The Birdcage Archives

Wednesday 26 August 2020

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld Wins International Booker Prize, 2020

Hello Gentle Reader

After being delayed for months due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the International Booker Prize judges announced that this year’s winner is the Dutch author: Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, for the novel: “The Discomfort of Evening.”

“The Discomfort of Evening,” is Rijneveld debut novel, previous she (or they) had only published poetry, which was praised as striking new voice in Dutch Literature. “The Discomfort of Evening,” has been a divisive choice by readers, with some praising the decision to award such a visceral and brutal debut; while others looked at it as showing immediate signs of being a debut, riddled with to many poetic flourishes that awkwardly jar the narrative. Though the major bone of contention with the decision is the narrative itself, a story of fundamental Protestantism oppressively stalling the growth and development of a family, in the name of virtuosic faith, moral pedigree, and virginal divine purity. All of which comes crashing down at the premature death of a family member. Grief when not properly processed, becomes a destructive force; and in this case, fuels the disparaging fantasies of the narrator.

“The Discomfort of Evening,” traces and recounts the disintegration of both the family at the death of a young child; but also the collapse of the young narrator who observers, participants, and devolves along with her family at the premature death of her younger brother. “The Discomfort of Evening,” promises to be an arresting and relentless read. On a slight side note: in winning the award, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is the youngest writer to receive the International Booker Prize at the age of twenty-nine.

Personally, I find the decision to award Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and her novel “The Discomfort of Evening,” not surprising, but disappointing all the same. I had higher hopes of Yōko Ogawa who is disturbingly underrepresented in the English language. Her novel “The Memory Police,” is on my books to read, and appears to be an exceptional treatise on memory, absence, and loss. Yōko Ogawa the strongest writer on the shortlist, and this strength especially during these changing and uncertain times due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the judges may have shied away from the immediate relevance “The Memory Police,” maybe viewed in this context. This still cannot ignore the fact that the novel (written well before the pandemic originally) is fixated on the notion of memory, absence, forgetting, and loss; themes which are timeless and written in crystalline and elegant prose that move beyond the current context of the pandemic, but will reverberate further as contemplation with regard to the act of remembering and recording, to fend off the abyss of absence and loss. I don’t find I hold the same perspective with Marieke Lucas Rijneveld novel “The Discomfort of Evening,” which once again traces the tropes of the dysfunctional religious zealotry family torn apart by grief.

At least “The Adventures of China Iron,” didn’t win, there is some consolation in that! Or perhaps I am just a curmudgeon when it comes to books that I just can’t seem to get the point of? A historical recounting with a gender and sexual fluid perspective? Once again it appeared to be some post-feminist/postmodern novel that struck me as not worth the effort or the time.

Though of the shortlist I will maintain the strongest writers and novels were: Yōko Ogawa with her novel “The Memory Police,” and Fernanda Melchor with her novel “Hurricane Season.”

Regardless of my thoughts though; congratulations to Marieke Lucas Rijneveld.

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

M. Mary

Monday 24 August 2020

Ocean Vuong, Named the Future Library Project Writer For 2020

Hello Gentle Reader

The Vietnamese American poet, essayist and casual novelist has been named the new writer to contribute to the Future Library Project for 2020. He follows in the footsteps of previous contributors:

(2014) Margaret Atwood – Canada
(2015) David Mitchell – United Kingdom
(2016) Sjon – Iceland
(2017) Elif Shafak – Turkey (Exile: United Kingdom)
(2018) Han Kang – (South) Korea
(2019) Karl Ove Knausgård – Norwegian

When comparing Ocean Vuong to previous contributors of the project he is by far the youngest at the age of 31. The other writers had already been well established in their careers and have made a significant name for themselves both in their respective languages, and the English language. On the contrary, Vuong has only published one full collection of poetry (“Nightsky With Exit Wounds,”) and one novel: “On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous,” as well as essays in periodicals; and a couple of poetry chapbooks. Despite his relative youth, and budding literary career, Ocean Vuong has impressed critics and readers alike. He’s been awarded the T.S Eliot Prize, a Whiting Award for Poetry, and has been given the MacArthur Grant. Despite his youth and still becoming literary career, Ocean Vuong has proven he is as apt to participant in The Future Library Project, as his predecessors.

