The Birdcage Archives

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Nefarious Nostalgia

Hello Gentle Reader

Nostalgia is a bittersweet miasmic poison. It’s an air born existential pathogen. One often transmitted through routine conversations, dialogue exchanges, and communicative exercises. Much like an earworm, once it’s crept in it will reside for days and months—if it leaves at all. Yet today’s world is riddled with nostalgia. There are remakes on television, or remade movies, or politicians politicizing the good old years or better times; and the list goes on. Yet, it were to appear, the cultural and artistic elements of society has reduced and resigned itself to a limited position and narrow perspective. One which has neither: room, hunger nor desire to initiative any sense of innovation. The entire atmosphere has collapsed in on itself; with no one pushing boundaries, exploring new ideas, innovating in new forms, or revolting against the established grain.

This is where I will give credit to previous generations. Throughout the twentieth century there were continual waves of artistic, literary, and creative movements. Across the board, ingenious creators sought and redefined the principles of their crafts.

Such as Writers like:                                                   Such as [Visual] Artists like:

(i)                 James Joyce                                               (i)         Pablo Picasso
(ii)               Virgina Woolf                                           (ii)        Henri Matisse
(iii)             Marcel Proust                                            (iii)       Marcel Duchamp
(iv)             Francis Pong                                             (iv)       Frida Khalo
(v)               T.S. Eliot                                                   (v)        Salvador Dali
(vi)             Samuel Beckett                                         (vi)       Giorgio de Chirico
(vii)           Yasunari Kawabata                                   (vii)      Andy Warhol
(viii)         Franz Kafka
(ix)             Jorge Luis Borges
(x)               Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(xi)             Italo Calvino

 Filled with artistic & literary movements such as:     Architectural Movements such as:

(i)                 Modernist                                                  (i)         Art Nouveau
(ii)               Futurist                                                      (ii)        Art Deco
(iii)             Surrealist                                                   (iii)       Brutalist
(iv)             Magical Realist                                         (iv)       Mid-Century Modern
(v)               Dadists                                                      (v)        Futurism
(vi)             Cubism                                                      (vi)       Postmodernism
(vii)           Pop Art                                                     (vii)      Structuralism
(viii)         Postmodernism                                        
(ix)             Nouveau Roman
(x)               Beat Generation

Completed with such philosophical movements:

(i)                 Continental Philosophy:
-          Existentialism
-          Absurdism 
-          Phenomenology
-          Structuralism
-          Post-Structuralism
(ii)               Analytical Philosophy:
-          Logical Positivism
-          Epistemology

And the last great wave of philosophers:

(i)                 Jean-Paul Sartre                            (vi)       Michel Foucault
(ii)               Simone de Beauvoir                      (vii)      Jacques Derrida
(iii)             Susanne Langer                             (viii)     Gilles Deleuze
(iv)             Bertrand Russell                           (ix)       Roland Barthes
(v)               Albert Camus

These authors, [visual] artists, musicians, movements (be it artistic, literary, architectural, or musical) all sought to progressively promote these respective fields beyond their classical predecessors, thought processes, values, ideals, beliefs, and perspectives. They explored the possibilities, pushed the boundaries, caused debate and outrage, and through these routine and continual conversations pushed the world to heightened methods, medias, and modes of thought and appreciation, which in turn infected and influenced society. Whether or not the greater public enjoyed or approved of the content, they did discuss it, they had opinions on it and they debated them whether for or against.  This is the purpose of these movements, of these—I use this term loosely—professions, is to engage, provoke, and progress societies values, ideas, ideals, beliefs, and perspectives through engaging and thought-provoking works of art, literature, performance arts, architecture, philosophy, and even music.

So when I review the current landscape and climate of today’s cultural climate and atmosphere it is a rather sad state of affair when compared to the previous generations. With great honesty I wonder: is that all we had?  Were the previous centuries prior to the twentieth century so tyrannically oppressive in their demands and restrictive objectives of what constituted as merit worthy, be it artistic, literary or otherwise—that when the yokes where shaken off, society flung themselves into octane state of experimentation, whereby it tried every new idea, concept and thought that popped into its head through the past century, with such speed that any innovative or inventive notion has been exhausted?

Currently the cultural climate cultural climate is nothing but: remixes, redo’s, and remakes. A real reduce, reuse, recycle concept of cultural formats. To be acerbically blunt, the current state of cultural innovation is non-existent. Society as a whole appears to have entered a state of backwater afterthought suburbia, complete with garden gnomes, lawn flamingos, and white picket fences. It is tacky and unoriginal. The words of Ecclesiastes immediately come to mind to summarize the brain drain or lack of cultural importance of today’s world:

“There’s nothing new under the sun.”

So then, what has taken the pristine position of cultural innovation and invention? Nostalgia. Nostalgia has taken the position of any notion of innovation and invention, and maintained a cycle of repeat. Ironically it is a cycle of repeat from only a couple of decades ago. As we speak there are live actions remakes set for release for nineties Disney films: “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King,”—with more set to come in the coming years. We’ve seen startups of completed shows, renewed for a quick comeback. Continual remixes of old songs. And of course the perennial conversation: “you know you were a nineties kid when,” among other such catchphrases and taglines. This is rather startling and strange. Generally speaking, nostalgia is a wistful air longing for another time, generally exhibited by people who are much older than those entering or leaving their twenties! Most individuals who are afflicted with nostalgia or who exhibit signs and symptoms of the contagion are generally a lot older then people who are in their twenties. In fact the people, who are generally considered the demographic age group to have been afflicted with the septicity, are often middle age to late middle age—people who have finally realize how mortal they are. These same people who now coming to terms with the frailty and fragile nature of being mortal, often fondly look back to their twenties as a better time; which is a key trait of nostalgia, people envision and idealize the past because hindsight is not always twenty-twenty, but rather selectively twenty-twenty with a rose tint, made more appealing because in the past one is also a lot younger then they find themselves in their current situation. This is frightening, when one considers the current miasmic atmosphere of nostalgia currently, and its intended demographic, of people who are in their twenties and are nostalgic, I am rather confused as to what they are nostalgic for! Do they wish to be children again? What a preposterous thought! At least form my perspective. Yet that is the state of the current cultural trend. This blatant pretentious air of consumerist revolt, embraces the notion of nostalgia at an attempt at revolting at the usual suspects: Be it: corporate greed, government, consumerist conditioning, media designated notions of beauty, social oppressive norms predesignated by the patriarchy—the list once again can go on. Yet all the same with hypocritical irony, these same individuals feed into the media saturated world, require the latest technological advancements and devices, and will hurry to see the latest remixed or remade rendition of their childhood fantasies once again. All the while any cultural movement is left sitting on three functions: play—pause—rewind, before play once again. An outdated soundtrack.

