The Beginning –
With only a few months to go Gentle Reader my Nobel Speculation List is ready. Below are seventy-six (76) writes who I have decided to speculate about, include, and think either deserve the Nobel or have a chance. All of the subsequent writers are categorized in continent geographical areas, then further into country of origin, then country of exile (if applicable), and written language (if applicable).
It should be made clear now though Gentle Reader, how the list is organized and categorized is in no way a reflection of national interest or biases. They organized in this manner, so the list would be easier to traverse, read, and offer a unique perspective of each writer. As previously mentioned, and I profusely continue to state: the Nobel Prize’s—be it Literature, Chemistry, Physics, Peace, Medicine, or Economics—are not the Olympics. The awards and the laureates are selected by individual merit in their fields, not by national petitions or lobbying. Further elucidation is also needs to be mentioned: this list is personal; there is only one English language writer on the list, and that is for diversity purposes; I have not included any writer from North America (United States or Canada, which is my home) as I am under the thorough understanding these writers are given more than adequate attention for other speculative lists and media sources. This is reflects my desire to focus on the unknown, obscure, and underappreciated, and the underdog—after all, every underdog requires its champion.
As always my Dear Gentle Readers, I look forward to your comments, your recommendations, and to engage you in lively and stimulating conversation, as we patiently wait for this year’s announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Thank-you and Please Enjoy,
Wilma Stockenström – South Africa – Stockenström is an Afrikaans language playwright, poet, translator, casual novelist; as well as actress. She is considered one of the leading female writers in the Afrikaans language in South Africa. Today Stockenström is renowned for her poetry, known for her novel “The Expedition to The Baobab Tree,”—but her first love was drama. Her degree is in theatrical studies, and she wrote two one act plays and performed in numerous productions, before slipping behind the curtain with pen in hand to draft the works she would become famous for. Her poetry is known for being unadorned with intense lyrical language, but rather being plain and stark as it discusses its themes. Along with eschewing a floral language, Wilma Stockenström had also shifted perspective away from the personal and poet ‘I,’ to a more drifting voice which gives commentary on the human condition; which is always done with sober thought, plain language, and a slight ironic eye. There are no traditional poetic conventions in Stockenström’s work, as if she completely bypassed the usual theories and notions of what poetry should be. Instead she turned the poem into a private thought and a glimpse of wonder, presented to the reader in a line format, but left there without the usual poetic devices. In these regards, I view Wilma Stockenström a lot like Wislwa Szymborska; someone who reinvented the genre to discuss a variety of themes and thoughts, without the pomp of musicality, rhythm, and rhyme—what remains is a warm poem open to readers to ponder and think about, without patronization and frustration.
Mia Couto – Mozambique – Since his debut Mia Couto has been a growing and influential African writer. His contradictory perspectives often reflect his heritage: his mother and father were Portuguese immigrants to Mozambique, and Couto himself considers himself a: “white African.” He delves into the post-colonial and independence, realities of Mozambique as a citizen rather than a third person observer. His work is riddled with magical realism which is reflected of Mozambique’s pre-colonial history, with its legends, folklore and unique culture. Mia Couto is considered the smuggler writer. He’s known for taking words and phrases from different languages and cultures and creating his own literary language. This world play has been praised by many, as it creates a unique linguistic experience, which can be seen immediately in sentences, as well as offers a unique lyrical quality to the prose. His creation of myths, legends, riddles and ‘improverbs,’ as well as portmanteau words, is a blend of languages and cultures. His unique linguistic experimentation is often praised as one of the greatest merits of his literary work; but certainly there is something lost in translation. Yet as of late, Couto has been gaining greater literary recognition in the world, from wining the Latin American Prize ten years ago, to be awarded the Camões Prize and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.
Ben Okri – Nigeria – Since his debut, Ben Okri was noted as being one of the most leading and acclaimed literary voices to come out of Africa (specifically Nigeria) as a new post-colonial voice. His third novel won the Booker Prize, and at the time Okri was the youngest writer to ever receive the award (Eleanor Catton now holds claim over the title). He has been favorably compared to Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for his use of magical realism in his novels. Okri however, disagrees with the term magical realism applied to his work, as he points out the category is easily applied by critics who are too lazy to offer any original analysis, and so it would best lump into the work of other post-colonial writers, for others to note similarities and see likeminded authors. When others attempted to apply postmodernist theory to his work about the post-colonial situation in Africa and Nigeria, Okri once again rejected the claim stating he wrote without postmodernist skepticism, and did discuss legitimate and concrete realities and truths within his work. Beyond his fiction where spirits communicate with the living, and the dream logic of the unconscious is ever present; Okri non-fiction is more noted for his political leanings and reflections on witnessing the Nigerian civil war as a child, and reflecting on the sometimes shaky ground post-colonial Africa chooses to operate and act; proving the writer is not just a story teller, but also an active participant in the social concerns of his own nation but also the continental destiny of Africa.
Boubacar Boris Diop – Senegal – It is with great thanks to this year’s Best Translated Book Award that I came across Boubacar Boris Diop. Diop has been called one of the most original and exciting contemporary writers at work on the African continent. His most famous novel “The Book of Bones,” is a fictional account of the notorious Rwandan massacre and genocide, which plagued the country from April to July in nineteen-ninety four. His most recent work is Doomi Golo (originally published in two-thosuand and six, and translated into English in two-thousand and sixteen) is the only novel to be written in Wolof, and also the first novel written in Wolof to be translated into English. Diop’s literary works deal with the modern African realities: unstable governments, everyday violence, corruption, and poverty. Beyond his literary leanings and writings, Boubacar Boris Diop has also written for the theatre and screenplays for films, along with his political focused essays. Diop has also written journalist articles for both a Swiss newspaper (Neue Zürcher Zeitung) and a Paris based newspaper (Afrique, perspectives et réalités), while also founding his own newspaper in his native Senegal.
Pepetela – Angola – Pepetela is one of those many paradoxical writers of Africa. His heritage comes from colonialism and the colonizing country—in this case Portugal—but he was born Angolan and identifies as such. He identified so much as a Angolan, he was by the MPLA (The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola) to document and promote Angolan culture and studies. As Pepetela became more entangled with the MPLA, he began to actively take part in their armed resistance against the ruling Portuguese government, and this would prove the inspiration for his first wave of published works: the war narrative. In these first books, Pepetela wrote about the active resistance for an independent Angola, but then discussed the disillusionment of independence and post-colonialism afterwards. Mid-way through his literary career, and after leaving his work in the new Angolan government, Pepetela began working on historical novels which documented Angola’s history, including its colonization. With the turn of the minimum, Pepetela’s gaze has shifted towards a more satirical perspective; specifically with his anti-detective novels staring: Jamie Bunda (a slight parody of James Bond). The novels mock and offer the authors critique of Angola’s underdevelopment, as well as the United States foreign policy. Yet this later decade of the authors career has also seen his writing broaden beyond Angola, and even go into science fiction tropes, as he grapples with the ever present thoughts and concerns of global catastrophe, which lurks around the corner.
Nuruddin Farah – Somalia – The only word which goes with Somalia seems to be: failed. More often than not, Somalia is described as a failed state, one which lacks a government, a central bureaucracy, a sense of order, or even an idea of law. Its coast are ruled and patrolled by pirates. What government has been established, is continually putting out more fires than it is governing. Everything about Somalia screams fragile and failed. Though as of late, there has been noticeable improvements, and described attempts at progression. Tomorrow always holds up for today. Nuruddin Farah has been one writer affected by the political uncertainties of Somalia since its civil war and demand for independence. Farah has lived in political self-exile since he published his second book “A Naked Needle,”—because the government had planned to arrest him over its contents. He has described writing as an act of keeping his country alive; and Nadine Gordimer herself had praised him as one of the greatest writers and interpreters of the continent.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o – Kenya – Every year you can always expected to see the usual candidates listed as potential possibilities for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is no exception; but he is an interesting writer. Thiong'o is considered a prime and perfect canidate for the prize for a few reasons. The first being: he’s an African national writer. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o hails from Kenya, and this makes him desirable as the Nobel Prize for Literature has underrepresented African literature. The second reason is: he’s a socially conscious and aware writer, in which his work often probes and discusses the political situation affecting Kenya, and he was persecuted and arrested as consequence for this. Despite the attempts at suppressing his work, the author found it revitalized and revolutionized his commitments to literature and culture. The third reason is: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o writes in a traditional or tribal language of Africa, specifically: Gikuyu. Thiong'o did not start drafting his work in Gikuyu until his stint in prison, and since then he has continued to preserve the tribal language in his work and in modern literature; then translating it into English. For this reasons Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is often considered an appropriate and worthy writer. Though awarding Thiong'o would be considered an obvious choice, it would be a deserving decision, based on the author’s preservation of a tribal language, the desire to reinstate African memory as well as tackling social and political themes, within the African context in a post-colonial world.
North Africa & Middle East –
Nawal El Saadawi – Egypt – At the age of eighty-five Saadawi is as combative as ever, which certainly is a testament to her earning the title: “the Simon de Beauvoir of the Arab World.” Saadawi is a doctor by training, but views herself as a writer first and a doctor and activist of women’s rights in the Arabic world second; she specifically protests female genitalia mutilation (which she suffered first hand). As a doctor Nawal El Saadawi witnessed firsthand the oppression of women through patriarchal cultural norms, class division, and the ripples of imperialism; which would help shape the themes of her prose works, her non-fiction, and her political activism, in which she would decry the remnants of colonial rule, the oppression of religion on women, and the abuse of women at the hands of men. It is not Saadawi’s fierce and open opinions and criticisms against the government, against religious and cultural conventions, which make her feared, but the fact she encourages all citizens to question the conventions, doctrines and orders of the government. Despite her vast literary, medical and political activism career(s), Nawal El Saadawi is still heavily underrepresented in the English language. Despite the lack of representation, is growing as a literary and political force in her native Egypt, where she hosts young people in her apartment, to hold discussion about politics, as well as continue to lobby and actively oppose oppression of women in the Arabic world. For the government, Nawal El Saadawi is untouchable, though difficult to deal with and ignore.
Adunis – Syria – Adunis is one of the most important poets at work today. His influence on Arabic language poetry during the Second Half of the Twentieth century, was considered a Modernist revolution, and was comparable to T.S. Eliot’s influence on Anglophone poetry. There can be no doubt as to why Adunis is referred to as the most influential and important poet and figure of Arabic literature; despite the condemnations of Islamic religious leaders, extremists, and political dictators of the region, who have threatened his life, burned his books, and banned his work. Adunis’s work goes beyond poetry, as the poet is a recognized translator—he is famously stated to have translated Tomas Tranströmer poetry into Arabic, and accompanied the poet on a tour through the region; but he has also released literary criticism. He edited a multi-volume anthology of Arabic poetry which covers millennials of historical poetry of the Arabic language. Despite his literary endeavors, Adunis has been critical of the politicization of the Islamic doctrine and religion. This of course has caused controversy throughout the Middle East, where Islamic politicization is on the rise; but much like many other writers of the region, Adunis believes in the separation of theological and spiritual from political and public ideologies and service. Removing the political context and connotations from Adunis, his poetry and his influence on the poetics of the region and the Arabic language is far reaching and extraordinary. The influence can still be felt today, as poets pick up the pen to resist, to create, and to change their world.
Amos Oz – Israel – If the Nobel Prize for Literature bluntly stated that the prize was awarded on political grounds, Amos Oz certainly fits the model. Oz’s political viewpoints are not extreme, but rather moderate, especially concerning the situation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The volatility of the region has been presented with numerous solutions, but the two-state is considered the most acceptable resolution by international standards—Amos Oz supports this resolution; often marking him as a left leaning intellectual in Israel. For his literary output, Amos Oz is known for his realistic characters, touches of the ironic, and a slight critical eye over the political situation in the region. His controversial views and apologetic commentary often mark him the perfect Israeli candidate for the prize; one who won’t stir up international controversy, has interest in finding a solution between Palestine and Israel, and a rather wealthy bibliography. Yet the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a literary prize, not political—and though the lines have often been blurred between previous laureates, and prior Swedish Academy decisions (after all would Mo Yan win it, if it was purely political?), the award, at face value is literary.