The projects founder and curator, Katie Paterson, praised Ocean Vuong for his radiant writing, his preoccupations with relevant topics such as the immigrant experience, and issues related to sexuality. Vuong’s unflinching survivalist imagery, and raw accounts of what it means to survive are more perfect then ever considering the current global crisis caused by the pandemic; which has put the current hand off ceremony for Karl Ove Knausgård on hold.

Ocean Vuong is a welcomed addition to the Future Library Project’s literary perspective of the times we live in and will continue to into the future. When the manuscripts are finally revealed and published in 2114, one can only imagine what treasures this literary time capsule will reveal.

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

M. Mary

Monday 17 August 2020

Nobel Prize in Literature 2020 Speculation List

The Beginning—

In less than two months Gentle Reader, we will learn who this years Nobel Laureate in Literature will be. Following is a list of eighty-six (86) writers listed for this year’s speculation list. These eighty-six writers were chosen for a myriad of reasons; however, at no point do I cement or affirm with any certainty that any of the listed writers will receive the award. I have chosen the authors based off personal taste, and careful consideration, after doing research and reviewing of their work (on a limited basis) and believe they have no more or less of a chance than any other writer listed or otherwise. One of the greatest joys about the Nobel Prize for Literature is that we learn at these times great writers, who previously were overlooked, or unknown to us, either thanks to the award or thanks in large part to the speculation. The following list is merely an attempt at bringing a great plethora of writers to a greater attention; there is nothing quite as enjoyable as discovering a new writer and wishing to readily consume their works with vigorous and otherwise ravenous glee. In this, I thank the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The following list Gentle Reader is categorized in the usual format: Continent and or geographical region, then sub-categorized into country/origin, then country of exile (if applicable), and literary language (if applicable).

For example:

Europe [ Continent Category ]

Tua Forsström [ writer ] – Finland [ country ] (Swedish Language) [ language as applicable ]

(Please Note Gentle Reader, Tua Forsström is being used merely as an example; in years past she was included on the Nobel Prize for Literature speculation list. However, she was recently elected to the Swedish Academy to Chair No. 18.)

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 reflecting 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 & Please Enjoy,

M. Mary


Africa –

Tierno Monénembo – Guinea – Tierno Monénembo is one of Guinea’s most renowned writers, but also one of the most important French language writers to emerge from the post-colonial Francophone controlled regions of Africa. Monénembo’s work is particularly informed of the blight of the African intellectuals, who find their home in disarray after colonialism, and seek opportunities abroad, and the difficulties they encounter in life in other countries. Tierno Monénembo has taken a particular interest in historical narratives, often detailing the lives of the Fula People, where documented the extraordinary life of Addi Bâ, a Fula resistance fighter during the Second World War, who the Nazi’s deemed ‘the black terrorist.’ Tierno Monénembo remains persistently concerned with the colonial and post-colonial histories of the African continent and seeks to elevate the intellectual standings of the continent, to a broader audience, through a process of continual codification of memory, in historical, personal, and anthropological scope. Through the preoccupation of the past, one is able to gain an understanding of the trajectory of the future. Yet continually the same mistakes are perpetrated repeatedly; the same crimes, the same violence, the same political uncertainty, the same oppressive atmospheres, with different perpetrators. After the Rwandan Genocide of nineteen ninety-four, Tierno Monénembo became one of writers tasked with reviewing and writing about the event. This act would change his perspective on the concept of writing, as many of the writers chosen for the project, either were firsthand witnesses of the atrocities, or where third-party witnesses, who sought to attempt to understand the horror which had taken place. In this, Tierno Monénembo, was a third-party witness, attempting to understand the societal break down of order, and make sense of the senseless violence that had taken place, and inevitably swayed back to the wounds of colonialism, which had finally become to raw and rotten to ignore any longer. In this, Tierno Monénembo works to survey the African continent in a mired of contexts, from colonial to post-colonial, and the dawning hope of a new world, a better world, riddled with the basic idealism and principles of humanity.