The generation is not solely responsible for the squandered suburban wasteland of the current cultural disposition either. The humanities themselves have refused to move forward, and have instead found themselves embroiled in pedantic debates, arguments, and poncy promotion as well as pauper panhandling regarding:

(i)                 Political Correctness
(ii)               Cultural Appropriation
(iii)             Diversity
(iv)             Equality
(v)               Inclusion & Induction

Literary, artistic, and other cultural and philosophical practitioners, trendsetters, visionaries, who sought to push the boundaries and elevate the work to new heights—or at least push the envelope; have now found themselves ensnared in the predilections of social and political spheres of thought and influence. Not that literature, art and co were ever segregated or severed from those realms, or have no influence over them; they just revolted against them, and their established perspective; they mocked them, they caricaturized them; and blatantly criticized them, often in the most outlandish manners. Now, these same critical elements and caricaturizing institutions, have taken the mantel of propagandists to propagate these concepts and ideals. To once again be acerbic: political correctness, as a whole has damaged literary, artistic, philosophical and other cultural institutions beyond reputable repair. Political correctness, is at its core—regardless of its intentions—an entitled demand and call for censorship, be it self-censorship or societal. This is not an ideal or value which should be promoted by any cultural, artistic or literary institution—literature on it’s forefront should be adamantly opposed to the notion, as it has been opposed to all forms of censorship prior. The same should be stated with artists, philosophers, dancers, and musicians—any individual who associates with or has any notion of cultural pedigree, predisposition, or perspective, should adamantly oppose these otherwise stifling values, as hindrances and impediments. They are what have allowed the entire world to be put to a screeching halt, as it demands a inclusive, gentle, inoffensive world and culture. Noble in pursuit. Failure in application. Impossible to achieve. Full stop.

It is no wonder then the world continues to fixate on remakes, reboots, redoes, remixes, and refabricate the past, because any notion of new or creative or extraordinary or innovative or visionary, would most likely be: offensive to someone, not be diverse enough, poach or distribute or inappropriately display another’s culture, and will alienate others; which cause a societal upstart and uproar, and the league of social justice warriors, takes to their social media accounts to ignite the crusade and shut it down full stop. This leaves little in the way of options for individuals who seek creative liberty and freedom, due to the ever present threat they will face prosecution in the age of mass social saturation, from a boisterous overzealous group of impudent idealists, who cannot understand or fathom reality as it exists, or the concept of freedom of speech. This leaves little to the imagination and little freedom to explore, which creates a void that nostalgia fills.

Nostalgia then is safe. It’s the rose tinted perspective of times gone by. Nostalgia is also noxious. It’s nauseating. Yet its appeal has not dwindled or been limited. Its stench wafts through society and in its wake leaves nothing but a septic squandered suburb, complete with garden gnomes, lawn flamingos, and its white picket fence. Except now, the garden gnomes are cracked or smashed; the flamingos are bleached or broken or stolen (and accused of cultural appropriation at this point); and the white picket fence is in disarray (also it shouldn't be white anymore, because its a symbol of prerogative values, and therefore is not inclusive enough) ; all because the entire culture is centered on the suffocating self-absorption of nostalgia.

Admiration is different than nostalgia. Admiration, my Dear Gentle Reader, is the complete opposite of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a hindrance. It’s an existential anti-depressant. It’s the fetishization of either ones youth or a time in which one feels they missed out on the party. Admiration on the other hand is the respect coupled with learning and emulation, then emancipation.

For example, Gentle Reader, I have a great amount of respect for the twentieth century literary and artistic movements which have taken place, and the plethora and pantheon of individuals who have inhabited that world of creative liberty and freedom. I am not, however, nostalgic for it. I do not wish to be a part of the Silent Revolution. I do not wish to revisit disco. I do not wish to meet Andy Warhol—or shoot him. I have no interest in seeing Jean-Paul Sartre lecture. I do not want to live under the threat of nuclear annihilation again. Those times are done. They have past. They exist in memory, in photographs, in writings, in paintings, in academic reviews, historical essays, archives, and the fond biographies and memoires. However, I would love to own brutalist furniture—not because I am nostalgic for it; but because I admire the aesthetics of the practitioners of the style: Paul R. Evans, Adrian Pearsall, Curtis Jeré and Tom Greene. These artists, furniture designers, and craftsman were able to create a unique piece of work that is functional and uncompromising. It is riddled with odd shapes, and ornamented with sculpted geometric patterns. Much like the architectural design of which they get their name, these works of furniture—be it lighting, sofa, chair, dresser or armoire—are uncompromising, statement making, and blunt in their bold obtuse  designs. It’s a style where one either enjoys or despises; there is little room for anything else. The architectural style is even brasher. Concrete slab after concrete slab, speckled with windows and geometric formations, which clunk, grind and clamor in a cacophony of cement. An inharmonious site which brings to mind city life filled urbanites, who know how to traverse the world of concrete and glass. This being said: brutalist has been done. It’s complete. It’s finished. Any attempt at reviving it will only be, yet again, another cinderblock of nostalgia.

In today’s world there is a failure to move beyond emulation, which slowly mutates to nostalgia. Rather than simply standing on the shoulders of giants and seeking to surpass them or be their equal—cultural movements and institutions have simply shove themselves up the posterior, and cradle themselves there, shitting time after time another remix, reboot, or remake, in the continual reduce, reuse, and recycle culture. There’s a lack of emancipation, which is perhaps brought on by social movements such as political correctness. Or in other cases and depending on who you ask—such as social and cultural commentary Fran Lebowitz—it’s because you can’t smoke in bars anymore, or that life is also extraordinarily expensive and you can now no longer be able to afford cigarettes or a drink. If you can, then you have no time to enjoy either.

