of devouring. Yet now amongst these great writers and poets, a musician and singer has been uncomfortably added to their pantheon with great controversy; and there is plenty to be displeased and abashed about.

One can only wonder with the inclusive nature of the most prestigious Literary award in the world, will the music industry and its ‘pop idol,’ awards be equally as accepting now of writers? May we see Stephen King placed in the Rock n Roll hall of fame? Will the late Wisława Szymborska be gifted with a Grammy? Perhaps Elfriede Jelinek will walk away with a Polar Music Prize (often considered the Nobel Prize for Music). The truth: I sincerely doubt it.

Detractors, literary puritans (or puritanical literary readers, as some would claim) of this years Nobel Prize for Literature, see the disappointment of this year’s Prize. It has gone to an individual undeserving of the award, because his work is not Literature. He is a musician, and a cheese grater vocalist – not a writer. His songwriting capabilities do not constitute him as an oral poet, no more than my grocery lists constitute me as a flash fiction writer or a short story writer; my e-mails do not make me a playwright; this blog does not make me a journalist. But by all accounts, it where to seem they can be considered literary in some form or another, now by this redefining idea of what Literature is, and what constitutes as a literary method leaning towards an ideal direction. Yet the irritation of this year’s award does not just come down to the debate of whether or not Bob Dylan’s work is considered literary or poetry (oral or otherwise). The irritation and frustration comes down to the entire circumstances, the history, and the main himself.

First and foremost, as already discussed its hotly being debated all over the internet on whether or not Bob Dylan’s music and songs can be considered poetry in any sense of the defined word. I have made my opinion quite clear on the matter, and take the side that: no, Bob Dylan does not come close to being considered a poet, in a true literary defied sense of the term or genre.

Second, the circumstances surrounding Bob Dylan has already been discussed, in how his nomination was first and foremost a protest nomination. Though no one ever thought the protest would ever end in this manner, in which case he would receive the Nobel Laureate status and the prize money that goes along with it, not to mention the gold medal in which he will receive in December. Bob Dylan’s nomination was merely a protest, in which American academics and philistine public felt they were snubbed and looked over in favour of more obscure writers – without realizing these obscure writers were just as deserving as any more well-known writer. Bob Dylan as much as I found him a perennial speculated pain in the ass, I never gave him any more attention than necessary, and never thought his protest nominations would be taken any more seriously than required. Then again if I sat on the Swedish Academy, his nominations would have been properly filed in the waste basket.

The third and final aspect. The man himself. Though it pains me to say it, Bob Dylan’s greatest detraction is himself. Bob Dylan is world renowned. He is famous, he is presumed rich. He is a celebrity. What more can the Nobel Prize for Literature do for the man? What more help would he require? There are more serious writers out there, who have had a greater impact on literature then Bob Dylan does. Bob Dylan’s legacy should and will only be (as far as I am concerned) his lasting influence on pop culture and subsequent musicians, rather than any (or rather no) contribution to literature. Yet, it is completely unfair to solely vilify Bob Dylan in a decision in which he was not privy to. As already stated he is as much victim as he is ulcer in these circumstances, and cannot be blamed for a decision made for him, rather than by him. Bob Dylan’s qualities of his work, and his music should be recognized – and have been recognized; with numerous awards including the Polar Music Award (The Nobel Prize for Music) in the year 2000; while his lasting influence should be reserved for his impact on pop culture; seeing as he has no literary merit (at least in my perspective) which would constitute his newly crowned Nobel status. His global stature, and celebrity renowned cannot be held against him either; but they should have worked against him. There are writers and poets who have less to show for their ‘starvation,’ for their literary mode of expression, and have contributed more merit and worth to the field of poetry then Bob Dylan has or at this point will. Adunis for example, is noted for completely reshaping the scope and thematic work of Arabic poetry during the twentieth century. His poetry spearheaded a modernist revolution for Arabic poetry; and yet this is overshadowed by a civil war, and now Bob Dylan’s influence over popular culture.

If we were to look for a poet or any writer at this point more deserving and less known, yet in need and justifiable in the receiving the Nobel accolade we do not need to look any further with a compilation of the list to follow:

Living writers:

Adunis – Syria
Ko Un – (South) Korea
Kim Hyesoon – (South) Korea
Moon Chung-hee – (South) Korea
Bei Dao – China
Y Nhi – Vietnam
Leonard Nolens – Belgium
Doris Kareva – Estonia
Kiki Dimoula – Greece
Sirkka Turkka – Finland
Tua Forsström – Finland (language Swedish)
Shuntaro Tanikawa – Japan
Adam Zagajewski – Poland
Anne Carson – Canada
Ferreira Gullar – Brazil

Deceased writers:

Mohamed Darwish – Palestine
Simin Behbahani – Iran
Anna Akhmatova – Russia
Bella Akhmadulina – Russia
Marina Tsvetayeva – Russia
Dulce María Loynaz – Cuba

As already mentioned Adunis helped to spearhead a modernization movement for Arabic poetry; the same way T.S. Eliot began to introduce newer methods of poetic expression with his poetry. Adunis as a poet of peace, who truly believes poetry can help quell the Syrian civil war and its raging hatred and fire, should be duly noted; along with his sole shouldering of Arabic poetry and trying to get it outside of the Arabic world.

Ko Un, rarely requires an introduction to seasoned Nobel speculators, observers, and readers. He is known for his prolific output, and his detainment because of his calls for democratic reforms in during (South) Korea’s moral dictatorship. Since being released, Ko Un has been a driving force for Korean poetry – but ironically not well read (or liked apparently) in his home country.