Sahar Khalifeh – Palestine – The only writer from Palestine who has ever been rumoured to be in the running for the Nobel Prize was the poet Mohamed Darwish. However, Darwish was a controversial figure for his political views within the region. Sahar Khalifeh is one of the most prominent writers currently at work in Palestine, for her vivid discussion of the day to day plight of the citizens embroiled in a political, geographical, theological and geographical conundrum. In her work, Sahar Khalifeh goes beyond testifying for the need to resolve the situation of Palestine beyond a symbolic state; she also discusses to great length the requirement of women seeking emancipation and autonomy, and uses their of lack of privileges and rights as women, as a symbolic comparison of Palestine’s political situation. Khalifeh’s work is humane and tender portraits of the everyday people of Palestine, who either revolt or are caught in the cross hairs of the political forces who oppose each other in the region. Sahar Khalifeh work is stark and realistic, in which she does not shield the reader from the turmoil in the region, and those who suffer. She utilizes colloquial dialogue and real events in which she dissects and discusses the personal and political issues facing Palestine and its people, but also the deeper battle of the women of Palestine fighting against the oppression of their gender by cultural and theological sanctioned oppressive measures.
H.A. Sayeh – Iran (exile: Germany) – H.A. Sayeh is a eminent Iranian poet of the twentieth century. His poetry and poems have observed and survived numerous political uprisings, cultural shifts and literary upheavals through the course of the twentieth century. His first collection of poetry was published when he was nineteen years old, during the liberal and open period of Iran’s history, following the Second World War. It was during this time Sayeh was introduced to the famous poet: Mehdi Hamidi Shirazi. It was during this time Sayeh would become involved with numerous literary circles and his poetry was published in numerous magazines. However, much like his contemporaries, Sayeh reframed from entering into political conversations, and maintained poetic integrity over any misplaced public service or political obligations. After the Iranian revolution, the apolitical stance of Sayeh did not save him from the eventual imprisonment and persecution under the new found theocratic dictatorship which overtook Iran; and he would be forced to leave Iran in nineteen-eighty seven, now living in Germany. On the cusp of turning ninety, H.A. Sayeh’s output is small in consideration to other poets; but his attention to detail, his mastery of traditional poetic formats, have made him a fine poet, with an eye for superb quality over quantity and mass productivity. His creative integrity is still intact, and his poetry is moving—though difficult to find.
Bahaa Taher – Egypt – Taher was once considered Egypt/Caior’s literary secret; after all the government once banned him from publishing his works and voicing his opinion. He was fired from his job, where he helped found the Cairo Radio Cultural Program, where he would come into contact with Naguib Mahfouz, and help produce radio drama’s for Greek theatre to Beckett’s comedies; as well as narrated stories. All because Taher had left leaning view points and political views, which were in direct conflict with the ruling government of the day. After years of living off minimal salary and giving up his dreams to publish, Bahaa Taher would leave Egypt, and travel to find work as a translator, where he eventually ended up in Geneva, Switzerland working as a translator for the United Nations. Now he has returned to Egypt, and has found a welcoming response since his exile. Yet, the situation at home has improved, which the author laments. His work however deals with the complications of Egypt and the Arabic world, with a humanistic touch; he does not delve into the political situation with simplistic measures. Rather, Taher views the situation historical and precedent set more than just political or religious.
Boualem Sansal – Algeria – Sansal did not begin writing until he had retired at the age of fifty years old from his high ranking civil service job with the government of Algeria. Boualem Sansal did not pick up the pen as a hobby in his retirement. Rather, Sansal begun to write as a form of activism against the erosion of the intellectual and moral foundation of Algeria, as it slowly slips into the maw of Islamic fundamentalism and extreme religious opinions and dogmas. At an International Literary festival Sansal was introduced as a writer who has been exiled in his own country. Sansal’s criticism is not just reserved and seen in his literary work, he has openly criticized organizations and governments for their pious perspectives, false religious convictions and moral failures. These criticisms have not gone without retaliation. In Algeria, Boualem Sansal is a controversial and divisive figure, and the prize money of the Prix du roman arabe (Council of the Arab Ambassadors, literary award) was withdrawn because of his visit to Israel. And yet, Boualem Sansal is considered one of the most important voices of French language literature, as well as an intellectual force who rallies against Islamic fundamentalism within the Arabic/Islamic sphere of culture.
Elias Khoury – Lebanon – Khoury is well-known and renowned Lebanese playwright, novelist, and public intellectual. Khoury is a political involved writer, one in which continually seeks political reform, in a democratic vein. Despite this though, politics of the Middle East region are contentious, and there is no simple black and white solution. He was praised along with other writers (including Adunis) for protesting a holocaust denial conference in Beirut; but when the Israeli government praised his open condemnation of the conference, it shot back against their vile treatment of Palestine and the Palestinians. Politics in the region is not a graceful linear waltz; rather it’s a polka through a field of land mines, always attempting to evade a strike or a explosion. Khoury’s novels tackle these same subjects, with his same objective and critical eye. His novels tackle political subject matter, but not in easy black and white terms, which is preferred by western readers. Rather, Khoury presents the ambiguities of the political situations, going beyond simple context of “good guys,” versus, “bad guys,”—he fundamentally questions the behavior of people during these situations, and seeks to present an, objective portraits via the use of internal monologues, discussions and objective opinions presented by his characters. This makes Khoury a difficult writer to propagate and use for propaganda purposes, as he rebukes such concepts in favour of facts and a well-rounded narrative to present a fully fleshed throughout perspective. Elias Khoury is at once controversial as he is admirable.
Abdellatif Laâbi – Morocco (exile: France) – Abdellatif Laâbi is one of the most important Moroccan writers at work today. His bibliography contains poetry, novels, plays and essays; though he is revered for his poetry first and foremost. Despite living in exile in France, he is still immersed and influential in Moroccan public life. His recent book of non-fiction, deals with the political situation of Morocco, and its turbulent post-colonial history. Early in his career, Laâbi was an editor of a cultural magazine, which started out just as a literary review magazine, but was soon became a periodical which attracted rising artists from painters to filmmakers, to poets and writers, but also researchers and scholars; to discuss and share their works and interests. It was a cultural point of contact for the new rising artistic force of Morocco. Alas, it was short lived. The magazine was crushed, and Abdellatif Laâbi would be tried and sentenced to prison for his crimes of opinion. Upon his release, he would leave for France in exile, where he would continue to publish his poetry, his novels, and translate writers into the French language. Now he is considered a intellectual force of Morocco, despite still living in exile in France, he spends a vast amount of his time in Morocco on public engagements, and promoting emerging writers and poets.
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi – Iran – Dowlatabadi is a contemporary Iranian epicist. His novel “Kelidar,” is considered a monument of contemporary Persian language literature; it is over three thousand pages long, consists of five volumes and ten books; and took Mahmoud Dowlatabadi fifteen years to write. Despite this monumental piece of literature, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi is still viewed with great skepticism within his native country of Iran. His novel “The Colonel,” currently sits in bureaucratic and publishing purgatory, as it does not recount the events of the Iranian Revolution by the prescribed official perspective, and now waits for censor approval or disproval. Dowlatabadi is not known for digesting or adhering to the administered historical contexts and viewpoints, forcefully recommended by Iran’s political and religious governance. Mahmoud Dowlatabadi tackles social issues and injustices in his work, but does not strictly adhere to the moralistic framework of most social realists, rather, Dowlatabadi is more conferenced with the moral complexities of the poor, impoverished, overlooked and forgotten; and contrasts this brutal reality with the lyrical and sensual Persian language, which has gathered him great fame in Iran. Mahmoud Dowlatabadi knows firsthand the impoverished life, as he comes from a family of farmers, but was a voracious reader and curious child growing up, and with his father’s blessing he would leave his farming village to go on and work as a shoe peddler, bicycle repairman, street baker, before ending up as a ticket taker in a theatre, where we moved on as an actor and eventually a foray into journalism, in which he began to write for both the theatre and prose. Despite working through the legal channels in Iran, obeying censorship (and getting his novels published overseas) Dowlatabadi was once arrested by the former Shah regime of Iran, because his work were being read in mass quantities which made him provocative and inspiring to revolutionaries.
Ibrahim al-Koni – Libya – al-Koni is one of the most prolific, and well known Arabic language writers currently at work. Ibrahim al-Koni has published upwards of over eighty literary works including novels, short stories, poems and essays. al-Koni was born in the southwestern district of Libya known as Fezzan, and was raised on the traditions of the Tuareg people. The Tuareg people are known as nomadic desert pastoralists, whose range of territory stretches through vast territories of the African continent; including Libya, Niger, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and many more. The traditions of the Tuareg people have been represented in Ibrahim al-Koni’s work, often leading him to be referred to as a magical realist by some, while others call him a Sufi fabulist, for his poetic novels. Despite being raised among nomadic traditions and customs, al-Koni would go on to study at the former Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in the Soviet Union, despite only learning to read or write at the age of twelve. After his studies he worked as a journalist in Moscow and Warsaw; and would be one of the most profilic contemporary Arabic writers at work today. His unique cultural upbringing, with its folk talks, traditions, customs and conventions, have been the well of inspiration which has formed his work and perspective.
Lyudmila Petrushevskaya – Russia – Petrushevskaya is one of the most popular and recognizable writers currently at work in the Russian language. Success, for Petrushevskaya was late though. She was banned in the former Soviet Union; though not for extreme political dissidence—in fact her work completely avoids political commentary; rather, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya did something equally as terrible in the censors eyes: she depicted the realities of Soviet life, the squandered cramped apartments, the rationing of food, the crumbling family unit, and the failed ideology and mantra of hard work equates success. Petrushevskaya took the day to day life of the average Soviet women, and concocted a witching brew which reflected the fatalistic realities surrounding her, and narrated on the bus or in the streets or recounted in the bars or screamed out the windows. In doing this, Petrushevskaya was banned from publishing, she lived in abject poverty. All because she did not conform to the ideological principles and social realism of the time, to depict the grand and amazing miracles socialism had done for the Russian people. Rather depict a dream or a political illusion, she described the bleak realities, and was defined as a writer who offensively tarnished the Soviet dream. Now, Petrushevskaya is a Saint, or a Russian Minerva—someone who has given voice to the marital discord of the Soviet Union, and its bleak mystical reality; women flock to her, because they see a women who empathizes with their plights of broken marriages, and divorces. All the while Petrushevskaya, herself is viewing the current Russian state with its new found freedoms and democracies as a clumsy waltz or a marriage on the rocks itself. Yet, she never digresses to political commentary, though as of late, her popularity may still be on the rise, her apolitical position, seems to still ruffle feathers with her frank stories, novels and plays, where she discusses, depicts, and contemplates the absurd and often tragic realities of the former Soviet Union and how it has spilled over into the new Russia. Throughout it all, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya does not just merely describe or objectively listen, she offers solace.
Cees Nooteboom – The Netherlands – Nooteboom’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. Nooteboom, however, writes more than just novels; he is noted for his essays, poetry, and short stories. He has gathered particular acclaim for his travel writing and reportage. Home, becomes less a hearth and family oriented concept in Nooteboom’s bibliography; rather it becomes more academic in its discussion, as he recounts the flights of fancy and jet-fueled wanderlust in an ever more closely and interconnected world; which everyday grows closer and closer, and more borderline to annihilation and extinction. Home in these regards is more than just four walls and a roof; it’s our place in the cosmos; where each of us seek to validate and stake our claim against the greater expanse of meaninglessness, in a cold universe deprived of celestial warmth or holy divinity.
Sirkka Turkka – Finland – Sirkka Turkka is a renowned Finnish poet, and much like many Finnish writers and poets, contemporaries and deceased, nature holds an important and special place in Turkka’s poetry. The primeval forests is a place of wonder and fear; while animals, are expressed with gentle kindness, where they are treated as important as a human neighbour; where they have homes, families, and problems of their own. It should come to no surprise then, that animals are seen, more as companion, company and friend, then their legal definition as property. Sirkka Turkka was first published when she was thirty-four years old. Some would consider this a late time for a writer to begin their career; but if it is one thing Turkka has shown, she has very little interest in literary or social conventions, and the terms they attempt to dictate. When she published her debut, critics immediately applauded the poet for her well-developed themes, strong language, and mature voice. It would turn out; Sirkka Turkka had the heart of a story teller for many years before she began to codify her voice into the written format. Friends of the poet, recounted how the poet would often recount how Turkka had a wonderful gift for story-telling, which was graced with her wisdom and wit. This would explain why reading a poem by Sirkka Turkka, there is the complete lack of pontificating pretentious discourse and dribble. Rather, when reading Turkka, it’s like having a conversation with an old friend or a warm and welcoming stranger. Her voice is clear and direct, making it conversational in nature. However, just like Wisława Szymborska and Tomas Tranströmer, surface simplicity is deceptive; the depth is endless, receptive, and persuasive.