Beyond this, the culture of nostalgia has become a dangerous political weapon, where it’s a disturbed rationalization for a time which cannot be regained. Here in Canada we saw this in a recent provincial election. Political parties capitalized on a forlorn calling for better times with favorable economic impacts. Needless to say the masses ate this up like birdseed. They gobbled up the wistful desires of bygone eras, without facing the fact that the future will most likely not emulate or reflect this dreamscape of what was. Instead it will continue on its current trajectory, whatever that maybe. There will most certainly be consequences for failing to see beyond the chickenfeed. As the past is riddled with variables that impacted only then, and are in no way obligated to reflect or influence the present or the immediate future. This same politicization is seen across the world as well. The most famous example currently is Putin’s Russia. It is no secret that President Vladimir Putin often utilizes Soviet Era nostalgia to inflame the spirits of younger generations of Russians. There is the open confession that life was not particularly glamourous under those times, but back then at least Russia was taken seriously, it was a force that demanded respect, and whose shadow cast fear when crossed. Now it faces what some commentators have called a reduced position on the global stage. A bear who has lost its claws and whose teeth have fallen out. It grumbles and roars, but stirs no respect or fear. Going farther back the same idealization of nostalgia and glorifying the past can be found in Nazi Germany with Adolf Hitler, who admired and adored the classics, while viewing modern art as degenerate in nature. Without a surprise as Adolf Hitler would amass greater authority and consolidate more power, he would destroy, censor, and prohibit modern art from being either displayed, promoted, or dealt in; and instead ensured the masses suckled on the opium riddled pacifier of the classics, because it was his preference and offered a better viewpoint of life then what was currently being served at the time, and the future was bleak by all immediate concerns. Nostalgia then is a dangerous act of distraction and pacification, lulling the populace into a false sense of security, or providing them with the notion that even though the times were not always great (authoritarian), they were better than the current situation.

This is why artistic movements and literary movements exist: to agitate and innovate; inspire and irritate, and ultimately: to push the world further ahead, to greater ideals, to greater values, and beliefs, while revolting against otherwise improper and degrading institutions. Yet if they can’t be called upon to move beyond their own replay of events, and remixed ideas, then society is doomed to sit in a stagnant septic state. One might as well as plaster rococo wallpaper, bring in Victorian literature, install art nouveau windows, egg chairs, hang a disco ball and apply the neoclassical fixtures, to set the scene for a pastiche of the ages, in which one can always be a part of the party they were sure they were cheated of. Or instead, they can create the time in which future generations will be envy of, and enjoy the small patch of sand in the deserts of time allocated to them and make something of it. It is the duty of youth, to change the cultural direction of today into something more interesting, inspiring and compelling.

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

M. Mary

Friday, 26 April 2019

Mats Malm Named the New Permanent Secretary of The Swedish Academy

Hello Gentle Reader

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post, The Swedish Academy has announced that Mats Malm has been named the incoming Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy.

Who then is Mats Malm?

Mats Malm, is one of the newest inducted members to the Swedish Academy, only sitting on the Swedish Academy for four months, being elected to the academy on tail end of the crisis. This means Mats Malm has no previous bias established with the academy (at least not outright), and has no allegiances or alliances to the warring factions prior. As a whole, Mats Malm would at best be considered a complete neutral party to the events over the past year.

Mats Malm has his own credentials to this name; he’s a writer and a translator, as well as an established literary academic, currently a professor of Literary Sciences (or what would be considered criticism in other hemispheres and locations) at the University of Gothenburg. Beyond his work as a university professor, member of the Swedish Academy, translator, academic and writer, he is also the director of the not-for profit organization: Swedish Literature Bank, which seeks to digitalize classical works of Swedish literature and literary criticism, freely available and accessible through digital media formats.

Though a relatively new member to the institution, Mats Malm is considered a working-horse, devote to his pursuits of literature and academic work, which will be reflected in his work with the Swedish Academy as Permanent Secretary. The fact that he has no prior dealings or blatant biases towards the previous scandal also plays in his favour. He has been described by Ander Olsson as a calm and sensible individual, one who is more than prepared to continue the reforms of the academy.  

Mats Malm will officially take the position as Permanent Secretary on June 1st. On October 10th he will have his first test as Permanent Secretary when he will reveal to the world the two Laureates of Literature.

Congratulations to Mats Malm, best of luck in the role, though it will not be an easy one and there is still a lot of work to be done; but congratulations all the same! 

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

M. Mary

News about the Nobel Prize for Literature for: 2019

Hello Gentle Reader,

The crisis that debilitated the Swedish Academy for better half (or three quarters) of two-thousand and eighteen, has been declared over. Over the past year and four months into this year, we have seen the faces of the Swedish Academy change, while the prize was placed on hiatus until the internal issues within the academy could be rectified, and order restored. Now the award is set to be shared for two-thousand and nineteen; one to mark the missing laureate for two-thousand and eighteen, and the other routine for the awarding year. This being said, the dynamic within the Swedish Academy is once again set to change.

Anders Olsson is the pro-tempore Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, meaning he fulfills the position on a temporary term. Part of the statutes of the Swedish Academy is that the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy must stepdown from the position, once they hit seventy years old. Anders Olsson, will be seventy in June; meaning the position of Permanent Secretary moving forward is up to be filled. The question is: who fills it?

The Current layout of the Swedish Academy is as follows:

Chair No. 1 – (Justice) Eric M. Runesson (Age: 58)
Chair No. 2 – Bo Ralph (Age: 73)
Chair No. 3 – Sture Allen (Age: 90)
Chair No. 4 – Anders Olsson (Age: 69)
Chair No. 5 – Göran Malmqvist (Age: 94)
Chair No. 6 – Tomas Riad (Age: 59)
Chair No. 7 – Vacant
Chair No. 8 – Jesper Svenbro (Age: 74)
Chair No. 9 – Ellen Mattson (Age: 56) [Not Inducted, until December, 20, 2019]
Chair No. 10 – Peter Englund (Age: 61)
Chair No. 11 – Mats Malm (Age: 54)
Chair No. 12 -- Per Wästberg (Age: 85)
Chair No. 13 -- Anne Swärd (Age: 50) [Not inducted, until December, 20, 2019]
Chair No. 14 – Kristina Lugn (Age: 70)
Chair No. 15 – Jila Mossaed (Age: 71)
Chair No. 16 -- Kjell Espmark (Age: 88)
Chair No. 17 – Horace Engdahl (Age: 70)
Chair No. 18 – Tua Forsström (72) [Not inducted, until December, 20, 2019]

From looking at the list and the potential candidates for the award the candidates are slim.  Ten of the current sitting members are no longer eligible due to age. Three are not eligible because they have not been formally inducted. While one seat is still vacant. This only leaves the following as potential candidates to fill the role for Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy:

Chair No. 1 – (Justice) Eric M. Runesson
Chair No. 6 – Tomas Riad
Chair No. 10 – Peter Englund
Chair No. 11 – Mats Malm

Of these members, Peter Englund had already filled role from two-thousand and nine until two-thousand and fifteen. He previously stepped down from the position as it conflicted with his already busy schedule and engagements. (Justice) Eric M. Runesson is a recently appointed Supreme Court Judge and has already stated he is not interested in filling the position, as he views the Swedish Academy as a part-time opportunity, one in which he has no further time to allocate to. This leaves:

Chair No. 6 – Tomas Riad
Chair No. 11 – Mats Malm

Throughout the scandal and crisis which brought the Swedish Academy to its knees, Tomas Riad has remained under the radar during the events; never participating in the media frenzy battle that took place afterwards. Mats Malm on the other hand is a relatively new inductee, coming in at the final stages of the academy’s smoldering battlefield.