Continuing with the (South) Korea poet Ko Un, there are two feminist poets which need to be discussed: Kim Hyesoon and Moon Chung-hee. Both poets are noted for their strong views of the woman’s place in (South) Korean society, and how they rebel against the traditional roles of women, as being either, daughter, mother, grandmother – or whore. Moon Chung-hee was considered one of the first female writers to discuss and view the world from a feminine perspective; she wrote of love and its loss; of dreadful loneliness, and existential problems in which women face. Her newly acquired perspective of the feminine on the world, opened the ways for female writers in (South) Korea to discuss their subject matter, and perspectives. Kim Hyesoon on the other hand, would be considered ‘radically,’ feminist. Her poetry is virally, vicious, and visceral. In it a surreal juxtaposition of images raddles around, which display how women in (South) Korea are objective and subjected to male chauvinism and thought. Her poetry has influenced numerous generations of female poets.

Bei Dao, has been considered a Nobel contender for a many years now. His poetry is often considered ambiguous and oblique. However the ambiguity of his poetry has often been noted to evade censorship and be critical of the Communist regime in China. Yet his poetry is both beautiful and enlightening, like a complex puzzle which requires thought, dedication, and an open perspective in order to appreciate and understand his poetry and the world it has been influenced and shaped by.

Kiki Dimoula is one of Greece’s national treasures. She is a poet of candid and frank honesty, which she displays in her strict economically minimal poems. In her court she does not suffer fools kindly, and she bluntly states the required viewpoints which need to be expressed. She is considered the greatest female poet of Greece since Sappho; and much like her ancient brethren she is widely read and regarded for her poetic capabilities. Though do not look towards Kiki Dimoula for poetic pyrotechnics; but rather a strict lace of words which discuss oblivion, death and fading memories, in a world rushing by. 

If the Swedish Academy wished to show how innovative poets, and their poetry is becoming in a increasingly less tolerant world of poetry: Anne Carson would have fit the bill. Her poetry is often perplexing, and most poetry scholars would not call her unique brand of work poetry. Her work is often a combination of poetry, non-fiction, scholarly work, and retelling of myths. All wrapped up in perplexing format, which baffles and confuses critics and readers alike; often putting her in the fringe part of the literary world, because of her often unique display of her interests.

As for the deceased poets, there were many who went without a Nobel nod, without the prestige of the accolade, and did not receive a wider audience because of it. May they not roll in their grave.

Mohamed Darwish, was a national poet of Palestine before his death in two-thousand and eight; and considering the volatility of the region (in particular the complicated relationship between Palestine and Israel) was most likely a defining reason as to why he did not receive the Nobel nod. Despite this however, Darwish was a marvel of a poet. His work dealt with the exile and dissolution of his homeland, and often compared it to the removal of mankind from the Garden of Eden. Despite being engulfed and engrossed in the politics of his home region, Darwish was still a poet first, and a politically active poet second. He was a poet of political action, through the action of poetry. He discussed the state of homelessness, dissolution of a past gone, and the anguish of exile with frank honesty. He spoke to a generation of people about their daily existential crisis, and their unfortunate political situation. Mohamed Darwish was first and foremost a poet of freedom and of democracy, and criticized Hamas, and the destruction of his Palestine. He was beloved by the people, and was a poet of great action, through his poetry, showing poetry could change, inspire, and invigorate the populace for something better, and achieve it.

The Soul of the Silver Age, Anna Akhmatova, herself was a profound and striking voice for Russia during a period of transition from autocracy to totalitarianism. Her success during the early years was short lived. Her poetry was considered to introspective and possessed an aesthetic which was considered bourgeoisie, and therefore was considered antirevolutionary. She would later suffer; as her son would be constantly imprisoned on grounds of counter-revolutionary activities, her son was also denied access to study in educational institutes because of his parents. Yet the soul of the silver age, wrote on, and her poems were secretly distributed, but in typical Stalinist fashion she would be observed, bugged, spied on, and watched – a 900 hundred page report would be complied on her. Yet despite the threat of arrest, gulag imprisonment, exile, or execution; Akhmatova remained a mentor to younger poets, in particular Joseph Brodsky (Nobel Laureate 1987). She never found the success she had in her early career, but after her death, and the thaw she once again received her place in the poetry of Russia, and being considered one of the greats. She however, was dispassionately denied the Nobel Prize for Literature, in favour of Mikhail Sholokhov. No matter, the Soul of the Silver Age would stay would once again be resurrected, in her revitalization of her poetry.

There can be no great compliment in my mind then being referred to as the Lioness of Poetry, as is the case of the Iranian poet Simin Behbahani. Simin Behbahani would be considered a poetic prodigy; her first poetry collection was published when she was fourteen years old, and she started to write poetry at the age of twelve. She is noted for having produced some of the greatest works of Persian poetry in the twentieth century; both in traditional Persian forms, as well as ghazal style of poetry. Her themes were love and loss, but also political in their dissent and dissertation of her volatile country and its political upheaval. Throughout most of her she was considered untouchable by political powers, but in two-thousand and ten the nearly blind poet, was detained when she tried to board a plane for Paris, and was interrogated all night long. Beyond her poetry she was a fearless advocate, specifically for women’s rights; and she too wrote in a greater ideal direction.