Kiki Dimoula – Greece – Kiki Dimoula’s poetry reflects personal experience in a historical context. Her poetic language is frank, honest, sharp, and sparse. Yet it is known for its linguistic aerobatics, playful syntax, and emotive powers deprived of sentimentality. Her poetry deals with 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. This comes from Dimoula’s own experience of living and viewing Greece under the state of military dictatorship. Yet despite the arbitrary historical context haunting the present, Dimoula’s poetry always offers a glimpse of hope: fading memories make room for new ones; while lost or destroyed photographs are replaced with others; a home goes beyond the roof or the possessions and furnishings, it’s the people and the memories which count. She’s a strong elegiac voice, which does not allow itself to be overtaken by maudlin yearnings or nostalgic notions; it offers warning and hope, to those who listen and to those who read.
Jon Fosse – Norway – Fosse is a perennial candidate upon for consideration for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He holds the distinction of being the most performed living playwright at work today—despite having retired from writing for the theatre, in order to concentrate on his first literary ambition: prose. Fosse’s recent trilogy of novels, earned him the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize back in two-thousand and fifteen. Jon Fosse is known for his spare and bare prose, riddled with repetitive themes, motifs, and dialogue. His style employee’s long winding sentences; and the dialogue which takes place often appears fragmented, as if the characters are merely half-consciously talking, while they ponder or are preoccupied with other subjects. Surrounding the minimalist prose, the sparse dialogue, and the fishbone thin plots, is an eerie sense of theological metaphor and mysticism. The opening of his trilogy: “Wakefulness,” recounts Asle and Alida, two poor unfortunate orphans of fate and circumstance, desperately seeking a place to rest for the night or better yet, a place to call home, because of Alida being pregnant with Asle’s child. The story takes motifs from the biblical story of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, seeking shelter and a place to rest for the night. The “Trilogy,” continues to recount their blunders, successes, struggles, and endearing love for each other. Jon Fosse’s language is minimal and repetitive, but from this comes a strikingly poetic sensation which moves like water. The characters and the plots are merely flotsam and jetsam of Fosse’s tidal like prose.
Jaan Kaplinski – Estonia – Kaplinski’s career began in the Golden Sixties of Estonian Literature, where he was known as a poet; or rather a rebellious poet, but not a flow blown dissident writer. Jaan Kaplinski gathered appreciation for his humanistic perspective of his poems. Kaplinski’s influences are culturally and linguistically eclectic, from Celtic mythology and language, to Chinese philosophy and Buddhist thought—Kaplinski’s poetry is noted to change, evolve, and reflect his varied interests. In doing so Jaan Kaplinski eschews hermetic poetry formats, schools and traditions. In its place he utilizes his broad interests and themes to formulate a mosaic of human endless human destinies reflected in nature, philosophical discussion, political discourse, historical events, and fable like narratives. Though most well-known for being the star of Estonian Modernist poetry, and a productive poet at that, Jaan Kaplinski begun writing prose later in his career. His prose is a broad spectrum, much like his poetry. It ranges from autobiographical works, to essays, prose poems, and even science fiction, where he is able to cast a critical eye on human civilization, and our communal pride. Jaan Kaplinski is a unique poet, one whose humanistic voice brings influences from a multitude of different languages and cultures, and continual seeks to understand humanities destiny in correlation with the natural world, in which it seeks to conquer, subdue and form to its whims.
Ersi Sotiropoulos – Greece – Ersi Sotiropoulos is a personal favourite. She is a critically acclaimed Greek poet and prose writer. Her novel “Zig Zag Through The Bitter Orange Trees,” was praised as the best book of the decade at the turn of twenty-first century, and became the first novel to win both the Greek State Prize for Literature as well as the Book Critics Award. Sotiropoulos is often described as an avant-garde writer, which may shock those who are first introduced to her work. Her prose is clean, deprived of unnecessary ornamentation, and its skillfully designed with jewelers eye for accessible filigree. Yet below the surface of the bone bare prose, one begins to see her experimental or avant-garde characteristics come through. Her short stories depict the uncertain grounds of relationships; either between parent and child, husband and wife, or brother and sister; as a reader, one is not entirely away of how they reached such a sudden or absurd or violent climax; as if the characters reasoning or rational are exaggerated or over reactionary for the situation. Her recent work is noted for tracing the bankruptcy of the Greek soul, as the financial crisis has emptied the wallets of its citizens, caused political discourse and uncertainty, and drained moral character from the state. “Eva,” employees the female psyche of the character Eva, to offer an x-ray and diagnostic imaging of the complete collapse of Greece’s moral infrastructure, its political institutions, and its citizens in crisis and fear; as the financial crisis ropes them of hope, stability, and places them on the edge of collapse and ruin.
Tua Forsström – Finland (language Swedish) – Tua Forsström is one of the most critically acclaimed Finnish-Swedish language poets at work. She has won numerous literary and poetry award, including the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize; and has been translated into numerous languages, including English. Her poems are noted for their simple language and personal touch of the poet, whose voice is graceful and wise, as it details the Finnish landscape, but also offers commentary with regards to existential themes of human existence. Rather than digress into philosophical pandering or lectures; Tua Forsström converses with the reader about these themes without pretentious notions, and offers the everyday, the common place, and the mundane as the stages in which these themes are enacted and played out. Aging parents, new towns, winter journeys, animals and pop cultural references, all make appearances in her poems and poetry collections. There is always something to empathize with. Forsström is not known as a prolific poet; much like Wisława Szymborska and Tomas Tranströmer, she has produced only a few collections of poetry, but what has been produced, has always been marked with high penmanship, and when a collection of poems is to be published, it is considered a literary event.
Magdalena Tulli – Poland – Tulli’s lineage as a writer, can be traced on quite a autumnal tree, which is ripe with cherries, apples, pears, peaches and plums—from Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Bruno Schulz, and Daniil Kharms. Her prose rattles with original metaphors, and clatter with verbs. Her novels are much like her predecessors; they are postmodern jewels, which recreate and redefine the concepts of reality, tangibility and identity. Her work is known for focusing heavily on metafictional themes. Tulli’s first novel “Dreams and Stones,” was noted for featuring no visible characters, or explicit storyline or plot—rather it was a poetic testament and observation about the creation of a city, and used as a metaphor for the process of creation and further more writing. “Moving Parts,” would follow in this same fashion, though with characters and narrator; while “Flaw,” had the scaffolding of “Dreams of Stones,” to support its structural basis, it was more interested in presenting itself as a metaphor for the persecution and plight of the Jewish citizens during the Second World War. Her entire oeuvre is small in compassion to many writers, and past laureates. Yet what she lacks in production, she makes up for quality. Her work is a unique blend of postmodern sensibilities, highly crafted prose, and a unique commentary on historical events; but also on the nature of writing and the act of creation, as a uniquely human endeavor.
Zsuzsa Takács – Hungary – World Literature Today, called Zsuzsa Takács the “doyenne of contemporary Hungarian poetry.” The available biography and research, validates this claim and title. Takács is renowned in Hungary, and has been publishing since the early nineteen-seventies; her poetic voice already shaped, with recurring motifs and themes already making their debut appearances; such as urban landscape items: trams, streets, and promenades along the waterfront. Takács, poetic themes range from transformation and metamorphosis to love and death; all the while wrapped up in her signature ironic humour, with its misunderstandings and double-entendre. Zsuzsa Takács is one of those unique poets, who came around after the post-war poets, and received their blessing and praise, in her early poetic work. She has observed her own countries metamorphosis since her debut, from one ideology to another; from the stifling political atmosphere of the Soviet Union, to the independent nation of Hungary. In her earlier poems, she discussed homelessness as a state of existence, and then remarked on the claustrophobic realities of flats, rooms, and hospital wards. Takács most recent collections of poems showcase her own literary transfigurations, as alongside the poems, the writer had also included works of prose (short stories or prose poems), in which she comments on the poetry of others, or her own poems. Zsuzsa Takács is a Hungarian treasure who is waiting for greater English introductions.
Adam Zagajewski – Poland – Zagajewski is a compatriot of Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska, a Neustadt International Prize for Literature Laureate, and one of Poland’s most famous poets; both post-war and post-cold war. Adam Zagajewski began his literary career, in the late sixties, early seventies, as he became one of the most influential members of “The 1968 Generation,” (or New Wave) of poets. His early poems and collections, such as: “Slaughterhouses,” were noted for their socio-political critiques; after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the former Soviet Union, Zagajewski’s poetry has become more philosophical and existential, then politically observational. History is a major part in Adam Zagajewski’s work, as he often displays how history embeds itself in the everyday and common place, in the most subtle of ways. In this regard, history and historical accounts and facts, are not grand epics or chronicles, they are understated events which haunt the present with such a lightness of touch they overlooked and missed. His themes however are universal as much as they common place, but with historical contexts, philosophical ponderings, and an ever present existential desire to find meaning, Adam Zagajewski is considered a grand master of poetry and human thought.
Anna Frajlich – Poland/ (born) Kyrgyzstan/ (exile) United States – Anna Frajlich is still a powerful voice of literature as a form of resistance in today’s literature scene. The year two-thousand and sixteen, however, did welcome the poet back to Poland. Frajlich was originally born in the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan, where her father was a lectured, in a technical institute, before she immigrated with her parents back to Poland (and she is considered a Polish poet by her language and identity). In Poland Frajlich would study at the University of Warsaw in the Polish Philology department, and in nineteen-sixty nine would leave Poland along with her husband and son, in a Jewish exodus, because of the Anti-Semitic atmosphere growing within Poland at the time. It was then on Frajlich would live in exile in Italy and then for the long haul in the United States, where she would lecture at Columbia University. Her poetry is her greatest success. In her poems, Anna Frajlich comments on the microcosm of herself lost in frightening world of the twentieth century, in which the horrors of the holocaust are discussed as well as the paranoia of the cold war. Anna Frajlich is a poet of resistance; she resists Anti-Semitism, authoritarianism, forced ideologies, deprived freedoms, and the cruel nature of man.
Leonard Nolens – Belgium – When it comes to Flemish language poetry, Leonard Nolens would be considered the most striking and distinguished contemporary representative at work. Nolens entire oeuvre is described as encompassing and uncompromising. His early work is noted for being experimental, hermetic, and baroque inspired; while his later works are noted for eschewing his earlier experimental forms, hermetic styles, and abandoning baroque influence, in favour of a more somber and plain language. Despite striping his poetic style of baroque ornamentation and experimental forms, in favour of a more conversational and approachable language, Nolens poetry has not lost its desire to host discussions on a range of subjects, though philosophical and profound in nature. Apart from being a poet, Leonard Nolens is a noted memoirist (or diarist). His recent collections of poetry have seen Nolens depart from the singular ‘I,’ and move towards the interpersonal ‘we,’ in his poetry. His recent collection of poetry: “Tell the Children We’re No Good,” is a collection of poems which has been described as generational with the use of ‘we,’ and personal with the salt and pepper of ‘I.’ In this collection of poems, Nolens warningly reflects on his generation, but also casts a critical and honest eye on its blunders. The shift from the singular to communal shows Leonard Nolens desire to move beyond the personal to the collective with his discussions, observations, and thoughts.
Doris Kareva – Estonia – Doris Kareva is the poet as a pearl. Her poetry is human, it is felt. Kareva’s poetry is able to give maximum effect with minimal words. As a poet, Doris Kareva is known for diving and plummeting to the deepest aspects of the human experience, where she dredges up the fine sands of the human heart, soul, spirit, and shadow. Her poems, are known for observing strict adherence to personal form; where the fewest possible words are utilized to offer a paradox of a clear image with a multitude of understandings. In this, Kareva is able to produce as many meanings as required, with seemingly little effort, and with few words. Despite varied interpretations her poetry is open and willing to be read by all those who open its clam like shell, to gaze at the wonders inside. Her poems are not historical chronicles or epic in scope or vision; in fact they are quite contrary. Kareva’s poetry has often been misclassified as feminine in nature or pertaining to the gender specific guidelines of poetry; where (if we are to believe) male poets are preoccupied with the political, the historical, the philosophical—the important predications of the time; while women are to be more concerned with the nature and issues of the domestic variety; writing poems of love, longing, unrequited affections, and the evils of the heart. This notion is absurd as it is archaic. This idea is neither gender bias nor sexists; it’s simply outdated and pretentious. Though Doris Kareva is noted for her poetry which excavates and spelunk the arteries, catacombs and tunnels of the heart and human emotions and spirit, it is high quality, and human in its depictions. When one opens the oyster of Kareva’s poems, they will find a pearl as stunning, ethereal and elusive as a dawn, in which the sun has yet to slip above the horizon; it is there her poems glimmer with boundless meanings and interpretations, each depending on the personal characteristics of the beholder. Doris Kareva’s poetry is anything but anemic; and certainly not reserved for the female sex. Its merit is just as strong as the historical chronicle, and epic poems of anyone else.