Wilma Stockenström – South Africa – Is one of the most important Afrikaans language writers currently at work in contemporary South African Literature. Wilma Stockenström is a playwright, poet, translator, casual novelist, as well as an actress. Stockenström’s first love before turning to a writer was theatre. She studied the theatrical studies at university and acted on stage, before retiring to the wings to pick up the pen and draft works of literary construct. She drafted a couple of one-act plays, before turning to poetry. Stockenström’s poetry is noted for being unadorned, lacking poetic fashions, and disregarding trivial musicality. In lieu of otherwise frivolous styles of the time, Wilma Stockenström wrote her poetry in sober, solemn, and straightforward manner, coupled with ironic precision. Along with eschewing the haughty airs of poor and conventional poetry; Wilma Stockenström shifted the perspective from the intrapersonal, self-centered and absorbed ‘I,’ narrative; to one that provided commentary on the human condition; exploring the external; the interpersonal; and the engagement with the environment. In this, Wilma Stockenström maintains the same poetic predilections as the late Polish poet and Nobel Laureate, Wislwa Szymborska who eschewed the confessional narcissistic narratives of previous generations, in favour of ironic observations of the human condition. In the English language, Wilma Stockenström gained attention through her fragmentary and poetic novel: “The Expedition to the Baobab Tree.”

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 called the smuggler writer, for his literary style which takeswords and phrases from different languages and cultures and blending them into his own unique literary mosaic. This world play has been praised by many, as it creates a unique linguistic experience, which is 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 surely there is something lost in translation. Over the past years, Mia Couto’s international literary recognition has grown; from winning the Latin American Prize over a decade ago; to receiving the Camões Prize; and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Antjie Krog – South Africa – The contemporary South African poet, literary theorist, and academic; has been described by Joan Hambidge, as as the Pablo Neruda of Afrikaans poetry. Krog herself, published her first collection of poetry at the tender age of seventeen, and two years later published her second collection of poetry, and throughout the following decades, would continue to write and publish numerous volumes of poetry. The poetry of Antjie Krog contemplates and discusses powerful themes, ranging from gender politics, identity, race, salvation, and of course apartheid. Her work can take a slight personal and almost autobiographical tone in discussing the changes of age, time, and gender and its effects on an individual’s identity. Identity in her work often goes beyond gender as well, and encompasses a strange desire to change her race beyond the won endowed to her by birth. In this, Antjie Krog presents a unique and political conscious perspective of a poet, observing a strange society at work, one influx of change, of resentment and in need of reconciliation. Krog’s work moves beyond just poetry as well and encompasses finely tuned prose forms. The first and most famous work of prose is: “Country of My Skull,” which recounts the Truth and Reconciliation Commission instituted, to bring closure and truth, to the previous discrimination, racism, and political abuse caused by apartheid in the southern African state. The second prose work presents a postmodern blend of different forms: prose, personal narrative, poetry, interviews, and journalistic reportage to craft a deconstructuralist narrative, recounting the evolution of South African society away from apartheid, as well as the erosion of Afrikaans language and culture in South African society, in favour of a strange vernacular English. Afrikaans as a language, was the language of the oppressor, the racist, the separatist, the great divider of the country, and yet remains within its borders. 

José Eduardo Agualusa – Angola – Along with Mia Couto, José Eduardo Agualusa is one of the most successful and read Portuguese language voices ringing from the post-colonial African continent. Where Mia Couto from Mozambique won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in two-thousand and fourteen, José Eduardo Agualusa went on to receive the International Dublin Literary Award in two-thousand and seventeen. Both Mia Couto and José Eduardo Agualusa are influenced by the histories of their respective nations. Yet, both have a particular relationship to their respective nation’s historical narratives, as their perspective is tinted by the notion of being the outsider, the colonial, the conqueror. Mia Couto explores the historical through the infusion of folktales, traditions, and ceremony, with an anthropologist’s curiosity, as well as the magical realism of the exotic, to depict a world which cautiously remains in flux between the grounded certainty, and the flights of imaginative fancy. José Eduardo Agualusa maintains a historical approach to his literary narratives, firmly grounded in the context provided, but maintains its own imaginative flights. Take for example Agualusa’s celeberated novel: “A General Theory of Oblivion,” about a woman who grows increasingly concerned about the Angolan War of Independence. As Angola begins to shake the yoke of colonial rule off, she becomes increasingly paranoid of her future. Instead of fleeing to Portugal, the expat barricades and entombs herself in her apartment for nearly three decades. Her only contact with outside world is through the conversations she hears from her neighbors, the world viewed from her window, and the radio which eventually dies. She distills her experiences, observations, and eavesdropping down into diaries, before documenting them on the walls; all through the historical context of Angola being torn by colonialism, and the influence of other exacting nations: Soviet Union, United States, and the insurgency of South African fighters. José Eduardo Agualusa other novels carry the same preoccupation and concern with the social and political context of Angola and the African continent in the world. Its historical destitution are never far, and the atrocities, reprehensible cruelties, and the prior mistakes are often left behind; through the inventiveness of the imagination, as characters seek to become chameleons, changing colour, lives, and pasts to greet a new era, and a new world without concern for the previous episodes. This is the world of José Eduardo Agualusa, one of histographic understanding, while presenting imaginative and postmodern irony, to liven it up, and when necessary add allegorical elements of forewarning and foreshadowing of impending disaster, be it ecological or human.