If the Swedish Academy was at a loss for poets for this year, above are plenty. I find it difficult to imagine, that this year the Swedish Academy did not have an overt abundance of suitable candidates. There must have been Jon Fosse, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Adunis – among many other great writers. It would be better to go towards a more obvious choice, then this travesty. Four years ago, Mo Yan became the Nobel Laureate in Literature of 2012, that pill was a difficult one to swallow; but not impossible. Though I refrain from reading Mo Yan’s work, and respecting him on the same level as other writers of a greater caliber; this my dear Gentle Reader, this is . . . a pill that cannot be swallowed let alone placed within my mouth, as my teeth are clenched shut, my lips pursed; and if it did magically find its way down my esophagus and into my stomach, it would not be digested, as such news cannot be.

This award may have been meant as an unholy marriage between music and literature; I would love to see it annulled immediately! We may think in today’s world the ideas of highbrow and lowbrow artistic modes of expression have been done away with, and no such divide between the upstairs and downstairs exists. Well if it no longer exists, it should exist, for this exact reason. How appropriate is it to call a singer and musician a writer? Consider the following ‘poem,’ (and I use that word describing the following piece of text loosely, and with great sarcasm) by Bob Dylan:

‘Wiggle Wiggle,’

Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a gypsy queen
Wiggle wiggle wiggle all dressed in green
Wiggle wiggle wiggle till the moon is blue
Wiggle till the moon sees you.

Wiggle wiggle wiggle in your boots and shoes
Wiggle wiggle wiggle you got nothing to loose
Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a swarm of bees
Wiggle on your hands and knees.

Wiggle to the front wiggle to the rear
Wiggle till you wiggle right out of here
Wiggle till it opens wiggle till it shuts
Wiggle till it bites wiggle till it cuts.

Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a bowl of soap
Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a rolling hoop
Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a ton of lead
Wiggle you can raise the dead.

Wiggle till you're high wiggle till you're higher
Wiggle till you vomit fire
Wiggle till it whispers wiggle till it hums
Wiggle till it answers wiggle till it comes.

Wiggle wiggle wiggle like satin and silk
Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a pail of milk
Wiggle wiggle wiggle all rattle and shake
Wiggle like a big fat snake !

I am so impressed Gentle Reader, with the direction poetry is moving forward in the world. I mean this is a startling piece of poetic achievement. Truly. (please note that is sarcasm) 

Highbrow art though has existed for the above reason. That ‘poem,’ does not withstand the sun like radiance of poets past. It does not contain the intelligent irony of Wisława Szymborska. It does not have the sensual romance, which can be found in Pablo Neruda, when writes his poems for his wife. It does not contain the marvel and observations and lyrical intensity of Joseph Brodsky. The only thing in which I could discern from the said ‘poem,’ is that it is advisable that I ‘wiggle,’ though I do confess, my slight fear that if I do ‘wiggle,’ as instructed, I’ll end up making a fool of myself and end up jiggling like a bowl of Jell-O rather than a ‘big fat snake.’

May we bring back the distinction between Highbrow literature and its literary merit; and the lowbrow works of literary expression, and keep the divide strong and equal. The precedence set makes one wonder and worry that soon the great ‘American Poet,’ Miley Cyrus will soon fly into the Swedish Academy on a wrecking ball! May we shut the doors, and kill this in the crib now, and hopefully the Swedish Academy will not award any further musicians in the future. Bob Dylan's supposed poetry requires him to singing it, therefore loosing itself in greater scope and dialogue of literature, because it just does not translate as well either on paper, or most likely in another language.

To quote Rich Smith and his article from “The Stranger,”:

“Dylan is a great songwriter, but he's not a poet. Poets don’t get instruments. Poets don’t get a drum, and good poets often avoid one when offered.”

Which he further elucidates with the following reasoning of what separates a poet from a singer:

“Poets have to find music in the language itself and arrange that music in meaningful ways on the page. That is very hard to do, and it's a different task entirely from the act of writing a song.”

I couldn’t agree more with Rich Smith, in how lyrics of a song and a poem differ. A poem is completed on a blank piece of paper, and its only source of musicality is to be found in the language itself, not through the assistance and amplifications of instruments, to further enhance the poem or its poetic context. If this is the future of poetry though, songs and pop culture, then the art form was better off being locked in the ivory tower, leaving readers to be chilled by its presence, and unaware of its unique correspondence of air, in which they are not privy to. At least the extinction of poetry, poems, and the poet would have been more graceful more literary, more highbrow, then what is currently being expected of the mode of expression, and how mighty it has fallen. Even if some would say back to its ‘roots.’ Yet its roots have greater merit, greater literary importance, then they are currently being given credit for, with this example. It’s a pity to think the Nobel Prize for Literature, receives a wart on its record; a blemish on its face; a blight in its history thanks to an American singer and musician who has been paraded as some folk artist hero, a vagabond poet belting out earthly tunes on his harmonica and strumming the air with his guitar; but in reality is a nostalgia stricken, burned out, has been hippie; whose significance and influence is more on pop culture  then it is on literature and the genre of poetry.

Oh Swedish Academy . . . you’ll have a lot of years to make up for this. A lot of years, to get the prize back on its golden age tracks, before this unfortunate slight can be forgiven. Though I think most of us literary puritan readers are understanding towards decisions unexpected and surprising, we do expect some justice, and some lesson to be learned. Perhaps for future notice, if you decide to award a obscure literary art form which has been overlooked by the Nobel in years past; perhaps Children’s literature would be more reasonable then awarding a musician a literary award, in which he has no literary merits or understanding; and where he does transcends if he transcends his musician status and enters the field of poetry, I don’t see it justifying this year’s decision.