Mircea Cartarescu – Romania – Mircea Cartarescu, is one of the most critically acclaimed and well known Romanian writers, currently at work today. He is a respected poet and prose writer, who began his literary endeavors as a rebellious poet, belonging to the ‘Blue Jean Generation.’ Yet, since begin his literary career, Cartarescu has moved beyond his youthful literary beginnings of the eighties, and has become a revered Romanian postmodernist master. His first prose work was a collection of five short stories called “Nostalgia,” which already began to show the developing themes and styles of Cartarescus later works. His most well-known and praised work however is his ‘Orbitor,’ trilogy, which had taken fourteen years to compose, and spans more than a thousand pages. The trilogy is noted for its attention to detail, fine-tuned language, and hallucinogenic prose. “Blinding: Volume 1, the Left Wing,” is the only part of the trilogy currently translated into English, and is a massive novel to get through; but the prose is sensual, vivid, surreal, engrossing and a true delight to read; though one should take their time to read it, to savour it, and its audacious romp through history, memories (envisioned, embellished, and honest), and the mythical city of Bucharest.
Olga Tokarczuk – Poland – Olga Tokarczuk has the dual pleasure of being critically acclaimed by critics, and enjoyed by readers. Before she turned to writing, Tokarczuk studied psychology at university, and is a devote disciple of Jung, whose anthropological and mystical theories and concepts to define and describe human behavior, can be seen in her work. The writer herself has described writing as an act of telling oneself fairytales, into maturity; this notion is often reflected in her work. Olga Tokarczuk is noted for her philosophical discussion, keenly observed characters and interactions, as well as her talent as a story teller. Her work is often described as magical realistic in nature; but her work, is the contrite exotic garden variety of fantastical elements in realistic settings; it takes a uniquely mystical element which is strikingly European, rather than the exotic path through the jungles of South America. Her novel “Primeval and Other Times,” utilizes the myopic and microscope village of Primeval, to observe histories judgement and its abrasive effect, all within a personal and intimate context. It is with history and predilections for mysteries beyond human understanding, in which Tokarczuk conjures her narratives, all the while remaining firmly grounded. Her work may mythologize, embellish and ponder possibilities beyond human vocabulary to describe let alone define, but it is always in tune and in check with ones experience with history—for better or for worst. Olga Tokarczuk found herself in a controversial storm, when her recent (and anticipated) novel “The Book of Jacob,” was released. Far-right Nationalists in Poland rejected the novel was slander on Polish history, for its frank discussion and depiction of Polish antisemitism, sanction slavery (though ‘Serfdom,’ is preferred), and of colonialization. This would shatter the sympathetic national image of Poland, as the underdog, who has been tossed between greater national powers, and who has always allied itself in spirit with the disposed and disenfranchised. With the “Book of Jacob,” a tome of a novel, of eighteenth-century Poland, via the perspective of a Jewish cultist Jacob—Tokarczuk usurped these notions and long maintained beliefs, with historical fact. For this, Tokcarzuk would receive death threats, and find herself in continual controversy, for her perceived defamatory remarks. The writer, however, persists, declares and maintains historical fact is fact, no matter ideology, idea, or desired historical fact one wishes to believe.
Kjell Askildsen – Norway – [ Recommended by Bror Axel Dehn; to whom I cannot thank enough. ] – Kjell Askildsen is regarded as one of the most important Norwegian writers working in the contemporary short story; he is often deemed a master of the form. His short stories, utilize minimal language and bare bone plots, to showcase human relationships at their most intimate and fraught, where moments of misunderstanding explode and crumble the foundations of time and age, which has supported the characters. His work has had a lasting impact on Scandinavian literature, as he is often considered a mentor of many new and young contemporary writers. Despite the intimate nature of the short story, and the fact that Askildsen focuses on relationships within his work, there is a, glacial permafrost which is imbedded in his work. His landscapes are derelict and almost apocalyptic in their Beckettian minimal bleakness, with similar draperies and events going through them, ashtrays and stale cigarette butts, beer, coffee, as well as funerals. In such a timeless void, deprived of coherent sense of time and place, there is little for the characters to hope for, and so they succumb sexual impulses, and dream of erotic desires to keep them company. In his machine like prose, with its repetitive mantras, and steely accuracy, now rusted by time and fate, but not forgotten; Kjell Askildsen presents the plight of the contemporary human: continually envisioning and craving for the warmth and intimacy of companionship, but is thwarted by misunderstandings, and in the end left disenfranchised and disposed in a world deprived of such luxuries, simply by human failure and fault.
Fleur Jaeggy – Switzerland (Italian language) – Fleur Jaeggy is one of those unique discoveries, one just happens to stumble upon, and in that ponderous discovery, one observes a group of admires who have already tripped at the feet of an unknown master, and are seasoned in their adoration and praise. Yet it’s best to stutter some statement, some thanks of some sort, through jittery teeth, then to remain silent. It is difficult to discern, whether or not Jaeggy encourages herself to be overlooked in comparison to other writes, and her biography is a sparse point form statement of facts, which has no overall narrative web. In similar point form fashion: Fleur Jaeggy is a Swiss born/Italian language writer; she was born in Zurich (Switzerland) and currently resides in Milano (Itlay), with her husband Roberto Calasso—who is considered a literary institution in his own right, and it could be presumed eclipses his wife’s literary achievements. Jaeggy is also an accomplished translator of: Thomas de Quincey and Marcel Schwob. Her work is a marriage of styles and genres. Her novels are known to possess qualities of an essay and to have a language like that of a prose poem. Her short stories are often given similar recognition with regards to its blend of poetic language, essayist analysis and prose narrative. In relation to her husband, Fleur Jaggy is a hidden gem and a secretive monumental writer, whose talents and work are often overlooked by the reading public and publishing industry.
Juan Marsé – Spain/Catalan – Translations and by extension translated authors, are at times picked like cherries for fashionable reasons—let’s be honest shall we: it’s not all about intellectual or academic pursuits. Publishing is after all a business venture, and businesses by their mandate are formed and function to make a profit. Any praise for academic or intellectual pursuits or promotion, is just secondary, and a nice candied violet on the cake. Juan Marsé is a victim of publishing and translation fashion and seasons. He was a popular writer in the nineteen-seventies, he was translated into English, where he was praised for his forthright stance against Franco’s fascist regime, and was herald as the most authentic and powerful voice of post-Civil War Spain. Then time and history step in: Franco died, fascism fell, and left was chow and cheerio after all. Though, it would be unjust to state Marsé’s dust collecting space on a bookshelf is solely to blame on profit driven publishers and ignorant English language readers; the author himself is renowned for his own slow pace at writing. Though, as many state in his defense, the fact that he takes the time to write so slowly is why his work is expertly crafted. Juan Marsé has been called: one of the greats, and though his output is small, and his productivity is slow, he is renowned in Spain for his novels, short stories, journalistic activities, as well as his screenplays. In two-thousand and eight, Juan Marsé was awarded the Cervantes Prize (often called the Spanish Nobel), and at the time, there was renewed hope his work would once again, fall into literary fashion—alas, besides one book being published four years ago, Juan Marsé remains both obscure and unknown. Then again who doesn’t enjoy the ceremonious: “who?” at five in the morning? May the underdog always have their champions.
Viivi Luik – Estonia – Some writers sit dormant for many years. Be it they are hindered by writers block, mocked by the blank page, not prepared for codifying their thoughts through pen to paper, or life is just not adjusted yet to allocate and afford the time to dream and write. While others, with a lion heart, take the pen with confidence and scribble away, and publish without fear. Viivi Luik, made her debut as a poet when she was eighteen years old, in the booming Golden Era of Estonian Literature in the nineteen-sixties. Since then, Luik has gone on to publish numerous collections of poems and three novels. Her prose is riddled with lyricism, symbolism, and is noted for its attention to detail. Her debut novel “The Seventh Spring of Peace,” was noted for disrupting the illusion of the idyll perfect Soviet childhood. The novel depicts a young child’s observations through the Estonian countryside as it’s riddled with abandoned farms, communal hysteria, and forest brothers (rebels and resistance fighters) who roam the woods like storybook monsters; all contrary to the usual propaganda which propagated the utopian and ideal Soviet childhood. Despite the political elements of the novel, it shared Viivi Luik’s position as a poet, where she was noted for being rather apolitical or disinterested in politics. Rather, her poetry focused on the perceptions of the world through juxtaposition of images and contexts; from the nature of the countryside, riddled with its laborious work and tranquility; to the hustle and bustle of exhausting urban life. Viivi Luik has been described as a: ‘canary poet,’ often because she has been described as having the ability to sense the changing airs in a socio-political context, and her work often reflects these subtle disruptions in the air. Though this gives her the impression of an oracle; Luik is keenly aware of how her work, her career as a writer, and herself as an individual are unique in the world. She straddles two worlds, being from (north) Eastern Europe: the former grey, stagnate world of failed communism and the soviet system; to a thriving democratic nation, which is a model of e-commerce, technology, and has one of the most stable economies in the EU. On these grounds, Viivi Luik is aware of how her poetry and prose, is able to straddle the past and the present as a juxtaposition of new political freedom vs former collective fear; but also is capable of airing caution, to cheap ideals and disposable luxuries.
Henrik Nordbrandt – Denmark – Before her death in two-thousand and nine, Inger Christensen was considered a heavy contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Christensen was a marvel of poetry, whose themes were universal (death, love, fear, powerlessness), but discussed in a unique poetic format, with acute philosophical perception. Nobel Laureate, Herta Müller has praised and spoke warmly of the poet, whose charisma and warm personality was enchanting. Yet time and waiting has proven consequential once again, as Christensen would pass away without the Nobel nod. A contemporary of Christensen, Henrik Nordbrandt, is considered a hallmark of Danish poetry, with an exotic flavor. Nordbrandt studied eastern languages when he attended university, and since becoming a full time writer has lived in the Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, and now Spain). His poems deal with emptiness, love, yearning, absence, and death, among many others; but despite the solemn nature of his themes, his poems are noted for taking a somewhat upbeat or cheerful tone. It is with great thanks to, Bror Axel Dehn, that I’ve researched Henrik Nordbrandt. Bror Axel Dehn describes Nordbrandt’s poetry as a marriage between classical lyrical traditions with a almost childlike perspective. Though he admitted, he has an ambivalent relationship towards, Nordbrandt, he admitted that when the poet reaches his strong striking points, he often hits the mark and tune with delicate grace and clear vision of poetic perspective. Thank-you Bror!
Gyrðir Elíasson – Iceland – Iceland is renowned for its ancient literary sagas. Tales of heroism, romanticism, mythology and folklore, all wrapped up in historical epicism. Gyrðir Elíasson could not be further from his literary predecessors. Elíasson’s, work is physically noted for being short and condescend. His work is noted for being precise in its language, using minimal words to achieve macro impact. Despite being physically smaller in comparison to other contemporary novels, Gyrðir Elíasson’s work is not myopic in its scope; rather in its condescended format, Elíasson rivals and trumps other novelists who require four hundred plus pages to make their point. Gyrðir Elíasson began writing poetry, and published his first collection: “Red and Black Suspenders,” in nineteen-eighty three, before moving to prose in nineteen-eighty seven with: “The Walking Squirrel.” Despite finding acclaim with his novels and short stories, Elíasson, refers to himself as a poet first, and a prose writer second. His poetic leanings and debut are perhaps what makes his work linguistically and lyrically dexterous. His ability to maximize minimal with the greatest reward, showcases his early poetry, as well as the beautiful yet simple language of his prose. His novels are known for depicting the mundane invaded by an ethereal dream world, where the characters and narrators are haunted or left confused by the surreal, supernatural or dream like logic which has overtaken their life for the briefest of moments. Despite this, Elíasson rejects being called a magical realist; and as he has matured as writer, his stories have almost abandoned the earlier blend of dream and reality; and now almost appear as motionless stories dealing with mundane concepts—but only on the surface—as deep below lies a undercurrent of psychological probing and existential pondering. With his acrobatic and poetic use of language, and his ability condenses his narratives to manageable sizes, it is no wonder Gyrðir Elíasson is noted as a grand stylist of contemporary Icelandic literature; as well as a short story master. In two-thousand and eleven he was awarded the Nordic Councils Literature Prize for his short story collection: “Milli trjánna,” or “Between the Trees.” In these regards, Gyrðir Elíasson is much like his epicist and saga writing literary predecessors, but rather then detailing his sagas in volumes and large tomes, riddled with poetry and grand narratives, his work is minute in detail, but grand in its hidden glacial depth.