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.

Ben Okri – Nigeria – Since his debut, Ben Orki 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 Orki was the youngest writer to ever receive the award (Eleanor Catton now holds claim over the title). He has been favorably compared to Salmin Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for his use of magical realism in his novels. Orki 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, Orki 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; Orki’s 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.

Ivan Vladislavic – South Africa – For the longest time, the South African writer Ivan Vladislavic was unknown on the global stage of literature. The shadow of J.M. Coetzee was also known for eclipsing all authors who hailed from the country, with the exception of Nadine Gordimer, who had preceded him in winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, securing her status as equal. Where other South African writers concern themselves with the nations troubled past of segregation, discrimination, and blatant racism; Ivan Vladislavic takes an otherwise unique and surreal take of the landscape, the world, and the human condition, exploring the possibilities of literature in its relation communicating the human experience both in the personal and in the universal context. His one novel or short story collection or digression on the concept of memory, landscape, and people: “Portrait with Keys,” is not unified by an overarching narrative, story, or plot. Rather the work is composed of numerous fragments, prose snippets, vignettes, scenes, and stories concerning Johannesburg through ghosts and gardens, memories, habit, concepts of home, journeys undertaken, wandering observations, changing perceptions, falling and stealing, as well as friendships and mortality. It’s a pastiche novel painting a portrait of a city, through its side streets, and its unique characteristics and populace. It should come as no surprise then that Ivan Vladislavic is renowned for his shorter proses, where there has been a steady increase in translation over the past few years. His shorter prose provides a surreal, postmodern, and postructuralist perspective of the world, one which rejects societal and human attempts at instituting either order or control, an echoing sentiment of the strange paradox of the human condition: despite our unity in on the most atomized level, we are all still inherently different. In this a critic or a reader may find an allegory or metaphorical element providing inclinations to the discussion of apartheid in South Africa, while all the same the work transcends the national and seeks to make sense of the more philosophical, existential and ethereal components of the human context, while ultimately being unable to measure it. The short story, and further fragmentation of form, is therefore a perfect literary style for an author whose decries and sighs at the continual need for order, and harmonic responses to the natural, instinctual and by nature chaotic world.

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 an Angolan, he was a participant in the MPLA (The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola), where he documented 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.  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 millennium, 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 these later decades of the author’s career have 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 climate catastrophe, which lurks around the corner.

Athol Fugard – South Africa – At eighty-eight years old, Athol Fugard has certainly reached the end of his long career, which has been honored and decorated with the title of being South Africa’s most prominent and important playwrights. Early on in his playwrighting career, Athol Fugard’s work carried political elements criticizing the Apartheid Regime of South Africa, and its segregation of people based on ethnicity and the pigment of their skin. His early works continued to blend both cultures and ethnicities on the stage, which he wrote, directed and acted on. His alignment and association with anti-apartheid figures, became the largest influences on his otherwise politically motivated plays, which provided social critiques by using satire, disillusioned monologues, and the abrupt social taboo of allowing both white and black actors share the same stage. In order to avoid political persecution, Fugard often had his plays staged beyond the borders of South Africa, or in underground theatre’s. By the nineteen-eighties, Athol Fugard was regarded as one of the most revolutionary, active, and important playwrights in the English language, alongside: Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill, and Tom Stoppard. As a dramatist, Athol Fugard, utilized his characters with imagistic and symbolist predilections, to insinuate macro political elements. Moving away from plot, story, narrative, and character development, Fugard sought to employ greater abstract notions of text, image, and symbolism to provide commentary on political concerns; Athol Fugard became less and less like a traditional playwright and dramatist, and more experimental, exploring the realms of possibility and potential of the drama format, allowing his work to become more expressive, impressionistic, as well as shapeless. His later works continue in this same fashion, with preoccupations towards personal matters, such as intimate history, memory, and autobiography; as well as tropes into the post-apartheid landscape of South Africa.