For the New Generation of young people, who just discovered the Nobel Prize for Literature, because of the philistine coverage and sharing of this year’s Laureate: may you roll yourself a joint, pack your harmonica, pick up your bags, jump on a rail car and travel across America. But please don’t forget your smartphone, so you may take your selfies, and listen to this years ‘oral poet.’

This my Dear Gentle Reader, is my dissent against this year’s Nobel nod. It’s neither warranted nor deserved. Quite a devastating disaster. But there is always next year Gentle Reader. Perhaps next year will be better. Be it a more welcoming surprise; and not a musician or a pop icon or pop culture antique. 

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

M. Mary

For other articles and those referenced here about this year’s Bob Dylan disaster, please see the following links:

And for a unique and lively discussion, stop by the World Literature Forum, and see what they have to say. There is plenty of detraction as there is support, for this years decision. 

Nobel Prize for Literature 2016

Hello Gentle Reader

This Years Nobel Laureate in Literature, is the American singer: Bob Dylan; who was awarded the Nobel with the following citation:

“for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

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

M. Mary 

Tuesday 11 October 2016

The German Book Prize Shortlist 2016

Hello Gentle Reader

In the midst of a heated Nobel Speculation for this year, I had almost forgotten about the German Book Prize, and its six shortlisted books and authors. This year’s shortlist is noted for its diversity; from violent hooligans, lonely families, oppressive realities, lost youth and depressed urbanities. It’s a dour but literary shortlist, which explores the difficulties of today’s continually changing world, and its complicated and complex challenges in which the individual is forced to face.

This year’s shortlisted titles and authors are as follows:

Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker – “Fremde Seele, dunkler Wald,” || English || “Dark Forest, Foreign Soul,”

Bodo Kirchhoff – “Widerfahrnis,” || English || “Encounter,”

André Kubiczek – “Skizze eines Sommers,” || English || “A Sketch of Summer,”

Thomas Melle – “Die Welt im Rücken,” || English || “The World at Your Back,”

Eva Schmidt – “Ein langes Jahr,” || English || “A Long Year,”

Philipp Winkler – “Hool,” || English || “Hool,” (as in Hooligan)

Of all the listed novels and writers on this year’s shortlisted, a few books stand out. The first is Eva Schmidt with her novel ““Ein langes Jahr,” || English || “A Long Year,” her first in nineteen years. It’s a short novel, told in thirty-eight episodes, in which she discusses the depressing urban landscape of the modern world.

The second is the highly personal novel by Thomas Melle; “Die Welt im Rücken,” || English || “The World at Your Back,” in which he details his struggles with his bipolar disorder.

Last and least, a personal favourite is Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker with his novel: ““Fremde Seele, dunkler Wald,” || English || “Dark Forest, Foreign Soul.” The novel strikes me as interesting in its depiction of a family run farm slowly going to ruin, and a family slowly disintegrating or being sold off with it; it’s a harrowing account of the loss of traditional values and customs, and livelihoods in the names of great progress, and it’s almost machine like way of sawing up pieces of the past or personal in favour of a collective future.

To see the shortlist please see the following German Book Prize website:

As well, one of the greatest high lights of the German Book Prize is its video portion, in which the shortlisted books are discussed, authors interviewed, and extracts read. To see this year’s video please follow the link provided below:

Thank-you for reading Gentle Reader, I look forward to seeing you here this Thursday, for the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

Monday 10 October 2016

Nobel Prize for Literature Announcement Date

Hello Gentle Reader,

The following picture details the past and future announcement dates for this years Nobel Prize for Literature, as posted on the Nobel Prize Facebook page:

Though not officially confirmed by the Swedish Academy on the Nobel Prize for Literature website; this new solidifies the prior news coverage that the Literature prize will be awarded on the 13th, wrapping up this years Nobels.

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

M. Mary 

P.S. And in the words of Jayan Edakkat from Facebook: "May 13 Oct surprize this Univrse," 

May this years Nobel be a black horse surprise indeed. 

Thursday 6 October 2016

Nobel Prize for Literature: Closing Thoughts, 2016

Hello Gentle Reader,

First and foremost: Thank-you to everyone who read/viewed my Nobel Speculation List! I have never received so many hits up to this point on a single post, like I have this year! Thank-you to everyone (with a sincere thank-you to all the Vietnamese readers who viewed my blog in this time frame!), as well as thank-you to all who have commented and informed me of new writers, it is always a pleasure to discover a new writer, and hopefully some new reading material for the future! 

The Announcement Date –

On September 30th it was discovered via “Svenska Dagbladet,” (SvD) a Swedish daily newspaper; that this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature would not be announced until October 13th rather than October 6th. However, the newspaper appears to have talked to a Swedish Academy member Per Wästberg (Chair No. 12) assures everyone that there are no internal complications with the award at the moment, but rather a simple mathematic detail. Per Wästberg elucidates that by tradition the Nobel announcement for Literature is traditionally done on a Thursday (October 6th or October 13th); but according to the bylaws of the Swedish Academy, the members of the academy must meet at least four Thursdays before the final decision and announcement can be made. The first of those meetings is directed to be the second last Thursday of September, which Per Wästberg states was: September 22nd, and assures the public that there is no issue with tradition or routine of the Swedish Academy in awarding the Nobel Prize for this year.