Pierre Michon – France – Michon is noted for his dense and intense prose, which has been described more in tune with poetry, than it is with prose. Don’t be discouraged, his work is not necessarily poetic babble; though it does require patience, and often only offers slight glimpses of a narrative arch or story to tell. His work may be more interested in language and the flexibility of it, over the classic or conventional methods of telling a story, he is still a prose writer still. Michon has been described as a literary portraitist, carefully scribbling with his pen the exact and necessary details to present a fulfilled portrait of an individual, historical scene or artist at work, filling their niche. Pierre Michon’s novel are often microscopic in scope, zooming in to the microcosm of the universe in relation to the macrocosmic world and universe that engulf its. His debut novel “Small Lives,” details eight strangers biographies, as they related to the narrator; the prose was lushes, but frustrating, rattling off with nouns, verbs, adjectives and often creative and witty wordplay; but also the musicality of his work, which be seen when read out loud (though this may not translate well). Pierre Michon is one of those overlooked and passed over, masters of contemporary French literature. In style and themes, Pierre Michon is the complete opposite to Patrick Modiano. Modiano is known for his gossamer prose, and his work which excavates the past, and seeks to present a cartographic image of a Paris of ghosts and shadows. Pierre Michon on the other hand is known for its poetic prose which obscures its meaning, and requires often slow and patient reading, in order to discover all the hidden gems which are hidden throughout; whereas Modiano offers no answers to his proposed questions.
Javier Marias – Spain – Javier Marias, is one of Spain’s most renowned, recognized, and established writers, with international recognition and appeal—especially towards English language readers, as he has studied English philology, and translated some of the classics of English literature into Spanish, as well as lectured at Oxford on translation. Marias is the son of a Spanish philosopher was often persecuted by Franco’s regime, and was even imprisoned. Do to the hostility of home, Marias and his family would move to the United States briefly, as his father lectured at numerous universities. Javier Marias, though, was a literary prodigy, he wrote his first mature short story at the age of fourteen, which appeared in his collection “While the Women are Sleeping,” and wrote his first novel when he was seventeen, and then published his second novel while he was studying in university. Along with his accomplishments of translating—which Marias states, helped inform his writing—he has become one of the most important Spanish language writers at work in contemporary Spain. His novels are often seen as postmodern pastiches, taking their inspiration from numerous literary and creative sources.
António Lobo Antunes – Portugal – António Lobo Antunes is a Portuguese postmodernist master of prose. His novels follow in a similar fashion of other postmodernist writers such as: Samuel Beckett, Thomas Bernhard, and László Krasznahorkai. Antunes’s work is known for being long and exhaustive. His novels are especially well known for being difficult to read, as they the form of the stream of consciousness monologue. The monologues which narrate his novels are known to employee long and winding sentences, where they release their vitriolic perspective on the reader. Generally, António Lobo Antunes’s novels recount some historical reference or experience either with war of oppression—reflecting both the authors experience, as a doctor in Algeria during Portugal’s colonial wars, and his experience under Salazar’s dictatorship. His novels are often described as an old man, who releases and unburdens himself of his experiences of violence and death at any listeners or person who has an ear to spare, and time to tolerantly pass, with a man on the verge of madness, begging to relinquish his experiences of mankind at its worst. This often violent and somber perspective comes from António Lobo Antunes work as a doctor, both Portugal’s colonial wars, Angola’s war of independence, as well as his later work as a psychiatrist. His prose is noted to being influenced and reminiscent of William Faulkner, and his themes are grand, while his format difficult but rewarding—that if you get past the vitriolic onslaught of mankind at its worst.
László Krasznahorkai – Hungary – László Krasznahorkai has been referred to as the contemporary master of the apocalypse, a badge the writer himself does not pin to his jacket, but is pinned there by others and stays, as it radiates a certain foreboding presence. Krasznahorkai is often lauded as some underground rock star or singer; he’s an open secret, one is herald by young educated people, as some prophet of the postmodern abyss—whether or not Krasznahorkai, accepts this image is unclear; but his literary talents, recognition and striking ability to pluck the write cords with readers cannot be dismissed or mistaken. His prose is noted for its long winding sentences which go on for pages and pages at a time. One of his translators (George Szirtes) had commented on his prose, referring to it as a, slow moving lava of text. His works are generally noted for being bleak to the point they are funny; but also difficult and demanding, requiring exceptional patience, tolerance, and extraordinary amounts of stamina, in which the reader runs the marathon through, and traverses the apocalyptic (and at times comedic) landscape of his novels. Personally, my reader relationship with László Krasznahorkai has been lukewarm. Though I can recognize his importance and his talents; I often find his work solipsistic, and continuously absorbed within itself only to implode and absorb the shrapnel, to repeat itself. His sentences and work is harrowing, oppressive; where the reader is always at risk of suffocating. Yet, his work cannot be denied as expertly crafted, monumental, and magnanimous—even if it is uncompromising. László Krasznahorkai, is one of the most beloved, respected, admired, and critically acclaimed writers at work today. He is original, unique, and uncompromising in form and content, all a reader requires is patience, tolerance and stamina, in order to pluck and harvest the true merits of Krasznahorkai’s work.
Claudio Magris – Italy – Claudio Magris – Italy – Scholar, essayists and novelist, Magris is known for his far reaching historical novels. He is most well known for his non-fiction book “Danube,” which traces the disputed origins of the Danube River, to its final destination. The travelogue/historical analysis traces, the cultural and literary histories of the countries, in which the river passes through. It also adds human elements and stories, into the book, through folktales and poignant observations. Magris in the novel has an eye for details, which give each visited town, and city its own personality. The language itself is poetic and graceful flowing with the Danube’s course with ease. His novels are equally as intense and philosophical in their discussions of the culture and history of the twentieth century.
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 Drajo Jančar is a novelist and short story writer, he is also known for his essays and political engagements and civic commentaries.
Dag Solstad – Norway – Like many young writers, Dag Solstad, began his literary career with great controversy in his youth, by writing blatant political narratives, which sympathized and even promoted Lenin-Marxist ideals. Sand and time have the marvelous ability to smoothing out the coarse and pompous edges of youth, and soon Dag Solstad would abandon his less then bashful political themes for more philosophical and existential ruminations. His prose and his work, is considered the best of Norway, and the gold standard of comparison. Solstad’s mature work is known for focusing on the existential crisis’s of the everyday man who deals with abandonment, the passage of time, the frustrations of life, and the attempts at creating meaning in another wise meaningless world, deprived of any universal concepts or contexts of higher sense of meaning beyond the ones in which the individual is responsible to give it. Yet, what if the individual is incapable of giving their life meaning, beyond the pointlessness of job and paycheque? Dag Solstad ponders and wonders about these everyday existential individuals who continuously find themselves abandoned and realizing their life has past and left them stranded on the flotsam and jetsam of life’s shipwreck, adrift in a sea apathetic and disinterested in their course of life. His work has been called philosophical, political, and experimental—all of which does not matter to Solstad, whose peculiar and particular breed of writing and ironic sense of realism, continuous to provoke the imagination and ask questions about human destiny in the world.
Mikhail Shishkin – Russia – Russian literature has long been known as the grand gold standard of literature. Its golden writers from: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Pushkin, and Anton Chekhov, retain their relevancy and their provocative powers to this day. Though Russia’s history is noted for its darker periods, and the Soviet Union, may have crushed many intellectual persuits, the Silver Age preserved with: Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, and Ivan Bunin; which soon passed its moonlight glow on to later twentieth century writers: Joseph Brodsky, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Marina Tsvetaeva. The torch from its radiant golden sun, to its gentle silver moon, passed on and on. Today, Mikhail Shishkin is considered one of the most prominent and acclaimed writers of twenty-first century Russian literature. Shishkin is well revered for his beautiful lush language, which is praised for its lyricism and delivered magisterial control. Mikhail Shishkin is noted for tackling large themes and preoccupations in his work such as history, time, love (ever eternal), death and the resurrecting properties of memory. His work are grand scale epics, echoing the Golden Age of Russian literature; he is quoted to saying his major Russian influences are: Leo Tolstoy, who taught him not to be afraid of naivety. Anton Chekhov, who passed on his love and devotion to humanity. As well as Ivan Bunin, who encouraged him to never compromise. Alongside his influences, Shishkin has been compared to James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov. Despite being praised as of the most important and influential Russian writers at work today, Shishkin’s relationship with Russia is complicated. He currently resides in Zurich, Switzerland, where he has worked as an interpreter for refugees. Mikhail Shishkin is a staunch critic of Putin and his government, calling it a regime riddled with corruption and filled with criminals. Despite his universally daunting themes, his complex use of language written with lyrical elegance; Shishkin is known for probing emotional destinies alongside the ethereal elements, which rule with intangible presence, and yet all too real authority. He has been described as a living classic, and an exceptional example of a writer who blends the Golden Age realism and romanticism of Russian literature, with postmodern sensibilities, as he seeks to broaden the Russian dialogue of literature once again, away from the political paranoia, prisons, and gulags of the Soviet Union.
Petr Král – Czech Republic (or Czechia) – 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.
Péter Nadas – Hungary – Peter Nadas, has often been compared to Marcel Proust, for his preoccupation with memory and times passage; but also perhaps because of his obscenely long novels; “Parallel Stories,” alone is extraordinarily large, with a page of one-thousand five hundred and twenty pages, and took the author eighteen years to write. Both his parents were illegal Communists during World War II, but survived the war, and found stability under the Communist dictatorship. Nadas’s father, was head of a government department, before being accused of embezzlement, though he was exonerated of all charges and accusations brought against him, he would commit suicide after the ordeal; his mother, died when Peter was thirteen succumbing to an illness. After his father’s suicide at sixteen, Nadas was an orphan. He trained to be a journalist and a photographer, and for a few years worked as journalist and a photographer, before freelancing and writing fulltime. Since then, Peter Nadas has been of the most renowned and well known Hungarian of contemporary literature, along with László Krasznahorkai. Much like his contemporary (Krasznahorkai) is known for his doorstopper novels, and his uncompromising style, which again requires readers to armed with stamina, tolerance and patience, as they tread the memory laden works, as they probe the historical and the personal.
Australia & Oceania –
Gerald Murnane – Australia – Gerald Murnane’s name is spoken in hushed whispers, among many. He’s a dark horse and a cult figure, known for his sparse bibliography, his eccentric qualities, and his uncompromising works. Murnane is often described as the quintessential Australian writer, as he has never left the country, and rarely explores his own, which is quite contrary to many Australian concepts, as they are known as cosmopolitan travelers, before returning home to settle down. Not Murnane, he’s a homebody, who has found his place on the earth, and quietly rests there. When his work has been released, its quietly reviewed, praised vehemently, but the praise does not fly far—despite often referring to the author and his work as genius and masterpieces. His work is noted for being paradoxical and contrary, nonchalantly refusing to fit into any concrete idea of what it should be or what it represents. For example, on one hand, Gerald Murnane’s work is described as plain, matter of fact, on the borders of being frosty in spirit, before the reverse is annunciated; that Murnane’s work is intricately lyrical to the point it was moving, in its continual distortion of personal realities, based on a individuals sight, rather than the preconceived notions of reality. His work is often described as fitting into the notion of realism at one point, then paddling back re-state the argument that it’s anti-realism, with many postmodernist tropes. The truth is: Gerald Murnane rejects literary tropes and fashions, and instead writes the most unique stories and short novels, in prose which shifts from extreme to extreme, in realistic but dreamlike prose, which always relies on the individuals perceptions of the world. It is truly no wonder, why he is considered a cult favourite, a dark horse, and a genius on the borderlands of the conventional.
Asia & the Indo-Sub continent –
Ý Nhi (Hoang Thi Ý Nhi) – Vietnam – Nhi is considered one of the most influential and important postwar writers of Vietnam (and I do suspect postwar, means post-Vietnam war). Her poetry is considered graceful and gentle, infused with the human spirit, of an individual who values the fragility and sanctity of human life. The poets informed outlook of the fragile and sanctity of human life is informed of her experience as a poetic observer of the Vietnam war, where saw the lives of many squandered and snuffed out in the machinery of war, fueled by ideology, and a desire to offer oneself up as sacrifice for the convoluted idea of the common good. Ý Nhi’s poetry is noted for being gentle, touching, thoughtful, simple, intellectual, quiet and wise, with the slightest dash of bitterness. Her poetic language is simple, but boldly philosophical as it continually and adamantly searches for some meaning for life. Ý Nhi is often noted as a modern revolutionary poet, who cannot be ignored; as her poetry is of highest pedigree, and currently no women in South East Asia can river her thoughtful and simple poems, which reflect a woman who has experience great sorrows, framed in the context careless history.