Northern Africa & Middle East –

Leila Abouzeid – Morocco – For Leila Abouzeid, language is both identity (in both personal and cultural context), as well as political statement. Where other Moroccan writers write in the colonial French, Abouzeid writes in Arabic, detesting the French language as a reminder of Morocco’s colonial past, and the oppressive doctrine imposed on the Northern African country’s populace. Throughout her career as a radio and television journalist, Leila Abouzeid spoke and worked in the Arabic language, rejecting the French language left behind, which had become the literary and business language of Morocco—the language, which allowed the nation to interact with the west, and Europe. If French was reserved for the business and interacting with more cosmopolitan powers; Arabic was reserved for the everyday, the commonplace, and the home. As a radio journalist, Leila Abouzeid translated film scripts into Arabic, and would often do dramatic readings over her broadcasts in Arabic, which certainly reached the listening public clearly, without pretense. These broadcasts would have ideally resonated with those listening in on a historical, cultural, and social context. As with her broadcast journalist works, Leila Abouzied wrote exclusively in Arabic once again rejecting the French language, which has been employed by other Moroccan writers who have found success throughout the world, due to their use of language and its accessibility into more European markets. As a writer Leila Abouzeid’s literary themes have taken a feminine perspective on themes such as language, identity, politics, society, relationships, the meaning of independence and history. Her debut and famous novel “The Year of The Elephant,” tackled themes of family conflict and divorce, but this time through the lens of the female perspective, and asked questions regarding the traditional cultural values versus the progressive attitudes of modernity. Her semi-autobiographical novels: “Return to Childhood,” and “The Last Chapter,” deal with the family upheaval and personal convictions and condemnation of the ideals of seeking and supporting the notion of an independent Morocco; as well as the female conflict regarding identity defined by the notion of Morocco independence, and framed further by the narrative of traditional Islamic values and the modern perspective. Leila Abouzeid is a curator of language and perspective, as she sustains and promotes the Arabic language in Morocco as the true language of the nation, while also recounting and detailing the complex and fluid idea of what it means to be a woman in the nation.

Adunis – Syria – Adunis is one of the most important and influential poets at work today. His influence on Arabic language poetry during the Second Half of the Twentieth century, was considered a Modernist Revolution, and is comparable to T.S. Eliot’s influence on Anglophone poetry in the early Twentieth Century. 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. The fact that Adunis has been denied the Nobel Prize for Literature this long is a cause for concern. Now having reached his nineties, if the Swedish Academy decides or neglects not to award the poet the Nobel Prize for Literature in the immediate future, it will become doubtful they ever will. This being said, Adunis is a unique case. Even without the Nobel Seal of approval, the poet will be sure to outlast many of his contemporizes, as future generations will study, admire, and emulate his work. To award, Adunis any literary award now, is merely to acknowledge his literary powers and absolute authority as a distinguished writer; it would not necessarily be overdue recognition.