It is interesting to see the Swedish Academy open up about its bylaws, traditions, and routines and how it all correlates with the announcement date; there is a slight bit of curious wondering and suspicion that there may be something bigger going on – or so one would like to believe. There is hope with the added time frame (as by mathematical detail) that this year’s Laureate could be a great surprise, for those interested to seek out a new writer begin to get acquainted with that writer and their literary output.

(Also, making Philip Roth a laureate would be more a mistake then a surprise; to which I can only state: I have tried time and time again to read him and continually find him self-absorbed and suffocating, to the point I cannot finish one of his books.)

If you would like to read the articles which detail the October 13th announcement date they are the following:

Svenska Dagbladet (SvD)

Sveriges Television (Svt)

Other news agencies have also reported on the news; such as CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). 

Finishing off Speculation –

On August 17th, just a few days after posting my Nobel Speculation list, and still flying on a certain lightness of revealing it; I decided to see what speculation was being formulated by others out there, in the endless confines of the internet. This led me to lookup Ladbrokes and Nicerodds speculation for this year’s prize. Ladbrokes had nothing posted, but Nicerodds did have a list posted. The following list is from August 17th, and it is as follows:

Haruki Murkami – Odds: 6.00
Adunis – Odds: 9.00
Joyce Carol Oates – Odds: 11.00
Ngugi Wa Thiong'o – Highest Odds: 11.00
Philip Roth – Odds:  13.00
Ismail Kadaré – Odds: 15.00
Jon Fosse – Odds: 18.00
Amos Oz – Odds: 21.00
Péter Nádas – Odds: 21.00
Adam Zagajewski – Odds: 26.00
Doris Kareva – Odds: 26.00
John Banville – Odds: 26.00
Kjell Askildsen – Odds: 26.00
Cees Nooteboom – Odds: 31.00
Gerald Murnane – Odds: 31.00
Jaan Kaplinski – Odds: 31.00
Ko Un – Odds: 31.00
László Krasznahorkai – Odds: 31.00
Leonard Nolens – Odd: 31.00
Olga Tokarczuk –   Odds: 31.00
Peter Handke – Odds: 31.00
Jussi Adler-Olsen – Odds: 34.00
Sirkka Turkka – Odds: 41.00
Tua Forsström – Odds: 41.00
Mircea Cartarescu – Odds: 51.00

Of the twenty-five listed authors, the writer who stands out the most is: Jussi Adler-Olsen. New names always stand out on any list. Seeing Jussi Adler-Olsen on the list, immediately brought back thoughts of Patrick Modiano in two-thousand and fourteen, who appeared on the list and slowly crept up the list, only to become the year’s Nobel Laureate in Literature. After seeing Jussi Adler-Olsen’s name on betting list, I immediately began to do search about the writer. It is clear now that Jussi Adler-Olsen is a Danish crime writer; however his debut as a writer was with non-fiction in nineteen-eighty four, and then as a fiction writer in nineteen-ninety seven. I’ve quickly disregarded Jussi Adler-Olsen has a Nobel contender, on the grounds of his Nordic crime writing oeuvre. This being stated, the Swedish Academy is not entirely against writers who write in genre fiction. Kerstin Ekman was elected to the Swedish Academy in nineteen-seventy eight and is known for her detective novels. However since nineteen-eighty nine, Ekman has remained a passive member along with Lars Gyllensten (deceased, 2006) and Werner Aspenström (deceased, 1997). In this sense the Swedish Academy is not entirely discriminate against genre fiction; as some Nobel Laureates prior are noted to have experimented with the detective novel format, as a form of exploration in their literary endeavors such as: Orhan Pamuk with his novels “My Name is Red,” and “The Black Book,” as well as Patrick Modiano with his famous novel: “Missing Person.” Thought it is best deemed highly unlikely that Jussi Adler-Olsen would receive the Nobel nod.

The Betting Sites –

This year’s Nobel Speculation has been tamed and rather quiet with a lack of a dark horse or wild card being presented as a possible contender. Up to this point it has been the same candidates as in years prior with few adjustments or alterations to the list.

The betting sites currently list the following as this year’s favoured writers to receive the Nobel nod:


Haruki Murakami – Odds: 6.00 (lowest odds: 5.00)
Adunis – Odds: 7.00 (lowest odds: 6.50)
Philip Roth – Odds: 8.00 (lowest odds: 7.50)
Ngugi Wa Thiong'o – Odds: 13.00 (lowest odds: 11.00)
Javiar Marias – Odds: 17.00 (lowest odds: 17.00)
Ismail Kadare – Odds: 18.00 (lowest odds: 17.00)
Jon Fosse – Odds: 21.00 (lowest odds: 13.00)


Haruki Murakami – Odds: 5/1
Adunis – Odds: 6/1
Philip Roth – Odds: 7/1
Ngugi Wa Thiong'o – Odds: 10/1
Ismail Kadare – Odds: 16/1
Javiar Marias – Odds: 16/1
Joyce Carol Oates – Odds: 20/1
Jon Fosse – Odds: 20/1
Laszlo Krasznahorkai – Odds 20/1

* Please Note Gentle Reader, both of these sites were checked on September 29th, and they may have moved or changed in their standings since then.

The Nobel Prize Facebook –

Elsewhere on the internet, the Nobel Prize Facebook page has also posted some information with regards to the Literature prize.