Shuntaro Tanikawa – Japan – Shuntaro Tanikawa entered the Japanese poetry scene, with hurricane force. He is considered a changing wind in Japanese postwar poetry. The older postwar poet of Japanese literature, were concerned with melancholy, death, despair, pain and dishonor; the air of those poets was thick with the iron of blood, the steel of bullets, the wasted fervor of propaganda, the bittersweet taste of loss and the burns of radiation. Tanikawa on the contrary went in a completely different direction then the preceding post-war poets, whose poems were filled with death and angst; Tanikawa began to shift the poetry away from the scars of war, and began to look towards a progressive, brighter, and democratic future for Japan, which he articulated and annunciated in his poetry. This broadminded and optimistic outlook on a possible future gathered Shuntaro Tanikawa a wide readership in Japan, who found the poet a breath of fresh air in contrast to the battle wounded poets, who lamented the loss and defeat during the Second World War. Since his debut: “Alone in Two Billion Light Years,”—Tanikawa, has published over sixty volumes of poetry and translations. His translations, include “The Peanuts,” and “Mother Goose Rhymes,” into Japanese; beyond his translation, Shuntaro Tanikawa has also been an active promoting and supporting Japanese poets into translations of other languages, in order to help them cross new linguistic frontiers, and to find new readers in different languages and cultural backgrounds. Shuntaro Tanikawa would be a deserving Nobel Laureate, for his progressive, broad perspective of his poetry, which spoke to the Japanese spirit of resilience, but also for his willingness to promote cross cultural exchanges, of different people from different societies and countries, all in the name of the undying collaborative spirit of what it means to be human.
Pai Hsien-yung – Taiwan – Pai Hsien-yung is an influential Chinese language writer. Admittedly, I had only discovered Hsien-yung, when researching Mu Xin many years ago, only to discover Mu Xin had died (though he would have been a worthy Nobel Laureate); yet upon reading about Pai Hsien-yung in comparison with Mu Xin, were similar, despite not knowing each other, or corresponding with each other. Their lives, however, did take similar trajectories, and they both found themselves at odds with a system, which was infantile, revolutionary, and paranoid. After the Communists won the Chinese Civil War, Pai Hsien-yung, and his family were forced to flee the country, as their father was a nationalist general. They would resettle in Taiwan. During his university studies, in English literature, Hsien-yung along with fellow students, founded a literary magazine (called: ‘Modern Literature), where his earlier stories were published. His work is known for blending experimental modernist techniques with traditional Chinese themes and narratives. His work was socially ahead of its time. His novel “Crystal Boys,” is noted for frankly discussing homosexuality openly, with the narrator of the novel being a young gay runaway boy, who openly discusses his sexual encounters within the city of Taipei, but also exploring the dark unlit corners of the city, which residents often chose to overlook. Needless to say the novel was considered controversial and unacceptable. The late C T Hsia, once remarked that the greatest practitioners of the short story were Eileen Chang and Pai Hsien-yung—I would add Mu Xin, but I am bias on that note—the reason C T Hsia had mentioned Hsien-yung, as excellent representative of the Chinese short story, is because of his collection of stories called: “Taipei People.” ‘Taipei People,” is a collection of short stories, which traces the lives and experiences of the people of Taipei, in a series of stories. It has been compared to James Joyce’s “Dubliners.” Pai Hsien-yung’s work is noted for being sophisticated, groundbreaking, melancholic, and revolutionary; he is considered one of the most influential writers of the Chinese language in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Mend-Ooyo Gombojav – Mongolia – Mend-Ooyo is one of Mongolia’s most renowned poets. He started writing poetry at the age of thirteen, and has credited his interest in writing to Dorjiin Gombojav, who would also act as his mentor. In the late nineteen-seventies Mend-Ooyo would be a founding member of the ‘Gal,’ (Fire) literary group. The group—which consisted of: Mend-Ooyo Gombojav, Ochirbatyn Dashbalbar, and D. Nyamsüren; among others—was often forced to meet in secret, as the ruling communist government was strictly opposed to group meetings. Despite their underground roots, the poets of this movement would go on and be some of the most influential poets and writers of Mongolian literature in the later twentieth century. ‘GAL,’ would later develop further into ‘Gunu,’ whose members would become the most influential members of Mongolia. Since the fall of the Communist regime, and the democratic thaw of Mongolia, Mend-Ooyo Gombojav has published over twenty other collections of poetry, novels and children’s books; his work has been translated into over thirty languages including: English, Japanese, Hungarian, Chinese, Dutch and French.
Kim Hyesoon – (South) Korea – Kim Hyesoon, has been described an engaged poet, and a revolutionary feminist poet. Her poetry themes challenge the (South) Korean opinion and perspective of women in societal standards and hierarchy. Hyesoon readily rips apart these social conventions, casts a critical eye on the socio-economic system, as the cause of the social hierarchy. Kim Hyesoon views capitalism is directly linked to (South) Korean patriarchal oppression. Her poems are noted for their visceral, violent, macabre and grotesque imagery, in which she shockingly displays the uneasy landscape of (South) Korea’s social enclosure, from the perspective of a woman. The political context which at times frames, Hyesoon’s poems, are not entirely clear, though she does criticize the (South) Korea dictatorship, with its willingness to accept neo-colonialism, and indulge itself in a steady diet of unequal capitalism, which has oppressed women the most. With that in mind, Hyesoon, readily and violently lashed out and rebelled against a system which unjustly and cruelly seeks to oppress half the population (or more), to a status of domestic and martial service, with complete dependence on men. Though her poetry is critical, controversial, visceral, viral and violent; Kim Hyesoon is well revered and respected poet, as she is engaged and actively participates in either changing the system through poetry or at least having an informed debate about the status of women within society.
Teru Miyamoto – Japan – Teru Miyamoto is one of Japan’s most widely read contemporary writers; and a certain Miyamoto fever is beginning to take hold in the rest of Asia as his work begins to be translated. In his native Japan, Miyamoto won numerous prestigious awards including the Osamu Dazi Prize, as well as the Akutagawa Prize. His work is known for dealing with the concept of lice, loss, death and karma. His novels and short stories are sent in his native Kansai region. The Kansai region depicted in Miyamoto’s work is reflected of the author’s childhood—marking his work as autobiographical in nature at times; it’s a rough blue collar, and riddled with the proletarian; though Miyamoto rounds off the edges sly humour and humanistic approach to the neighborhood. Teru Miyamoto is considered a keen social observer, with attention to the down trodden, the working class, in which he gives his sympathies but displays with honest merit.
Can Xue – China – Can Xue is one of China’s most respected, though controversial writers. Xue is controversial more on grounds of style then political discourse or dissidence. Her style is surreal, riddled with contradictions; which easily reflects her pen name, whose duel meaning showcases complete opposites of itself—on one half it means dirty snow which restlessly refuses to melt; while on the other it means the purest snow on the mountains. Her work is similar in fashion, as it the surreal logic and questionable realities, are always contradicting itself, as the plot continually sheds its old skin in favour of a new one. Can Xue is often considered the Chinese Kafka, and is the most experimental writer at work in contemporary Chinese literature. This is all rather remarkable considering Xue, had no real formal education in her youth, as her parents intellectuals of the time, were deemed ‘ultra-rightists,’ by the reigning paranoia and communist ideology of the time, and after her father was detained and sent away for alleged anti-communist behaviors, his family would suffer the same fate. The Cultural Revolution put a permanent end to Can Xue’s education, which had not surpassed primary school. Despite these limitations, these hindrances, these grotesque displays of persecution, Can Xue resigned herself to something greater. She was studious child, even without formal education, Xue would read English and Russian classics; and would begin formulating her literary endeavors and styles, which she calls “Soul Literature.” Her literary output has not been well received by literary critics in China, who once claimed that Can Xue was certifiably insane, because her work was so subversive, surreal, and experimental in nature. Now, they remain quiet or silent on the subject of her work; but as of late many have paid tribute to the writer, recognizing her international appeal, success, and perhaps their own myopic understanding of her work, and the endless possibilities she presents within it. Can Xue is one of the most experimental, innovative, daring and uncompressing writers at work today.
Moon Chung-hee – (South) Korea – Moon Chung-hee is considered one of the most important poets of postwar (South) Korea. Though literary critics often define Chung-hee’s position as a: influential postwar female poet. Yet, where others would find insult in being designated a ‘female poet,’ – Moon Chung-hee has embraced the position, but has used the title to change the concept and context of what a ‘female poet,’ means. The simplified understanding would have been that the poet would be preoccupied with sentimental love songs, and odes to domestic bliss. Moon Chung-hee, rejected the notion. Her poetry was written from the perspective of a woman, but the themes were not focused on the sentimental love lyrics, or dirges mourning unrequited love, or sonnets and requiems praising domestic bliss, with its servitude to the father, and the children. Rather, Chung-hee’s wrote poems, which pondered existential questions, in a self-conscious manner, with reflections infused with a feminine perspective. Her work is also noted for its social conscious attitude, once again from a feminine perspective. All, this proves that feminine poetry, and female poets, are not limited or confined to the idea that they are two write, sentimental and cheap poetry; but rather can be informed about socio-political issues, infused with the acts of the body, question and ponder existential conundrums, and seek to bring greater meaning to life beyond domestic chores.
Yoko Ogawa – Japan – there can be no denying Haruki Murakami’s shadow of influence rests—be it uncomfortably or not—on Japanese literature. Many decry the author; while other others defend him—all the while Murakami himself remains either reticent on such matters or indifferently silent. Because of this influence, which appears to depict contemporary Japan away from its illustrious literary history; there has been great hesitation (and difficulty) in finding Japanese writers who are either: minimally influenced by Murakami or are out rightly independent from it. Yoko Ogawa does not hide the fact Murakami has had some influence over her, but her work is strikingly independent of his. Where Murakami is noted for including a dream like magical realism in his work; Ogawa is noted for her more grotesque, violent, macabre and strange(r) narratives. Her prose is straightforward and clean; but also in some moment’s poetic, as well as probing of the sub-consciousness of her characters. Nobel Laureate, Kenzaburō Ōe has offered his own praise of the writer: ‘Yoko Ogawa is able to give expression to the most subtle workings of human psychology in prose that is gentle yet penetrating,’ and the endearment by her French language readership, has quelled most of my skepticism of Yoko Ogawa, being just another Murakami exotic flavor. Rather she is a completely different writer; one who is penning and drafting peculiar, subtle and poignant narratives that explore the grotesque, the tender, and the disturbed layers of the human experience.
Duong Thu Huong – Vietnam – Dissidence—for whatever reason—may be right (context suitable and favourable), but it is generally not rewarded. Duong Thu Huong can comment on the unrewarding nature of dissidence. Since the Vietnam War, Vietnam has been Communist, and Duong Thu Huong was a part of the Communist Party of Vietnam until nineteen-eighty nine, when she was abruptly expelled from the party, over her criticism of corruption within the government; she would later be imprisoned by the government for her critical writings. She would lose her job as a prize-winning screenwriter, and her works would be banned from publication, forcing her to translate in order to make a living. During her time in Vietnam, Duong Thu Huong was forbidden from facilitating or forming any group, movement, or party, which would be seen as politically autonomous to the government; in order to promote her ideas of democratic freedom, creative expression, and the basic ideas of human dignity she would always be forced to turn to her pen, and then suffer the repercussions from writing. Solace did come for Duong Thu Huong in two-thousand and six, when she was finally able to leave the country. Now she lives in Paris, France and is free to write, promote, criticize and provoke change through literature. Duong Thu Huong’s work is noted for being critical and subtle. Her stories may take the form of simple tales, but the simplicity hides the fire, criticism, social commentary and depth which lurk beneath its surface. Now free of political interference, Duong Thu Huong is free to explore the independence of the pen, to provoke, promote, and propagate creative expression, freedom, independence and individuality, without the fear of repercussion or prosecution.