Of the two potential (and most likely) candidates, it will be interesting to see who the Swedish Academy declares as the incumbent Permanent Secretary, to announce the prize in the autumn.

Speaking of the award come autumn, against usual convention, the Swedish Academy has set the date for the announcement months in advance, rather than its usual days before hand.

Come autumn Gentle Reader, Nobel Week is set to roll out as follows:

Monday – October 7th – Announcement: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Tuesday – October 8th – Announcement: Nobel Prize in Physics
Wednesday – October 9th – Announcement: Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Thursday – October 10th – Announcement: Nobel Prize in Literature (two laureates)
Friday – October 11th – Announcement: Nobel Peace Prize

Monday – October 14th – Announcement:  The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (Also known as: The Nobel Prize in Economics)

With only five months way Gentle Reader, it’ll be exciting adventures for the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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

M. Mary

For Further Reading:

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The Best Translated Book Award Longlist, 2019

Hello Gentle Reader

It is with great annoyance my Dear Gentle Reader, which I missed earlier this month, the announcement for this years’: he Best Translated Book Awards longlist.

Through the hustle and bustle of daily life and the eclipsing media coverage of the Man Booker International Prize longlist and shortlist, I mistakenly overlooked the announcement for this years’ Best Translated Book Award, which includes both a fiction longlist and a poetry longlist.

Following is the years Fiction Longlist, followed by an overview of the authors and their nominated works.

The Fiction Longlist is as follows (in no particular order):

Anne Serre – France – “The Governesses,”
Sjon – Iceland – “CoDex 1962: A Trilogy,”
Guadalupe Nettel – Mexico – “After the Winter,”
Shahriar Mandanipour – Iran – “Moon Brow,”
Norah Lange – Argentina – “People in the Room,”
Can Xue – China – “Love in the New Millennium,”
Frankétienne – Haiti – “Dézafi,”
Rodrigo Fresán – Argentina – “Bottom of the Sky,”
Alisa Ganieva – Russia – “Bride and Groom,”
Aurora Cáceres – Peru/Spain – “A Dead Rose,”
Negar Djavadi – Iran, Exiled in France (French language) – “Disoriental,”
Roque Larraquy – Argentina – “Comemadre,”
Sayaka Murata – Japan – “Convenience Store Woman,”
Ondjaki – Angola – “Transparent City,”
In Koli Jean Bofane – Democratic Republic of the Congo – “Congo Inc.: Bismarck's Testament,”
Stig Dagerman – Sweden – “Wedding Worries,”
Virginie Despentes – France – “Pretty Things,”
Clemens Meyer – Germany – “Bricks and Mortar,”
Patrick Chamoiseau – Martinique (French language) – “Slave Old Man,”
Ahmed Bouanani – Morocco – “The Hospital,”
Masatsugu Ono – Japan – “Lion’s Cross Point,”
Ófeigur Sigurðsson – Iceland – “Öræfï: The Wasteland,”
Dubravka Ugresic – Crotia – “Fox,”
Hideo Yokoyama – Japan – “Seventeen,”
Olga Tokarczuk – Poland – “Flights,”


Twenty-five writs have been longlisted for this year’s prize—a hefty feat for the judges to consume, ruminate, deliberate and debate upon, as they seek to draft a shortlist.

One of the unique aspects of the Best Translated Book Award is that it includes all writers and their work as its being translated into English. Some of the authors listed here on the longlist have long since been dead, including:

Norah Lange – “People in the Room,”
Aurora Cáceres – “A Dead Rose,”
Stig Dagerman – “Wedding Worries,”
Ahmed Bouanani – “The Hospital,”

Despite their passing’s, their works resist the corrosive touch of time and persist into timelessness, whereby their writers words and voices may continue to be preserved, encapsulated within the pages and the spines of their books, ringing out to future generations. A deceased author’s work is also not discriminated against either, as many authors have been awarded on a postmortem basis as their works are finding new homes in the English language.

There are a few known names making returns or mentions to the longlist for this year’s Best Translated Book Award.

First, Guadalupe Nettel, with her novel: “After the Winter.” Back in two-thousand and sixteen, Guadalupe Nettel was longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award with her novel: “The Body Where I was Born.” That same year, Guadalupe Nettel was a finalist for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. She now returns three years later with her novel: “After the Winter,” a novel which explores the neurotic and deviant complications of human relationships, through a fractured and warped convex mirror. Over the years, Guadalupe Nettel has made herself as one of the most striking and fierce literary voices coming out of Mexico, since Carlos Fuentes and other Latin American Boom authors. Nettle has showcased the Latin American and South American literary scene as having a greater preoccupation with international perspective, rather than its former provincial outlook. It has moved away from the mystical otherworldliness, to a nit and grit existential probing of the complications and frailty of human conduct. 

Second, Can Xue is a well-known name. Earlier, she was longlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize for her novel “Love in the New Millennium,” which is now longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award. Can Xue’s novel sadly did not make it to the shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize. Despite this, Can Xue, is no stranger to the world of literary prizes. Along with, Guadalupe Nettel, Can Xue was also a finalist for the two-thousand and sixteen Neustadt International Prize for Literature. She has also won, the two-thousand and fifteen, Best Translated Book Award. Mo Yan, is mistakenly called the Chinese Kafka, but his toilet humour, superficial political satire, and odd ball plots does not quite capture the macabre humour and surreal twisted plots of Franz Kafka; Can Xue, delivers on both front; which is why it would be far more advantageous and appropriate to refer to Can Xue  as the Chinese Kafka. Her plots are surreal deliriums of madness and uncertainty, wrapped up in the postmodern fragmentation and breakdown of language and comprehension. A true author, who pushes the bounds, making her both adored and admonished.