The first post details the top 10 most populate Literature Laureates, as visited by the website. They are:

1.      Rabindranath Tagore (Nobel Laureate 1913)
2.      John Steinbeck (Nobel Laureate 1962)
3.      Ernest Hemmingway (Nobel Laureate 1954)
4.      William Faulkner (Nobel Laureate 1949)
5.      Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nobel Laureate 1982)
6.      Pablo Neruda (Nobel Laureate 1971)
7.      Wisława Szymborska (Nobel Laureate 1996)
8.      Toni Morrison (Nobel Laureate 1993)
9.      Svetlana Alexievich (Nobel Laureate 2015)
10.  Octavio Paz (Nobel Laureate 1990)

A post following the above one is an excerpt from Pablo Neruda’s Nobel Acceptance speech which reads:

“. . . for with blood and darkness poetry is written, poetry should be written.”

The next Literature associated post from the Facebook page states the following:

“14 women have been awarded the #NobelPrize in Literature so far between 1901 and 2015.

Last year Svetlana Alexievich was awarded "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time".

Svetlana Alexievich depicts life during and after the Soviet Union through the experience of individuals. In her books she uses interviews to create a collage of a wide range of voices. With her "documentary novels", Svetlana Alexievich, who is a journalist who moves in between the boundary between reporting and fiction. Her major works are her grand cycle Voices of Utopia, which consists of five parts. Svetlana Alexievich's books criticize political regimes in both the Soviet Union and later Belarus.”

The following picture shows all the female Nobel Laureates in Literature from the first winner to the most recent. Below is the list:

Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf (shortened to: Selma Lagerlöf) (Nobel Laureate 1909)
Grazia Deledda (Nobel Laureate 1926)
Sigrid Undset (Nobel Laureate 1928)
Pearl Buck (Nobel Laureate 1938)
Gabriela Mistral (Nobel Laureate 1945)
Nelly Sachs (Nobel Laureate 1966)
Nadine Gordimer (Nobel Laureate 1991)
Toni Morrison (Nobel Laureate 1993)
Wisława Szymborska (Nobel Laureate 1996)
Elfriede Jelinek (Nobel Laureate 2004)
Doris Lessing (Nobel Laureate 2007)
Herta Muller (Nobel Laureate 2009)
Alice Munro (Nobel Laureate 2013)
Svetlana Alexievich (Nobel Laureate 2015)

It would be rather asinine to look at these posts, and attempt to make some connection between them and see if there is any hint to whom will be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. For example, one could speculatively conclude that by the first post, with regards to the ten most visited writers on the website; that an American writer could receive this year’s accolade considering that of the ten listed writers four of them are American writers (John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemmingway, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison); and then proclaim that the perennial Nobel bridesmaid Philip Roth holds the greatest chance.

Following in the same logic though, Philip Roth could easily be pushed aside by the following post, where Pablo Neruda’s acceptance speech was quoted, and poetry is heavily referred to. In this case one could deduce a poet is in the running for the Nobel; question is who? The highest ranked poet on the betting sites is the Syrian poet: Adunis; followed by Polish poet Adam Zagajewski; shortly followed by Estonian poet Doris Kareva; with (South) Korean poet Ko Un following along with Belgian poet Leonard Nolens, along with Finnish poet Sirkka Turkka along with Finnish (Swedish language) poet Tua Forsström.

Still following in the same logic; with the list of all fourteen female Nobel Laureates in Literature, it could be speculated that the potential winner could in fact be a female poet, which would disqualify: Adunis, Adam Zagajewski, Ko Un, and Leonard Nolens; while putting higher speculation on: Doris Kareva, Sirkka Turkka, and Tua Forsström. Of those three poets, Doris Kareva is seen as having the best chance by the betting site “Nicerodds,” presenting her odds at: (highest) 34.00; (lowest) 26.00.

To wrap up with the connection of all three posts, the winner would be speculated to being a female American poet . . . and it is there I draw a black, and conclude with seriousness that attempting to connect random dots, does not equate much of a conclusive answer.

However, though it appears asinine, ridiculous, silly, or absurd to attempt to make any conclusive thoughts from these posts, it should be note that last year, while I was waiting for the announcement for the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Nobel Facebook page posted one last post where it named all the past female Nobel Laurates  in Literature. This led me to believe and have grounds of suspicion that the year’s Nobel Laureate was Svetlana Alexievich; suspicions which were later validated. Yet still this is all baseless speculation and groundless thoughts; though it makes for a good way to spend and waste some time.

Early on with speculation this year, quite a few female writers’ names came up during speculation on other forums and blogs. This turned out to be a heated debate, where many commentators and speculators, noted that the chance of another female writer taking the prize, just after a previous one is highly unlikely. The rebuttal of course is no precedence is ever set by having a prior precedence; precedence is set by being the first time it is done. It would be interesting and surprising if this year’s Nobel Laureate was a woman, seeing as last year’s winner was a woman, who also opened the prize to a new form or definition of literature with her polyphonic ‘novels of voices.’ If this Nobel Laureate is a poet and a woman I certainly won’t complain with the following:

Doris Kareva (Estonia)
Sirkka Turkka (Finland)
Tua Forsström (Finland/language Swedish)
Kiki Dimoula (Greece)
Kim Hyeseoon (South Korea)
Hoang Thi Ý Nhi (Vietnam)
Moon Chung-hee (South Korea)
Viivi Luik (Estonia)

Despite, the fact that many of these poets do not appear on other lists. Though a surprise writer would be equally as enjoyable to see win as well.