David Grossman – Israel – There can be no denying the favoured author to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature was always the late Amos Oz. Amos Oz was usually favoured for his mild political and often liberal leaning thought within the Middle East political conundrum; even though it was often relayed in sobering, solemn tones. Second, to Amos Oz, has always been David Grossman, who politically speaking—is the representative of the Israeli left-leaning cultural and intellectual side of the spectrum, noted for his peace activism—which is far more involved then Amos Oz was, who published articles, gave lectures, and provided interviews, but one would not go so far as to state he participated in peace activism. The on-going dispute between Israel and Palestine, as a subject has often been carefully avoided David Grossman’s work, until the death of his son in two-thousand and six, during the Lebanon War. Afterwards, Grossman would publish his novel: “To the End of the Land,” recounting the emotional strains families experience as their loved ones are deployed during combat, especially during the mandatory military conscription utilized by Israel. The novel was political as it was personal. David Grossman has been one of the most renowned Israeli authors on the global stage. In two-thousand and seventeen, he won the Booker International Prize, for his novel: “A Horse Walks into a Bar,” where he was shortlisted alongside his contemporary colleague Amos Oz. David Grossman remains a poignant writer of the Jewish experience in the region, but also of the insurmountable grief families experience when their loved ones are sent off on military service, and the superstitious rituals they perform to ward them from harm. Despite his literary renowned, David Grossman is no stranger to skirmishes with authorities due to his political activism, and in two-thousand and ten was beaten by police during protests along the West Bank. Beyond the dirty affairs of politics, and geopolitical disputes, David Grossman is a phenomenal and serious writer, with striking literary tastes, humanistic eye, and a solemn perspective of the human notion in the world continually divided.

Nawal El Saadawi – Egypt – Now in her eighties, Nawal El 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 medical 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 firsthand). 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 religious approved oppression of 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 or theological clerics. Despite her vast literary, medical and public service/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 Egyptian Government, Nawal El Saadawi is slightly untouchable, for her appeal, her attention, and recognition on the international world; but her vicious criticism never overlooked or ignored and is perhaps mildly tolerated.

Elias Khoury – Lebanon –Khoury is well-known and renowned Lebanese playwright, novelist, and public intellectual. Like many Middle Eastern writers, Khoury is a politically involved writer, one who 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 an explosion, while being sure to return the fire. Khoury’s novels tackle these same subjects, with his same objective and critical eye. His novels tackle political subject matter, but not in pontificating more high-handed form, 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 portrait 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.

Boualem Sansal – Algeria – Writing carries many purposes, and writers carry this function out through their own personal reasonings. Some writers write for enjoyment, others write for more rational purposes, and others as Samuel Beckett stated best: aren’t good for anything else. Some, however, like Boualem Sansal write out of intellectual integrity, as well as protest, and dissidence against the sheer disregard, and collapse of the basic civic due processes of society, which becomes infected by fantasies of grandeur, dissatisfaction with other sects, races, religions, people, and other homicidal/genocidal inclinations, which are fueled by hatred; which they quickly retort they do not foster, nor promote. As an author Boualem Sansal, is deemed an author who is exiled within his own country. In Algeria, his works are banned from publication and distribution, so it should go without saying they are indefinitely not deemed appropriate for public consumption. The reason for this is simple, his work is highly critical of the current political maneuvering of the Algerian government to set aside all political sovereignty, as well as moral and intellectual integrity, in embracing, and fostering Islamic fundamentalism, a movement which Boualem Sansal has adamantly worked to undermining and dissuading against. His work is noted for using political and historical allegories to reflect the current of Algeria, and the Northern African Continent. Despite the disregard in which his home country treats him, he is still considered one of the most profound and important writers of the French language, and of the French language on the African Continent.

Bahaa Taher – Egypt – Bahaa Taher was once considered Egypt/Cairo’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.

Ibrahim al-Koni – Libya – Ibrahim al-Koni is one of the most prolific, and well-known Arabic language writers of contemporary Arabic Literature. Ibrahim al-Koni has published upwards of over eighty literary works including novels, short stories, poems and essays. Ibrahim 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 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 oral storytelling 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 has since become one of the most prolific contemporary Arabic language writers at work today. Ibrahim al-Koni’s unique cultural upbringing with its’ folktales, traditions, customs and conventions have been the well of inspiration which has formed his work and perspective.