As already mentioned, both Guadalupe Nettle and Can Xue, where finalists for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, in two-thousand and sixteen.  Dubravka Ugrešić was the author who won the biannual award for that year.  Despite not winning the Best Translated Book Award or the Man Booker International Prize (though nominated), the Croatian author is a staple of on the international literary scene. Her novels, short stories, and essays are renowned for their unique literary qualities, utilizing pastiche techniques, Ugrešić satirically plays with the conventions of high literary qualities, juxtaposed against the popular consumerist media or reading outputs. Her critical essays and literary analysis, which has made her a citizen of the literary canon, transcending above linguistic and geographical boundaries, to the ephemeral realms of literature for its own functions and purposes, deprived of the predilections of the consumerist hunger, political machinations, and historical indifferences. Though her novels are well known for their well-crafted structure, narrative, and topical thematic concerns, Dubravka Ugrešić’s essays are often highly noted and discussed alongside her literary and fictional output. The essays of Dubravka Ugrešić are well regarded for their careful craft and accumulation, whereby they analyze the historical, the personal, the literary and the present with acute sensibility and awareness, often displayed with creative measures not seen in essayistic formats. Dubravka Ugrešić is longlisted with her novel: “Fox.” “Fox,” is a novel of literary footnotes, the minor characters, the overlooked, characters passed over. Through her usual pastiche of formats, and analysis of literature through the ages, Ugrešić presents a narrative of storytelling that moves beyond linguistic, cultural, geographical and historical boundaries, to discuss the peculiar predicament of the human condition, through specific literary lens, with a finer eye for the detailed footnotes of the otherwise forgotten.

Virginie Despentes was shortlisted for last year’s Man Booker International Prize for Literature, with her explicitly transgressive post-punk novel: “Vernon Subutext 1.” The novel is considered an eviscerating vitriolic comedic ride, narrated by a post-punk eighties screwball, whose life has been ultimately squandered, wasted, and left unfulfilled. Thriving off few enjoyments, minor hedonism and a lot of coach surfing and cocaine (most likely mixed with a lot of nostalgia), the narrative takes a detailed account of the current political climate, its contentious atmosphere, its vibrating rage and anger, coupled with its eclectic cast of characters who all embody the information age, the age of false media, and of course the internet electronic junkies. It’s a novel that gathered interest due to its topical commentary which is scathing and searing as its recounts the polarization of the world, and the rise of ant intellectualism, be it in France or the rest of the world. Now Virginie Despentes appears on the Best Translated Book Award longlist for her recently translated novel: “Pretty Things,” a dark account into the depths of identity and the idea of doppelgangers and literary stealing ones identity, wrapped up in pulp ridden fairytale of twisted rage induced feminism. “Pretty Things,” tackles of the notion of the ‘perfect women,’ by the mismatched set of twins: one beautiful but terrible singing voice, the other ugly with a beautiful singing voice, the talent of one is exploited by the other, without compliment or recognition, which ends in its usual tragedy—but the fairytale doesn’t end there; skin can be slipped into figuratively and literally, and as one identity comes to take hold, the realization is: at the depth of the core, there is nothing but rot and refuse. An eviscerating vivisecting transgressive feminist narrative.

Ondjaki is an Angolan writer who has secured his foothold in the English language. In two-thousand and fifteen he was shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award with his novel: “Gramma Nineteen and the Soviet Secret,” now makes a return four years later with his novel: “Transparent City.” “Transparent City,” is unique blend of urban magical realism, political satire and commentary, mixed with literary experimentation. “Transparent City,” is a striking urban novel to come out of the African continent. The novel has since gained traction in its new linguistic skin, being deemed a notable translation of the year, a favour by some book critics, and named one of the best books of the year (all for two-thousand and eighteen). Once again Ondjaki has showcased himself as a powerful voice in contemporary African literature across the continent; his work is considered striking and unique within the Portuguese language either home or abroad. Much like the Latin American Boom, opened up new worlds for the Spanish language literature; Ondjaki is one such writer who along with other powerful, striking and unique voices rising from the ancient continent, who will once again revolutionize post-colonial literature and perspective.

The winner of last year’s Best Translated Book Award, Rodrigo Fresán with his novel: “The Invented Part,” returns to this year’s longlist with “The Bottom of the Sky.” Only one author has won the Best Translated Book Award as twice, which is the Hungarian master of the apocalypse:  László Krasznahorkai, with his novels: “Satantango,” and “Seiobo There Below.” If Rodrigo Fresán once again makes it to the shortlist, his chances of repeating the precedence of Krasznahorkai, only increases. “The Bottom of the Sky,” is considered a homage and tribute to te golden years of science fiction—both pulp novels and films. It concerns the stories of two boys in love with other planets (I have no idea if this is romantic or platonic astronomical love interest), as well as a disturbingly beautiful girl. The novel has been praised as a riotous ride with elements of Philip K Dick with the surreal ingenuity and madness of David Lynch.

It is interesting to note three Japanese authors have also been inducted on this year’s Best Translated Book Award! They are:

Sayaka Murata – “Convenience Store Woman,”
Masatsugu Ono – “Lion’s Cross Point,”
Hideo Yokoyama – “Seventeen,”

I would consider both Sayaka Murata and Masatsugu Ono as post-Murakami authors, writing in Japan. Which perhaps is a sign that the grip Haruki Murakami once had on the world has either faded or grown tiresome and generic. Sayaka Murata is renowned for writing about the socially rebellious, the nonconforming, the odd, and perhaps the disaffected members of society. In two-thousand and sixteen Sayaka Murata won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, for her novel “Convenience Store Woman.” The novel is explores a world of post-capitalist convenience; a microcosm of fluorescent tube lighting, coolers, repetitive music, processed foods, drinks, and other immediate needs for the modern world, all overseen by courteous attendants who assist the customers through their experience, to ensure it is efficient and polite as possible. Through the eyes of a woman who has given eighteen years of life to this world, Sayaka Murata explores the Japanese perspectives of success and demands for social conformity. The narrator of Murata’s novel is a social outcast who has difficulty in understanding the conventions of social interactions and exchanges; she has no inclination for marriage or relationships; yet ironically thrives in the world of the convenience store, with its codified manual of how to interact, behave, with a clear outlined of expectations. It’s an acute novel exploring the rebellion against the rigid social expectations of a society which strives or perfection and success, while finding one’s own niche within a convenience demanding post-capitalist world.