Other Speculative Lists –

Nobel speculation is never quite fun or as interesting or fulfilling or informative, without others opinions, thoughts, perspectives and speculative lists. I’d like to mention two areas of great speculation which have come to my attention this year, with regards to this year’s Nobel speculation.

The first is a blog by a self-described scatterbrained poet: Shigekuni, with his blog: The following is a link to his personal picks for this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature:

Shigekuni’s first begins to describe his personal picks in the field of poetry. Adunis (Adonis) is one of the most recognizable poets on the list and corresponds largely with other lists, and the betting sites. Shigekuni adequately advocates the genius behind Adunis’s poetry, much better than I can; as I am not an avid poetry reader. After mentioning Adunis, the writer goes on to mention Kim Hyesoon in which he humbly discusses the poets viewpoints of femininity and the oppression of the female within modern Korean society; but makes it clear, that he is reluctant to comment fully on the poet because he cannot read Korean. However, I must confess that I think Shigekuni is more capable of commenting further and more adequately on Hyesoon’s poetry then I would be able to articulate any intelligent thought with regards to the poet. Last and least Shigekuni comments on Tua Forsström, where he mentions awarding the Nobel to her would be interesting, but wonders whether or not her work would be considered large enough. I am not entirely sure what is (or would be) considered an acceptable amount of poems or published collections of poetry for a poet to be considered for the Nobel; but the last two poets to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature: Tomas Tranströmer (Laureate 2011) and Wisława Szymborska (Laureate 1996), were not known for their prolific output; but they were noted for their attention to the art of poetry and its delicate filigree craft. Tua Forsström may not be an Emily Dickinson in the production of some 1,800 poems; but she is noted for finely constructed poems.

After discussing his poetry picks, Shigekuni moves towards the field of fiction with two writers:

Wilson Harris a ninety-five year old Guyanese writer; and one of the betting favourites for this year the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o. From the two writers listed here, Wilson Harris does not hold a likely chance against other ‘possible,’ (as we don’t know who’s in the running or being considered) writers. This leaves: Ngugi wa Thiong'o. Though I have not read any work by Thiong’o, it is impressive to write in a traditional/native language; however, his political opinions, often state that in order accomplish the ideal, violence maybe considered a route, which maybe a conflict of interest for the Swedish Academy. Yet, as Shigekuni points out, Ngugi wa Thiong'o would be considered a ‘obvious,’ choice for its academic and linguistic ingenuity, not to mention he would subsequently fulfill the ‘African Drought.’

Last and least of his thoughts, Shigekuni discusses possible European writers who could be in the running. In this part of the list, Shigekuni discuess possible writers: the faceless and anonymous Elena Ferrante; the dark brooding writer of personal memory Karl Ove Knausgaard; the young and upcoming writer Mircea Cărtărescu, then points out two German writers: Peter Handke and Reinhard Jirgl, and mentions they are both politically dubious; as well as mentions the incredible but difficult to come by Gerald Murnane. Two writers do get special noted: Marcel Beyer; a young German writer, but whose work exorcises and discusses the reckoning of ones nation’s history; and the second is the Hungarian master of the apocalypse: László Krasznahorkai, who needs little elucidation or advocating behind him; but Shigekuni states is to the point and truly summarizes the writer.

I encourage you Gentle Reader, to check out the post, as the thoughts given are well delivered, and a good read.

(Also, here are Shigekuni’s thoughts on the Nobel Prize for Literature announcement delay)

Take it With a Grain of Salt –

This year Gentle Reader, I cannot look through my own list, and pick out five or ten writers, who I would like to think would be a good personal shortlist; as I know the writers that I would like to see may not necessarily have a chance (currently) on any actual shortlist for this year’s award. This being said, I certainly would be dissatisfied by some writers winning over others. Jon Fosse for example, would be a welcomed (albeit oblivious) Laureate for this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. There can certainly be no denying Fosse’s success in being one of the most beloved and performed living playwrights on the international stage. However, his dramatic works have not always been met with praise or great approval by the English language readers or theatre goers; the reviews modest, and the turn out equally as humble. His plays are noted for a poetic sparseness, noted for its existential confusion bordering on mystical delirium. The dialogue is noted for being poetic yet also fragmented, where much of the plays weight comes from the silence of the characters. He is often been seen as Henrik Ibsen’s successor; but also the successor of Samuel Beckett, as well as the contemporary of Harold Pinter. Yet unlike the aforementioned writers, who were noted for their plays, specialized in plays (with the exception of Beckett), Jon Fosse’s passion first and foremost, has been prose before the theatre; and in two-thousand and fourteen  Fosse resigned himself from the theatre, to focus more exclusively on his prose work. His most recent work of prose, his Beckettian “Trilogy,” was honoured last year with the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize. Jon Fosse would be a deserving writer, though a uniquely shy and slight indifferent one as well, and I wouldn’t consider him a dark horse or a surprise with the award.