Tseveendorjin Oidov – Mongolia – Tseveendorjin Oidov is often called: Mongolia’s Modern Voice. He is a renowned contemporary poet, sculptor and painter—who is well known for designing the Mongolian state emblem (which is a beautiful piece of artistic achievement). Oidov belonged to the ‘Gal,’ (Fire) much like Mend-Ooyo Gombojav, where he was encouraged to develop his own personal literary and artistic sense and style. Oidov certainly took this idea, and has since turned his poetry in a more personal narrative, in which he presents his worldview, free of political interference, nostalgic pitfalls of memory, and fashionable poetics of the time. Yet, his modernistic tendencies rely on his formalistic style and his refined imagery. Despite eing an accomplished poet, Oidov is not highly regarded as a poet first. Rather Oidov is known first and foremost as a artist (by this I mean painter and sculptor) before his literary work has been noted; this however, stems from Oidov’s lack of attention or rather his complete disinterest in popular acclaim and success. Despite his complete dismissal of popular critical acclaim, he is considered one of the country’s foremost writers; and his poetry is now making its headway into other languages, including English.
Yang Mu – Taiwan – it was with many thanks to one of you my Dear Gentle Readers, who signed his/her comment with ‘CY,’ that I came across the Taiwanese writer Yang Mu. ‘CY,’ was (or is) kind enough to inform me; that on Goran Malmquist’s blog, other than Mo Yan; Yang Mu is the most discussed writer. Goran Malmquist is a member of the Swedish Academy and a renowned Sinologist—I’ve highly suspected that it was Malmquist and Kenzaburō Ōe who were the advocates in Mo Yan’s Nobel. Yang Mu though is a prolific writer comprising of: fifteen collections of poems, fifteen collections of prose, and one play in verse; and has been translated into numerous languages including: English, German, French and of course Swedish. In Goran Malmquist’s words, “Yang Mu is not only one of the greatest poets and essayists in the Chinese language, but also a preeminent scholar of Classical Chinese poetry.” He is noted for his fused poetic influences of classical Chinese poetry with western culture and ideas. Mu’s poetry is noted for its romanticism and humanistic concerns, but also for its perspective on social issues. These have brought him international acclaim, which has led him to receive the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature (being the first poet and Taiwanese writer to receive the award) as well as the Cikada prize. Yang Mu’s poetry is unlike anything I have read in English as of late. His poetry is graceful and at ease, giving the impression that each composed poem was conceived and documented with no effort, and is completely deprived of the poetic pyrotechnics and literary gimmicks employed by less than sure armature writers or poets.
Bei Dao – China – The Misty Poets were the poetic enemy of the Cultural Revolution, and by extension the Communist Party of China, and by further degree of extension its propagator: Mao Zedong. The Misty Poets are noted for the obscure nature of their poems; they employed ambiguities and a hazy language, in which they could hide the meaning of their poetry upon first glance. Precedent speaks highly that if it is one thing any authoritarian power despises: it is the ability or goal of anyone or piece of work (literary or artistic in nature) to make the populace to think, because if the populace can think, then they can question, and questioning the situation or the reality, is a dangerous action. If people question they begin to question the legitimacy of the government, and may over throw it by violent acts or protest. The Misty Poets, went further than just forcing the public to think, they undermined the Cultural Revolution, they subtly protested the force fed ideals of communism, and promoted democratic thoughts. The most well-known and regarded of the Misty Poets is Bei Dao; who has been actively undermining the Chinese Communist system since he began writing poetry. Of course protest—violent or poetic—are not encouraged, and for his writings and questioning nature of the Cultural Revolution, he was sent to be re-educated as a construction labourer and eventually become indoctrinated through hard labour the ideals of Communism. It did not break his spirit or his poetic ambitions, though banned from publishing Bei Dao worked on his poetic compositions, and his political engagements did not end there either. He participated in the first Tiananmen Square protests, and was finally banned from returning to China while lecturing abroad during the second wave of protests. Since his exile though, Bei Dao has been busy publishing, lecturing, and continually promoting the democratic ideas of which his poems express, for the people of China to embrace. Bei Dao’s stance however, is not political as it is liberating and freedom seeking. It seeks to brush of the restraints of politics and encourage creative (and poetic) autonomy.
Hwang Sok-yong – (South) Korea – Hwan Sok-yong observed the tragedies and realities war. During the Vietnam War, he was charged in ‘Clean Up,’ Operations, where individuals would come in and erase (‘clean up,’) the civilian massacres that had taken place. More often than not this meant disposing of the dead in careless manners, without thought and dignity, as long as the evidence was erased. Despite the gruesome nature of the work, this would provide and provoke Hwan Sok-yong to ask himself philosophical questions, as well as compare his situation with that of his father and his generation, who were conscripted into the Imperial Japanese army in order to strengthen Japan’s national interest in the Asian sphere; Sok-yong, would then question his own conscription into the Korean army which was to assist in strengthening America’s national interests and influence in the region. These experiences, these questions, would be the influences for his most famous and first short story: “The Pagoda.” Since then, Hwan 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 twentieth century of the nation, being split in two, and used as chess piece by larger foreign powers in a game of international politics.
Li Ang – Taiwan – the term ‘feminist writer,’ is a paradoxical one, as it defeats the purpose of what a ‘feminist,’ writer should attempt to achieve. Rather than being just a writer, the term itself, seeks to exemplify and magnify the writer as an individual who presents and portrays issues of a woman’s nature, making the writer not a creature of letters or literary aspirations, but rather pigeon holes them as nothing more than a woman writer, which may have adverse connotations. Li Ang is often defined as a ‘feminist writer,’ as she is noted for her idiosyncratic and penetrating portraits of gender politics in contemporary Taiwanese society. Her work is noted for being candid and vicious in portrayals of the plight of women, and is known for pushing transgressive boundaries in a bold and unapologetic manner, often placing her in taboo territory. Despite this, Li Ang, has been writing since the age of sixteen, when she embarked on her literary career, and since then has published over twenty novels and short story collections. Despite the impertinent nature of her work, which vivisects and examines the gender politics Taiwanese society and the psychosexuality of her characters, she is internationally renowned and acclaimed, for breaking down oppressive social barriers, and displaying the putrid patriarchal system(s) which are still at work. If one of the goals of literature is to make you uncomfortable, then Li Ang is dancing in the fire.
Ko Un – (South) Korea – For years now, (South) Korea has been lobbying and desiring a Nobel Laureate in Literature, in part recognition of its culture, literary history, and of course it cements or presents the nation as a first class player on the world stage. Of course, as most know—to all informed about the awards; the Nobel Prizes are not Olympics, they are not panhandling to nations or governments, they awarded to individuals who have achieved great mastery or accomplished great work in their fields; be it Literature, Medicine, Chemistry, Physics, Peace or Economics. Yet, for (South) Korea, Ko Un has been considered the sole candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. National panhandling aside—Ko Un is quite a poet. His oeuvre encompasses a variety of poetic schools, thoughts, styles and formats. His poetry ranges from zen poems, imagistic reflections, personal epiphanies, to historical epics, as well to character sketches; such as his Thirty volume series of poems: “Ten Thousand Lives,” where the poet immortalizes people he has met in a poem. Despite his large scope of his poetic achievements, Ko Un’s life has often been usurped by political upheaval and personal difficulties. He was repeatedly imprisoned by the (South) Korean dictatorship, for his political protests and democratic sentiments. During the Korean War, he was employed as a grave digger, before a brief stint as a Buddhist monk. It was not until the eighties that Ko Un would begin his serious devotion to writing poetry, and produce a large, varied, and diverse bibliography; after which he would gain international recognition and national honours. Today, Ko Un is revered, respected and recognized as a poet of great talent and humanistic thought.
South America & Latin America; with the Caribbean –
Kamau Brathwaite – Barbados – Kamau Brathwaite is one of those powerful voices and influential voices of Caribbean literature. Brathwaite coined the term and concept of ‘Nation Language,’ to refer to the prescribed language idiosyncrasies of writers and poets from the Caribbean and African diaspora, which emancipates itself from the imperial language of English, and its limited connotations and perspectives. It should come to no surprise that Kamau Brathwaite is considered one of the leading experts of this linguistic and literary mode of expression, and would therefore utilize the conceived linguistic nature in his own poems and work, in which he discusses the effects of colonialism in a post-colonial world, but also discussing how the historical colonial outlooks and perspectives facilitate contemporary colonial attitudes despite the dissolution of the ruling empire, simply on grounds of convention and tradition, which only leads to the discussion of personal injury of the individual or people(s), in relation to their colonial history, and their new found autonomy in spirit and in verbal verification, but not always a reality. Kamau Brathwaite is a well accomplished and highly decorated poet, with an illustrious career. He has won numerous prizes including the Griffin Prize for Poetry and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Now at the age of eighty-seven, it is not impossible to see Brathwaite being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature; it is however, an unlikely prospect. Despite this, Kamau Brathwaite is one of those spectacular poets who grapples with the historical in relation with the personal.
Rodrigo Rey Rosa – Guatemala – The late Roberto Bolano praised Rodrigo Rey Rosa as being one of the best writers of his generation; high praise from the legendry and deceased writer. Roberto Bolano was one of those post-boom revolutionary writers. Through most of his life, Bolano lived, breathed and often starved for his literary ambitions, and bibliophilic love. He was a vagabond writer: born in Chile, spent years in Mexico, and wrote his masterpieces in Spain, where he found success which was translated and transmitted through Europe. The Spanish language was the homeland of Roberto Bolano, which separated him for his Boom Generation predecessors, who wrote modernistic novels, depicting an exotic and magical land which still flourished after colonization retaining its own unique identity. Unlike Isabelle Allende who is a product of the Latin American Boom writers; Roberto Bolano spearheaded a postmodernist perspective which would once again reinvent Latin America’s literary image. Rodrigo Rey Rosa is more related to Roberto Bolano then he is to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes or Mario Vargas Llosa—as he carries the postmodernist torch in his work, with a keen eye for wanderlust and moving across the globe. He’s live in New York, Morocco, Germany, and Mexico and so on. Much like Bolano the rock which keeps Rodrigo Rey Rosa grounded and connected to Latin America is the Spanish language, which is more nation then it is language. His work is noted for having been influenced by the indigenous and traditional myths and legends of Latin America and North Africa. His writing itself is known to follow his own rhythm and rhyme, over contemporary schools or literary fashions of the day. This outsider and wanderlust writer gives Rosa a somewhat dark horse image; though he is a perfect writer to summarize the globalized world, and the writers place within it—language is nation over the geographical borders in which we are born into.
Homero Aridjis – Mexico – Homero Aridjis has a long list of titles, which reflects his interest, positions and life. Aridjis is a poet, prose writer, journalist, diplomat, and environmental activist. Homero Aridjis has written forty-eight plus books, ranging from his renowned poetry, to novels, short stories, non-fiction and children’s books. Yet, writing would not be considered his first vocation growing up. Homero Aridjis often proclaimed and maintained he was born twice. First, he was born (via the natural manners) to his mother and father, and then at the age of ten he was reborn, after surviving a nearly fatal shotgun accident. It was after this accident that Aridjis became an avid reader, and begun to compose poems of his own, neglecting his former childhood of playing soccer and other games, in favour of scholarly and literary pursuits. Now, he is regarded as one of the most prominent poets of Mexican literary heritage. His work is widely translated, appreciated, and recited.
Cesar Aira – Argentina – There is no denying Cesar Aira is a prolific and industrious writer, producing two to four novellas a year. Aira is known to be a professor of a unique writing style and technique, which he refers to as: ‘flight forward,’ where he bypasses edits and revisions, and begins to change the direction of his novella, when he views the work is headed towards a literary or stylistic traps or dangers. This ‘flight forward,’ technique has often be compared to theatrical improvisation, where the writes improvises or changes style or literary genre to best serve the work. This often avant-garde perspective has gathered praise and criticism. On one hand critics applauded the writer’s unique blend of contrary and shifting perspectives to offer a truly unusual view point of the world, often in surreal and humorous manners. On the other hand, detractors have criticized this style as being nothing more than postmodernist gimmick or party trick which the author parades as a literary aesthetic, but is nothing more than a continual rehash of the same old joke, where he nonchalantly wears the hat of Dadaism, the coat of surrealism, the tie of fantastic, and the shoes of quasi-nonsensical. Criticism often points at the authors reliance on his style, often removes attention from his depth and themes, which many feel are severely underdeveloped in favour of his style. No matter, however, as Cesar Aira is considered an important literary writer in the Spanish language, moving away from the Latin Boom Generation, and facilitating a multitude of genres, perspectives, and themes with every novella written and published.