Of the two, Masatsugu Ono is the only author who has been explicitly defined as a post-Murakami novelist. Where the world renowned Haruki Murakami, made a striking impact on the Japanese and international literary scene, because he moved away from the seriousness and austere atmosphere of his predecessors such as: Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, and the beginning career of Kenzaburō Ōe. Yet, in the late seventies and continuing to the twenty first century, Haruki Murakami would become a global sensation due to his light philosophical musings, solitary narrators, discusessions of loneliness and alienation, and blend of magical realism and surreal landscapes; but what really made his impact to become such a global sensation was his unapologetic admittance of American literature and pop culture as major influences on his output. By comparison Masatsugu Ono does not follow in the footsteps of Haruki Murakami, but instead strikes out on his own, as an author who probes the quiet peripheral world of rural Japan, away from the neon urban landscapes associated with Japan and by extension its literature. His novel “Lions Cross Point,” probes childhood trauma, tragedy, and abandonment, which interconnects with the crossroads of memory and dreams; past and present; reality and imagination—all in the rural landscape of a small fishing village in Japan, narrated through the stream of consciousness perspective of a ten year old boy, who comes to terms with the loss of innocence, trauma and tragedy, which seeks and ends with emotional resolve. On a final note of Masatsugu Ono, though he is considered a leading writer of the post-Murakami generation; comparisons between Masatsugu Ono and Kenzaburō Ōe cannot be ignored. Both authors have been influenced by French writers and philosophers. For Ōe it was existentialism and its progenitor and fellow (though reluctant) Nobel Laureate, Jean-Paul Sartre, though eventually Ōe would move away from the explicitly novels detailing the rebellion of societal values, to personal ‘I,’ narratives centered on the relationship between a father and his austic son.  Masatsugu Ono, on the other hand was influenced by the post-structuralist French philosophers: Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes—perhaps the last great wave of French philosophers. Much like an early Kenzaburō Ōe, Masatsugu Ono explores the rural and peripheral world and the individuals who exist within it, coupled juxtapositions of innocence and tragedy; trauma and relief, and so on and so forth—perhaps just missing the more immediate social criticism and revolt against society as a whole.

Hideo Yokoyama is the oldest of three inducted writers, and therefore could not be described as a post-Murakami writer. In all fairness, however, Hideo Yokoyama is in a different category in the taxonomy then the two authors listed above. Where Sayaka Murata and Masatsugu Ono are defined as literary authors, Hideo Yokoyama is defined as a mystery writer. Yet his novel “Seventeen,” is not necessarily a mystery novel in its delivery or description. Rather, “Seventeen,” retraces and documents the real tragic crash of a Japan Airlines plane—Flight-123, in nineteen-eighty five (one of the deadliest airline accidents in aviation history). In the novel, Hideo Yokoyama recounts the newsroom procedures, policies, and politics as journalists and reporters, spring into action like flies attracted to a fresh carcass, to cover the initial story. Based on his own experiences as a hard lined journalist, Hideo Yokoyama recounts the events through the perspective of those who are tasked with collecting and relaying the information and reportage of the public to consume and digest. The novel goes beyond reportage in this regard as well, by discussing public and national grief, the complex relationships between journalists and their work, as well as the foreseen and unforeseen consequences such an event has on both the nation then and ripping now into its present.

With twenty-five authors and novels longlisted for the fiction portion of the award, there is plenty of room to give an adequate representation of the global perspective and international literature currently being translated into English. The longlist itself shows authors from Africa, South America, to Europe and Asia. Language is equally as diverse: from continental to post-colonial, but also regional and experimental.

In Koli Jean Bofane, is a unique author on the longlist, with his novel: “Congo Inc.: Bismarck's Testament.” The novel is a blistering account of desires and colonial history, present political instability, civil unrest, voided human rights, corrupt governance, corporate greed and exploitation, and a globalized world indifferent to the exploits and sufferings of others, as well as the pursuit of power and money, as that is what is demanded of the world. The novel follows Isookanga, a young Congolese pygmy growing up in a small village, who dreams of wealth and power; and simulates his plans of achieving this through a video game, where he excersises all measures necessary to obtain the objective: war, high-tech weapons, slavery, genocide, all acceptable measures to achieve end goal. Soon after he deems himself substantially prepared, and heads to the capital where he aligns himself with children gangs, warlords, and fellow suffers of globalization, to do what he has planned and simulated. Throughout it all, through a soundtrack of suffering, machine gun spitfire and rattling, In Koli Jean Bofane is able to trace the present horrors of the Congo and all of Africa, to the rampant unbridled capitalism, which exploits the natural resources, the corruption of governments which beats and retains its own authority and control at the expense of the governed, the blatant human rights failures and atrocities, all back to Leopold the II and Bismarck, as the immediate colonists who begun a precedence of rape and pillage, torture, exploitation and corruption, which has scarred the identity and history of the continent, and pours over into the present with immediate consequences.

Patrick Chamoiseau also discusses the crimes of colonialism and its rampant ravaging of the world and people in his novel “Slave Old Man,” a novel that recounts the escape of an elderly slave, from the owner of the plantation on Martinique. Yet, his freedom is not without consequence, in pursuit is his master accompanied by his hound. The newly liberated slave escapes into the sinister yet beautiful rainforest, which is untamed and unbowed to human command, yet his master pursues relentlessly. As both the pursued and pursuant head deeper into the realms of unadulterated nature, reality begins to shift reality and time for both parties.  Patrick Chamoiseau is considered one of the most innovative fluid writers of the French language, as his work inserts creole worlds, to create complex linguistic portraits of high ingenuity. Patrick Chamoiseau is an influential post-colonial French language writer. Also reigning from the Caribbean is Hattian father of literature, Frankétienne and his novel: “Dézafi.” The novel is on the superficial elements a zombie novel, but in the hands and at the mercy of the powers of the Hattian author, is not just a zombie novel, it’s an experimental allegorical narrative which uses zombification, as a metaphorical symbol of slavery through Haiti’s past, which can still be felt now into the present. The novel is built around a myriad of voices blending poetry, magical realism, social commentary, myth and metaphor, to provide figurative understanding of a country still suffering from its past, its inability to progress and get on the straight and narrow, and discusses the desire for political and social liberation, to meet the expectations and gains it desires.

Sjon is considered the literary Bjork (who ironically, the author has a working relationship with). Sjon is one of the few Icelandic authors who is repeatedly translated into the English language, along with Nobel Laureate, Halldór Laxness. He is a winner of the Nordic Councils Literature Prize for his novel: “The Blue Fox,” which helped cement his name as one of the most unique Icelandic writers, and secured his place as a frequently translated author. “CoDex 1962: Trilogy,” is an omnibus edition of Sjon’s trilogy. The three novels form a portrait of one man (the narrator): Josef Löwe. Whose life is traced before conception—or creation—into the present times. It moves from the later stages of the Second World War, into the mid-twentieth century, into the present, all within the usual slipstream genre bending pastiche that is typical of Sjon’s work. It combines cosmic mythology, fairytales, legends, cultural tropes, science fiction, history, theology and a plethora of other subjects into a strange kaleidoscope narrative fixated and narrated around Josef Löwe. Sjon, is not the only Icelandic author to be featured on this year’s longlist either, he is accompanied by Ófeigur Sigurðsson and his novel: “Öræfï: The Wasteland.” Much like Sjon, Ófeigur Sigurðsson began his literary career as a poet, having published six collections of poetry, and is considered one of the revolutionary poets of contemporary Icelandic poetry, his novel “Jon,” is the first Icelandic novel to receive the European Union Prize for Literature. Sigurðsson’s novel: “Oraefi: The Wasteland,” is a postmodernist epic adventure that is uncompromising and difficult, on the surface it tells the story of a Austrian toponymist (an individual who studies the linguistic form of geography—where the name, words, et cetera of place come into being) who is nursed back to health by a vacationing veterinarian, here the two through reports, translators and interprets, share stories, myths, conversations, and discussions on a variety of eclectic topics, while also discussing the beauty of Iceland, in particular the glacial wastelands which is unforgiving and dangerous to those who are unprepared for its manic and bipolar climate, storms, and changes of temperament and mood. Noted as a difficult novel, inspired by the long monologues and postmodern vitriol of the Austrian enfant terrible, Thomas Bernhard, “Öræfï: The Wasteland,” is a challenging and rewarding work.