I hold a deeply rooted affection for three poets this year: Sirkka Turkka, Tua Forsström, and Doris Kareva; Sirkka Turkka perhaps more so then Tua Forsström or Doris Kareva. Turkka’s poetry is gentle, open, accessible, and empathetic; but also reaches to me for her depiction of love and amusement towards animals, more so then her fellow human beings. This does not mean that Sirkka Turkka would be considered a misanthrope in a Patricia Highsmith like manner, though it would be safe to presume she would much prefer the company of animals in comparison to the company of people. Her mode of poetry defies convention, often encompassing both the traditional line formats and prose poems, in which she details and articulates her perspective and viewpoint of the world. Tua Forsström reminds me the most of Wisława Szymborska, both because of her small output and her immaculate detail she puts forth in her craftsmanship with regards to her poetry. Her themes are mundane but are veiled with layers of existential thoughts and feelings; though they are accessible in their language, but intellectual in their subject matter. Of three poets listed above, Tua Forsström would be the most acquainted with the English language. Last and least: Doris Kareva. Doris Kareva’s poetry is often noted for being personal but connected to the universal. As noted during my speculative list, poetry is divided between classes: the intellectual and the emotional, where Kareva falls into the latter. Her poems are intensely short, and burn with great emotional fury, before they are reignited by the next poem. Her sense of language is noted for being unrivaled and unlimited by readers of her native Estonia; where her poetry in its minimal format paradoxically contains multiple meanings. The newspaper website “Estonian World,” has called Kareva a ‘Global Poet.’ Yet she is highly underrepresented in the English language.

These thoughts could continue on and on, with comments given to writers on other speculative lists, to those on my own. The truth is Gentle Reader; it all needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Who will be this year’s Nobel Laureate in Literature? I couldn’t say. On October 13th we will find out; but not until then. Be it the prize has been pushed back because of a mathematical detail, following a stringent tradition, or, perhaps there truly is some internal strife within the Swedish Academy which has pushed this year’s award back behind the other awards; the first time in ten years (in two-thousand and five the award was announced on October 13th). It’s hard to say, what goes on behind the stoic silent doors of the Swedish Academy, but one thing remains certain, I do not envy their position, where they are tasked with being the arbitrators of what is great literature in today’s world, and furthermore forced to try to enact Alfred Nobel’s ambiguous clause of his will in awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature.

It is great fun to speculate about the award. It is a good joy to see the passionate discussions come up about who deserves the prize and who does not. Its unique to watch the ‘oblivious,’ choices getting advocated for and defended; but also more unique names coming out of the wood work, and leading a whole new writer to discover and read. If it is one thing the Nobel speculation and the Nobel Prize for Literature does accomplish, is it opens the doors for new writers to be discovered and appreciated.

This being said Gentle Reader, the speculation does get out of control at times, and the betting sites are great examples of this. For example E.L. James the erotic author of the “Fifty Shades of Grey,” authors is sitting at 31.00 odds; above other authors (and arguably greater writers of literary merit) Bei Dao (51.00) Viivi Luik (51.00) Sirkka Turkka (67.00) Cees Neetboom (51.00 > 35.00). Umberto Eco also makes an appearance on the list with 21.00 odds, which is no problem with the exception that he died earlier this year; Eco is not only deceased writer to appear on this year’s betting lists either as Yves Bonnefoy also appears with odds at: 41.00, despite also passing away earlier this year. Cesar Aira also makes two appearances on the list with two different odds: one at 17.00 and the other at 21.00; similarly, the Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua also encounters a similar double issue on the list, as he is listed once as: A.B. Yehoshua, and a second time as Abraham B Yehoshua, and again has two different odds: 23.00 for as A.B. Yeshoshua and 26.00 as Abraham B. Yeshoshua.

I’d also like to point out Gentle Reader, that last year on September 19th the Nobel Facebook released the top ten most popular Literature Laureates, who were viewed on the Nobel Prize website were:

1.      Patrick Modiano (Nobel Laureate 2014)
2.      Rabindranath Tagore (Nobel Laureate 1913)
3.      John Steinbeck (Nobel Laureate 1962)
4.      Ernest Hemmingway (Nobel Laureate 1954)
5.      William Faulkner (Nobel Laureate 1949)
6.      Albert Camus (Nobel Laureate 1957)
7.      Wisława Szymborska (Nobel Laureate 1996)
8.      Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nobel Laureate 1982)
9.      Winston Churchill (Nobel Laureate 1953)
10.  Pablo Neruda (Nobel Laureate 1971)

What I find most interesting about both lists is the earliest Nobel Laureate to appear on both is: Rabindranath Tagore. After Tagore, all the subsequent Laureates are either from the nineteen-forties to the contemporary era.

In Closing –

As already stated, I do not envy the task in which the Swedish Academy is burdened with in arbitrating the literary tastes of the world, while balancing fulfilling Alfred Noble’s will. Their decision will most certainly be polarizing, to those not acquainted with the award. Yet, I do appreciate the work the Swedish Academy does, as they often put their best foot forward when picking and announcing the Nobel Laureate for Literature. Though their decisions have not always sat well with me (Mo Yan), I must admit I doubt I could do much better then what they currently do. Who will win this year? No one will know until a week from now; but hopefully the lucky writer, deserves the status they will be bestowed with. Questions remain, on whether or not the Swedish Academy will set precedence in awarding two female writers in a row; or if that precedence shall remain unset for the time being. Will this year’s winner be a playwright? Poet? Prose writer? Will they be completely unknown or will they have been a ‘oblivious,’ or highly speculated choice. October 13th will tell Gentle Reader.

Thank-you all for your support, comments, suggestions and discussions with this year’s award! I look forward to continuing with the discussion with you, as well as hearing your comments and suggestions, as we speak my future lists continue to grow!

Thank-you again, I look forward to seeing you back here on October 13th for the announcement; and perhaps some Post-Noble thoughts.

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

M. Mary