Sergio Pitol – Mexico – Sergio Pitol is one of Mexico’s most prominent and acclaimed writers, though a slight outsider of the literary scene, becoming instead a one man literary institution. Pitol has been described as a contemporary of the Latin American Boom but not a member of it, always remaining distant from its blessings and its curses. Pitol is renowned for his career as a intellectual with regards to literary creation and theory, translation, as well as his novels and stories, while also being a diplomat—a cultural attaché, where he promoted Mexican culture abroad. Sergio Pitol, would best be described as writer on the run and more at home in the Spanish language then in geographical boundaries and context, as he has translated into Beijing as well as Barcelona, a student in Rome, a professor at Xalapa and Bristol, and a lengthy career as a diplomat in: Warsaw, Budapest, Paris, Prague and Moscow. His only work translated into English is his Memory Triptych: “The Art of Flight,” “The Journey,” and “The Magician of Vienna,”—a collage like autobiography, detailing his experiences abroad as a diplomat, intellectual and translator, but also his personal views on literature, and of course his life. Pitol’s literary work—especially his novels—are known for their formal experimentation, though as one critic and lover of Pitol adamantly testifies: despite the pastiche and digressions of his narratives, utilizing a multitude of techniques, styles and formats to create his work, he always rounds his work off with a narrative structure which slowly makes itself known to the reader, and it is only upon fulfilled revelation, that the reader realizes it has been there all along, salt and peppered throughout, just hidden by philosophical thoughts and scathing mocking commentary. Sergio Pitol’s literary work is stunning and diverse, always willing to explore and tread new ground, without the high pretentions of other writers of similar vein, always showcasing his robust good humour, and lively engagement with the world, both intellectually and culturally.
Frankétienne – Hati – Frankétienne has been regarded as Hati’s: Father of Letters—a wizedn man of literature, wordplay, and humanistic intellectual pursuits. For this, he has often been speculated and tipped as a winner for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Frankétienne’s literary work is known for its unusual use of language in the form of neologisms; but also for his ill-mannered depictions of vulgar sexual encounters, and brutal violence, which are common occurrences in Haiti even today. Even though Papa Doc and Baby Doc are dead, there has been little progress or change in Haiti’s political system or central control of power within the country. Haiti has been described as an unfortunate orphan of fate and change; a politically mismanaged wretch; and a depressingly third world country, which is better left ignored then acknowledged. For Frankétienne, this all must be brutally depicted, voiced, and protested. Frankétienne’s work is noted for its mystical atmosphere, and its almost voodoo folkloric roots. If Wole Soyinka was a writer influenced by the Yoruba people’s myths and folklores, in which he found a way to embody in his literary identity; Frankétienne’s violent and mystical heritage (found in his paintings, poetry and prose) stems from the Hattian voodoo traditions of Haiti and its alluringly dark intrigue which enchants the Caribbean.
Elena Poniatowska – Mexico – Elena Poniatowska is considered by many the Grand Dame of Mexican letters; but Poniatowska may view herself as more of a journalist and reporter then women of literary pursuits. Her work—especially her journalistic work—focuses on the disenfranchised of Mexican society: the underprivileged and poor; though she has a strong inclination to focus on women. Poniatowska’s fixation on the social and political disparity of Mexico, in her reportage and literary works, is often described as a social activist. It is always with irony that those who challenge and question the socio-political inequality, usually come from privileged and upper class lives— Elena Poniatowska is of no exception. Poniatowska was originally born in Paris, France to a fortunate family (her father was distantly related to the last king of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth); but she would be forced to flee Paris during the Second World War, as the Nazi’s would invade France; and so as a young girl Elena Poniatowska fled with her family to Mexico (her mother’s family originally fled Mexico during the revolution). Despite being French born and from a wealthy and fortunate background, Elena Poniatowska began to work at a magazine at the age of eighteen, where she wrote a society column and conducted interviews. Though she would not be content with discussing the latest parties, or hosting interviews exclusively, and despite the limitations of woman’s ability to work at the time, Poniatowska would soon begin to concern herself with the chronicling of political and social movements and events. So would begin a long career of a writer and journalist concerned with the socio-political disenfranchisement of Mexico. Her most well-known non-fiction chronicle is: “Massacre in Mexico,” where the author recounts through statements of witnesses, the massacre of Student Protestors by the police during the nineteen-sixty eight Olympics. Her testimonial writings have often given her the appearance of a human rights and social activists seeking to correct social injustices which plague Mexico, both contemporary and historically. Elena Poniatowska’s work covers journalism, prose, biographies, and testimonial accounts of injustice. Though the authors work is broad in format and style, her keen eye for social observation remains a pillar of her literary and journalistic output.
Circe Maia – Uruguay – Circe Maia is a literary national treasure of Uruguay; despite living through the political upheavals which have gripped the country. These same political upheavals have infiltrated her home, and often came close to destroying her personal life. Her husband was arrested for his political involvements, and Circe Maia was only spared a similar fate, simply because she was pregnant with her youngest daughter at the time. The dictatorship of Uruguay and personal tragedies had once silenced Maia as a poet—but not out of grief or fear, but more out of protest. Now, she is a renowned and respected contemporary poet. Her poetry is noted for being direct and somber. She refuses to slip into the self-absorbed poetic monologue or fill the airs of a narcissistic poet. Circe Maia writes with clear conviction, to write her poetry in a way in which as a poet and as a reader, there is a conversation in which there is a mutual unearthing of what it means to be human and to live, all become thoughts and questions about the human condition and its universal and personal destiny. Circe Maia has battled against her poetry becoming self-contained and hermetic; rather her poetry is lively, direct, approachable and conversational in form and function, it is the poetry of daily life, the poetry heard and seen through the comment mundane events, reflected in objects and events; it is a poetry of a life lived and experienced, rather than one theorized and mythologized.
In The End: Closing Thoughts –
There you have it Gentle Reader: my Nobel Speculation List for two-thousand and seventeen! The statistics and data of this year’s list are as follows:
A total of 76 writers listed
20 of the 76 writers are new
51 writers are male
25 writers are female
New writers by geographical area are:
Africa – 1
Northern Africa & Middle East – 4
Europe – 6
Asia & the Indo-Subcontinent – 6
South America & Latin America; with the Caribbean – 3
The new writers by geographical area are:
Boubacar Boris Diop – Sengal
Northern Africa & Middle East –
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi – Iran
Sahar Khalifeh – Palestine
Nawal El Saadawi – Egypt
Boualem Sansal – Algeria
Henrik Nordbrandt – Denmark
Dag Solstad – Norway
Zsuzsa Takács – Hungary
Fleur Jaeggy – Switzerland (Italian language)
Anna Frajlich – Born in Kyrgyzstan/Exile United States, Polish language
Juan Marsé – Spain/Catalan
Asia & the Indo-Subcontinent
Mend-Ooyo Gombojav – Mongolia
Tseveendorjin Oidov – Mongolia
Yang Mu – Taiwan
Li Ang – Taiwan
Yoko Ogawa – Japan
South American & Latin America; with the Caribbean
Kamau Brathwaite –Barbados
Homero Aridjis – Mexico
Sergio Pitol – Mexico
Elena Poniatowska – Mexico (has been included on lists prior)
Continuing with this statistical report, with regards to how this is organized and contained, if we look at countries in correlation to the author, most have one to two writers listed. There are some, however, who exceed this general convention and have three and even four writers named in correlation to nation. Those countries are: Estonia (three), Taiwan (three), Hungary (three) Norway (three), Japan (three), and Mexico (three). Poland and (South) Korea had four writers in correlation to nation. This being said, I placed Anna Frajlich, in a national relationship with Poland, but her circumstances are unique, she was born in Kyrgyzstan during Soviet occupation, where her parents worked as lectures (to my understanding), but relocated back to Poland in her childhood, and would later enter exile in the United States, when anti-sematic sentiments began to surface in Soviet Poland. On these grounds though, the Polish language is more Anna Frajlich’s home then the physical nature of geographical location.
The nations listed above with their relative writers are as follows, by order of appearance:
Estonia – Jaan Kaplinski, Doris Kareva, and Viivi Luik
Hungary – Zsuzsa Takács, László Krasznahorkai, and Péter Nadas
Norway – Jon Fosse, Kjell Askildsen, and Dag Solstad
Japan – Shuntaro Tanikawa, Teru Miyamoto, and Yoko Ogawa
Taiwan – Pai Hsien-yung, Yang Mu, and Li Ang
Mexico – Homero Aridjis, Sergio Pitol, and Elena Poniatowska
Poland – Magdalena Tulli, Adam Zagajewski, Anna Frajlich, and Olga Tokarczuk
(South) Korea – Kim Hyesoon, Moon Chung-hee, Hwang Sok-yong, Ko Un
It should also be noted: two authors on this list have written/write in a tribunal language, those two authors are: Boubacar Boris Diop and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. Boubacar Boris Diop’s most recent novel “Doomi Golo,” has been the first novel ever written in the Wolof language to be translated into English. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, is well noted for writing his novels in Gikuyu first and then translating them into English. The preservation and promotion of these writers, is an admirable display of curatorial spirit, and linguistic pride.
The above Gentle Reader is a display of deconstruction and dissection. The autopsied remains are displayed in lists, categories, geography, genders, new and prior—so on and so forth. With that being said: there is no point in vouching, proclaiming or even beginning to state 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. Who will become this year’s Nobel Laureate—be it obscure or perennial—only the Swedish Academy and its eighteen members know, as they will be entering the adjudicating and debating process; after they have evaluated the chosen writers work and merit.
It should be mentioned, a new academy member has been inducted: Sara Stridsberg, was just inducted in two-thousand and sixteen, replacing Gunnel Vallquist, in Chair No. 13. Sara Stridsberg is a noted Swedish author and translator. She is perhaps best known for her enfant terrible moment, when she caused controversy in Swedish cultural circles, when she translated the crass feminist manifesto: “SCUM Manifesto,” by Valerie Solanas.
The “SCUM Manifesto,” (SCUM, standing for: [the] Society for Cutting Up Men), was considered a radical feminist manifesto, where Valerie Solanas detailed that men have ruined the world, and women are the only ones who can save (or fix) it; and in doing so they must eliminate the male sex. The manifesto was often considered satirical, but based on legitimate social and political concerns. Personal thoughts are: Valerie Solanas was a fool. No sex is to blame; and the destruction of the male sex is audacious and asinine thought; and her radical perspective is best described as: chauvinism in drag.
Just because someone has a penis or is born with a penis, does not mean they are the sole perpetrators of the cruelties of the world. Social, political, philosophical issues go far beyond gender; and the thought that the systematic extermination of gender, is somehow the answer to the world’s problems, is just as demeaning and derogatory as telling an individual of the feminine sex that their sole place in the world is in the kitchen or in the home, or raising children. Egalitarianism does not come around through termination, extermination, or destruction of half of the human race; it comes through cooperation, compromise, and the recognition of doing what is right for the common good. Much can be said about ‘worldly,’ issues; they cannot be solved or fixed by having only one perception, there should always be room for debate and other ideas to be entered at the table. On these grounds (satirical) or not, Valerie Solanas was a delusional fool.
In translating the “SCUM Manifesto,” Sara Stridsberg set herself aflame as a fiery feminist scholar and critic. Her novel “The Dream Faculty,” would cause waves within the Swedish literary community, as it would go on to win the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in two-thousand and seven, and has been considered the most important Swedish novel of the early two-thousands. “The Dream Faculty,” documents Valerie Solanas attempted murder of Andy Warhol; and is noted for its documentary like prose, and postmodern playfulness with perspective and time; but also for its feminist stance against the established patriarchal concepts of psychoanalysis.
With Sara Stridsberg now a participating figure on the Swedish Academy, it will be curious to see how her view points and literary digressions into the ideas of feminism, abnormality, and insanity et cetera; will have an impact on future laureates. Will the gender gap see itself closing slightly more? Will the “African Neglect,” be put to rest; not to mention the “Indian Drought.”
Speaking of the Swedish Academy Gentle Reader, it should be noted, there is one chair currently vacant: Chair No. 9, previously held by Torgny Lindgren. Who had died earlier this year in March. Also, Chair No 15. Kerstin Ekman has been an abstaining member of the Swedish Academy, since nineteen-eighty nine, she does not participate in the Swedish Academy’s events; meaning the academy is down two members, votes. The remaining sixteen members: eleven male, and five female; will decide this year’s Nobel Laureate.
Who will impress these sixteen Swedes is anyone’s guess; the future Laureate, will simply need majority of the votes (nine votes) of the members, to receive this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature. On that note Gentle Reader, I hope the award redeems itself from last year’s mistake.
Thank-you for reading Gentle Reader; I hope to hear your thoughts and suggestions. It’s been a pleasure, this year to compile, compose and now deliver this list; and I do hope you enjoyed it!
If you would like to read other ruminations, ponderings, thoughts, and inquires; as well as: honorable mentions, and the honoring of deceased writers who did not receive, please click on the following link, to be taken to this year’s Announcement for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Speculation List, where a wide variety of subjects were approached, contemplated and digressed upon.