I know I am nearing the end of my stamina and will not be able to comment on all the remaining authors included on this year’s longlist. I will wrap up with three, and make my sincerest apologies to the remaining authors.  Shahriar Mandanipour and Negar Djavadi are two gems within this longlist who should not be overlooked. The two authors in particular retrace the complicated past of Iran in two different ways. Negar Djavadi in her debut novel “Disoriental,” explores through a multigenerational family saga the sadness and difficulties of life in exile. Through political repression over the years, the family flees their homeland and seeks refuge in a country and a world far from their own. Their they are treated as foreigners and aliens, isolated and alienated they begin the process of rebuilding their lives, forming new relationships and identities and integrating themselves into a new society, while retaining their heritage and their cultural nuances. It’s a powerful novel in today’s world where immigration, migration, and refugees are hot button political issues, sowing a divide between humanitarian principles and ideals, and the caustic rhetoric of fascist isolationist demagoguery. Shahriar Mandanipour documents the horrors of war in his novel: “Moon Brow.” With a touch of the magical realism, the novel is narrated by two angelic scribes who are perched on soldier’s shoulders. Shell shocked, mutilated, destroyed, and with little to no memory, the solider is confined to a hospital where he is repeatedly haunted by a mysterious woman, with a silver crescent moon adoring her forehead. When his family recovers him from the psychiatric ward, he returns home, hailed on a dichotomous scale as a martyr of the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, but also a madman. The novel recounts the story of the solider and his attempts at repairing his life, memory and his search for the mysterious woman. It’s an empathic novel riddled with Persian folklore, Middle Eastern history, and is an epic testament of love, family, and faith.

The three remaining authors I’d like to note are:

Alisa Ganieva – “Bride and Groom,”
Clemens Meyer – “Bricks and Mortar,”
Olga Tokarczuk – “Flights,”

Each of these three authors is the only singular representative of either geographical location or linguistic heritage; yet each one also shares a common familiarity in some sense or another with the immediate changes of the late twentieth century, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Alisa Ganieva for example, is a Russian writer who was born in nineteen-eighty five, and would have lived during the end of the Soviet Union. Clemens Meyer lived and grew up in former East Germany. Olga Tokarczuk was also was born and grew up in what was once Soviet Poland.

Alisa Ganieva is a prominent young Russian writer, whose powerful and striking voice have made her one of the most promising writers to enter the Russian literary scene. Her novel “Bride and Groom,” at first may appear as a usual marital drama, something akin to a romantic comedy in cinematic terms; but it quickly showcases itself to be concerned beyond just the martial inclinations and machinations of the Dagestan characters and their familial pressures for marriage, and disapproval of their own desires. The novel probes the post-Soviet landscape, in all its complications and uncertainties complete with meaningless legal protections, empty traditional values, and corruption imbued with political violence sees a emergence of soviet nostalgia, all of which plague the newly formed Russian Federation landscape. Love in such hesitant times is no guarantee of happiness, but rather an impediment to be used as leverage in a atmosphere riddled with an acceptance for violence.

“Bricks and Mortar,” by the German author Clemens Meyer, traces the sex trade through the former East Germany, into the newly reunified Germany. From prohibited to legal, the narrative traces through a chorus of voices from: landlords, prostitutes, clients, small time gangsters, and a concerned father; as it discusses the rise and fall of landlord who rented apartments for his own clients—prostitutes—who in turn will service their own. Yet, with typical economics fashion, the rise and fall traces the boom and the bust of the landlord’s career. Clemens Meyer uses this novel to discuss the shady milieu of reunification and the corrupting influence of capitalism as builds and destroys one man’s life and career, and in return his own corrosive touch on his own clients, via his own vicious monopoly of an otherwise squandered market. It’s a massive and ambitious novel tracing the economic developments of Germany through reunification, both literal and political. It traces the uncomfortable expansion through the late twentieth century, and a new system which could be just as corrupt as the old one, just with more profits to be had.

It would be extremely difficult to imagine the longlist not including Olga Tokarczuk and her award winning novel: “Flights,” the same sentiment can be passed on to seeing it omitted from the shortlist. “Flights,” won last years The Man Booker International Prize, shooting Tokarczuk to the bestsellers list, her foothold in the English language now secured, after two previously translated novels. “Flights,” is a fragmentary novel, which enhances Olga Tokarczuk already utilized episodic narratives. The entire novel is a digression on matters of travel in both literal and figurative senses. It’s a novel riddled with meditations, derivatives, digressions, narratives, vignettes, essays, and stories, and is glorious in how it juggles the mixed bag, ensuring that it never grows tiresome or boring. It’s a fresh and wonderful novel. It’s not a long windbag narrative, written with postmodern proclivities for the preposterously pompous. It’s a wonderful fragmented and episodic novel that ignores the notion of establishing a main character or narrative arch, and instead relies on the symbolic connection of movement, transience, and travel to maintain interest and engagement. It blends the factual, the historical and the imaginatively fictional to create a beautiful quilt or tapestry going over its chosen subject matter. Olga Tokarczuk is a wonderful writer and “Flights,” is a wonderful novel which cannot be overlooked or ignored. It’s a stylistic adventure, it’s rarely boring, and is an entertaining read as well as stimulating. The fact that it won the Man Booker International Prize for literature last year, can either assist the novels chances of being seriously considered for the Best Translated Book Award, as well as hinder it. Currently along with being longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award, Olga Tokarczuk is once again shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize for her recently translated novel: “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.” This spring and early summer, appears to be an exciting period for the Polish author.

There are my thoughts on this year’s fiction longlist. Authors were deliberately chosen and then eventually progressively evolved from there. There is no denying that the longlist is diverse and daunting, and the task of slimming it down to a more manageable sum will be a challenging task for the judges. Though I could not comment on all the writers, I do wish them the best of luck. I have a safe idea of who will most likely reach the shortlist, but then again nothing is decided until the date that it is finally released.