Abdallah Zrika – Morocco – Abdallah Zrika is one of the most profound poetic voices of Morocco. In Middle Eastern Literature, poetry holds a special and unique place in literary favour. Iran for example takes great pride in their poets of old, whose poetry is still recited by the young and the old alike. Poetry becomes an aspect of the everyday, an infusion of language and perspective, harmoniously unifying populaces through a singular vision of form, language, and devotion to higher pursuits. Abdallah Zrika embodies this in his poetic contributions to Moroccan poetry. First published in the nineteen-seventies, Abdallah Zrika, gained notoriety and recognition with the youth of Morocco, his poetry representing their ideals of life, freedom: freedom to live, and freedom to express oneself. Abdallah Zrika’s poetry immediately gained notice of the authorities, and was censored, and deemed immorally morally dangerous. Subsequently Zirka spent two years in prison for his ‘morally dangerous,’ poetic work. Once released Abdallah Zrika continued on his poetic career, becoming one of Morocco’s best kept literary secrets, with continual translations appearing in French, but overlooked by the English language market. His poetry is noted for its spontaneity, which remains striking and revolutionary in Arabic literary circles. Abdallah Zrika treats the human condition, with a metaphysical and existential, he portrays and deals with the human being as an organic being within the universe, a mere component that builds up its unique mosaic matter. Human beings are not depicted as heavenly beings, ricocheting through the celestial spheres. Rather, the human being is much like the animals, the insects, or the birds—and in turn they are all given equal turn, song, perspective, and voice through the everyday, echoing through a grand universe, which takes neither note or notice of the beings beneath its star studded sky. It is here Abdallah Zrika makes sense of the world, and the human condition, by rooting down to the needle point of the exactness of being.

Shahrnush Parsipur – Iran – with the election of Jila Mossaed to the Swedish Academy two years ago, the Swedish Academy had a member on its council who could read Persian language, but also someone who would be able to provide linguistic and cultural perspective on literature from Iran, and other regions which share the language. Just as Göran Malmqvist was the Swedish Academy’s sinologist, and whose perspective and opinion on Chinese culture, language, and literature would be highly respected and sought after; so too will Jila Mossaed’s. As a member of the Swedish Academy, Mossaed, has the privilege to nominate candidates for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and it would be reasonable to presume that she will nominate writers from her native language and culture, who she respects and admires. As Iranian and Persian language literature has shown over the past century, women writers are often the most outspoken, formidable, and ferocious writers, such as the poet: Simin Behbahani, the Lioness of Iranian Literature, who challenged the social and political status quo of Iran, and Shahrnush Parsipur is no different. Parsipur, takes an equal adversarial approach to literature, to inspire social and political changes in perspective and decorum of Iranian society. Shahrnush Parsipur’s literary work explores the divide of women in Iranian society, and the conditions that they are subjected to. Her characters continually express openly their disregard for their place in society; they unabashedly sexual oppression, domination; ridicule the virtues of chastity; and resist the social and political demands of society against them. Her writings have not come without controversy. Twice she was imprisoned for her novel “Women Without Men.” Her prison memoirs were published to great acclaim and received international translation and recognition following, allowing the writer to move into exile, where she has stayed, while remaining an active vocal critic of the patriarchal social restraints of her homeland. Shahrnush Parsipur, is by all accounts one of those foreceful hurricane forces of literature that demands social, political, and ideological changes. 

Europe –

Annie Ernaux – France – When Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015, many saw the award as an inclination that Nobel Prize and the Swedish Academy acknowledging and broadening the diverse landscape of what is considered literature, as Alexievich’s work is a hybrid of journalistic reportage and historical narrative; but rather than just providing the ‘facts, ‘of the matter, Alexievich carts and traces the individual in the nebulous expanse of history. Yet, diaries, memories, private narratives, autobiography, and what is called: “autofiction,’ is difficult to analyze through the higher lens of literary pursuits. Rather they are viewed as self-indulgent, narcissistic narratives, soliciting scandal through histrionic chronicles. Annie Ernaux, on the contrary is a writer of deeply personal affected narratives, memoirs, and otherwise noted for her ‘autobiographical fiction.’ Ernaux leaves cheap indulgences, cliché, and kitschy confessional sentiments aside, in favour of sociological narratives, utilizing the otherwise personal and private to provide an anchor, and narrative force to the cartographical act of tracing and observing otherwise more external macro social, political and societal changes. The work of Annie Ernaux is instead an examination of the external through the lens of the private, and personal, which happens to give the socioeconomic and political changes a shape, form, and narrative structure, in order to make it more personable, palpable, and tangible. Her work carefully examines the changing climate, atmosphere, pressure, and conventions of society, while also providing a unique analytical critique. Ernaux takes her own personal and private predictions in order to provide a human and personal touch to the greater workings of society and history. The humanization of such moments removes it from the dusted case of academia, and places it into a realm that is palpable and engaging. Annie Ernaux creates empathetic, as well as sympathetic narratives, built on distressing facts, but measured with a restrained vision, and a preoccupation with grander and more social concerns. This macro and external perspective is what is endearing about Annie Ernaux, she supersedes notions of self-indulgence, and confessional pitfalls of less capable writers; and instead fixates and focuses on a need to protest or actively voice change, through her sharply observed writings. Her work is a social and historical time capsule, bet fit with personal memorabilia, opinions, perceptions, and fine-tuned observations.