Following is the poetry longlist for these years, poetry aspect of the award. As always Gentle Reader, a friendly reminder that I am not a poetry reader, I do not indulge in it and find it a difficult literary trope to digest and appreciate its merit completely. Though I understand poetry as a unique literary format and do appreciate what it brings, its history, it is not a format that I find easy to consume, and therefore cannot give much weight or knowledge to. However, I would like to comment on a few poets listed below, and their subsequent collections—I cannot, however, comment on all.

Without further delay here is this year’s Poetry Longlist: (in no particular order)

Tanella Boni – Ivory Coast/ Côte d'Ivoire – “The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn,”
Roja Chamankar – Iran – “Dying in a Mother Tongue,”
Francis Ponge – France – “Nioque of the Early-Spring,”
Hilda Hilst – Brazil – “Of Death. Minimal Odes,”
Kim Hyesoon – (South) Korea – “Autobiography of Death,”
Jure Detela – Slovenia – “Moss and Silver,”
Luljeta Lleshanaku – Albania – “Negative Space,”
Friederike Mayrocker – Austria – “Scardanelli,”
Asta Olivia Nordenhof – Denmark – “the easiness and the loneliness,”
Pablo De Rokha – Chile – “Architecture of Dispersed Life: Selected Poetry,”

As mentioned I am by no means a poet or student or practitioner of poetry, but there are a few poets I’d like to give a slight bit of commentary on. The first being: Francis Ponge.

Francis Ponge, was a French poet often associated with the late surrealist movement, who the author never identified with. He eschewed symbolic pretense and other poetic failings to instead fixate and focus on ubiquitous common place objects, with acute detail examination, in a essayistic prose poem format. As a poet, Francis Ponge never faltered and gave into symbolism or emotional reasoning. His prose poems sought to recreate, describe, and examine with exact accuracy the minute experiences of everyday objects, as they are perceived and exist; often nearing exhaustion to how the object can be described via the limitations of language. It is due to his preoccupation with language and description that Francis Ponge is often considered a poet more than a prose writer—though the difference is difficult to discern. Both poets and prose writers should be preoccupied with communicating, be it idea, scene, emotional response, or epiphany. Prose writes often do it via narrative (story or essay) while poets take the more cryptic correspondence of air to present their format in distilled image driven lines. Francis Ponge, on the contrary ignored the line format and focused on formed sentences and paragraphs, much like a prose writer, but had no interest in narrating a story or presenting any logical connection to any idea. Rather Ponge utilized the prose format to fixate on language, as it described the occurrences of the everyday or the objects located therein.

“Nioque of the Early-Spring,” is described as a collection of his prose poems, which seeks to mediate on the season of spring and the passage of time, including renewal and rebirth. This is the first time these meditations of time, boundaries of language, and other observations have been translated and released into the English language. Yet, the confirm Francis Ponge as an extraordinary writer. An uncompromising chimera who never pledged allegiance to either camp be it poetry or prose. Instead, Francis Ponge striked out and made an extraordinary oeuvre of prose poems which are admired and marveled at today, as they playfully explore the limitations of language, the power of the everyday, and the creative exactness in order for one to reconsider how they perceive the everyday objects which surround them.

Kim Hyesoon is a rebellious poet from (South) Korea. The author revolts and spits at the dominating and domineering conservative culture of Korean society. Her poems are visceral, cerebral, viral, and visceral in their usage of image and language. The body is always the vantage point of her poems—or more specifically: women’s bodies. Her poetry employees’ linguistic agility and experimentation, whereby she discusses themes such as illness, death, injustice, found in contemporary society and the state of the human condition as a whole. Though a controversial poet, she is an admired poet, whose ingenuity of language, form, and observation cannot be denied or overlooked. Her newest poetry collection: “Autobiography of Death,” consists of poems that recount both personal death as well as mass tragic massacres from Korea’s contemporary past—such as the Korean War and the Gwangju Uprising of the nineteen eighties. It’s a striking meditation on the cyclical flow and dichotomy of life and death, through injustice and horror; it’s an elegy of suffering, illness, pain, and finally peace, which is only momentarily calm before the notion of reincarnation resumes its own functions. Kim Hyesoon is one of the most remarkable, powerful, and wonderful poets of (South) Korea, her visceral, candid, and violent poetry rebels against the social ineptitudes and corruption of ruling parties and elites. If only I was more attune with poetry, I would be able to have a better understanding and appreciation of Kim Hyesoon.

Friederike Mayrocker is the oldest poet on this list at the age of ninety-four years old; she is also one of Austria’s most beloved and famous poets, who is now finding her work translated into English. She is regarded for her uniquely experimental poetic language and voice, often creating strange linguistic collages of words and phrases taken both from her eclectic readings and her daily life. Her poetry is often called avant-garde due to her early association with the Wiener Gruppe of poets of the sixties and seventies of Austria, and her work is noted for its free association of language, texts, quotes, and pastiche to create a fluid poetic composition of otherwise private obsessions, observations, and contemplations. Friederike Mayrocker is not considered a nationalistic poet. She has no sociological predilections or political preoccupations. Her work is private and personal in performance and delivery. This lack of engagements may be off-putting to readers, who may feel they have no concreate anchor or vantage point in which to properly interpret and review her works. Yet Mayrocker appears indifferent to the hesitations of others, and instead continues to fixate on her linguistic collage of mystical, daydreaming, free associative and lucid verse. Her poetry collection: “Scardanelli,” is a private and personal collection detailing grief, and seeking ways to appropriately define and discuss the concept of grief. Many of the poems are dedicated to deceased friends and colleagues, and is imbued with memories and recollections of those who have since died, as well as personal homages to poets who Friederike Mayrocker admires and adores, such as Friedrich “Scardanelli” Hölderlin, who Mayrocker has called her poetic drug. Surely a difficult, complex and multilayered poetic text, for the best students and admires of poetry.

Luljeta Lleshanaku returns to the Best Translated Book Award, after being shortlisted for the poetry aspect back in two-thousand and eleven with her collection: “Child of Nature.” Though she didn’t win the award back then, she returns with her recently published collection of poems: “Negative Spaces.”


My sincerest apologies, Gentle Reader for missing the initial Best Translated Book Award Longlist announcement, when it was initially presented earlier this month, yet this year’s award is going to be a unique one. The diversity, quality, themes, and testaments presented by each author create for a unique list. The best of luck to the authors, and the best of luck to the judges who are now tasked creating a shortlist and finally naming a winner. It is by no means going to be an easy task, but the longlist alone shows great contenders and many authors that one should take a look into. Speaking on my own, some of the longlisted writers have already made their way on to my reading list, and I look forward to reading them hopefully in the near future.

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

M. Mary