László Krasznahorkai – Hungary – The Hungarian monk of The Apocalypse, gained immediate recognition and notoriety when his infamously long, dense, difficult, and mammoth novels began to appear in English translation. Even before his works were translated, they had a reputation in European literary scenes. The sentences of Krasznahorkai have always gained attention from readers and critics; those serpentine black rivers of ink and text, continue on and on for pages, soldered together with comas, semicolons, and colons. When a period does make an appearance its merely a break, not a finite end. László Krasznahorkai’s work is marred with a dread and unease; an otherwise disquieting atmosphere. The landscape of Krasznahorkai’s narratives take place in a strange Kafkaesque landscape: rural Soviet collective farms, poor communities, ruins of desperation, bars of neither character nor charm, or desolate artistic retreats. From there, like some aged underground Rockstar prophet, Krasznahorkai provides the narrative of those who call such places home. In this same fashion, the youthful, educated and hipster academics picked up the Hungarian writer, as some literary fashion, trading his books like postmodern currency. His works stuck home for them; he was dark, strange, and desolate; a writer completely different then what constitutes as contemporary American Literature, with its usual brand of bread and butter of family dramas, narratives, and otherwise rehashing postmortem novels parading themselves as postmodern greats. László Krasznahorkai provides a reprieve from the otherwise stagnant literary scene of the Americas; with his bleak landscapes, despair ridden characters, and bleak humour flows endlessly through the slow-moving lava text. On a personal note, my reading experience with László Krasznahorkai, is one based off respect, but lukewarm all the same. His work requires the level of care, patience, tolerance, and marathonic resilience and tenacity, which I do not have. There is respect in what he can do, what he has done, his discipline to his form, his unrelentless singular spirit and dedication to his style, preoccupation, and themes, it’s still not a literary work which I find easy or enjoyable in consumption. One cannot deny his work for being masterful in craft, monumental in form, and foreboding in deliverance, he is uncompromising, which is also what endears him to his readers.  László Krasznahorkai is a giant of global letters and international literature, his shadow is eclipsing, and undeniable. The talents of his work blister and push forward. Denying, Krasznahorkai his place on the literary stage is inappropriate, if not impossible. The Nobel Prize for Literature would not be a surprise for the author, and this point one is merely discussing when not if—though caution should warranted against speaking with such certain conviction. The Swedish Academy has proven, they do not like to appear stagnant or complacent, or predictable.

Olga Sedakova – Russia – Being referred to as “Confessional Christian Poet,” may be viewed as a hinderance, or being perceived in a negative fashion. Its an image that carries the pious halo, whose concern is self-righteous pontificating decrees, rather then the meaningful, complex, and often ironic poetic observations of the human condition. The very same human condition that is denied the doting hand of any celestial or holy being. In this denial the world spins through its circular wheel of absurdity and dread; with occasional intermissions of relief. Despite being called a “Confessional Christian Poet,” Olga Sedakova is not pious or theologically concerned; nor she is a wailing mad lunatic, confessing and airing her private details and personal predilections to the reading public. Rather, Sedakova is a pinnacle of astute moral integrity, one based around the most instinctual Christian beliefs and ideals, which is not always apparent in churches—this is most exemplified when Sedakova criticized the Russian Orthodox Church’s intolerance towards other Christian faiths. While on the flipside she exchanged poetic correspondence with the late Pope John Paul II. Olga Sedakova’s poetry is noted for its neoclassical forms, and highly theological perspective with regards to faith and the human condition, and the striving goal to reach the divine ideal. Though these poetic preoccupations have gathered her praise and acclaim; during the Soviet Era, her poems were deemed unsuitable and censored or barred from publication, meaning Sedakova was forced to participate in the Samizdat Movement of underground Soviet Literary scenes; but it was not until after the fall and collapse of the Red Empire, did Olga Sedakova finely gain greater recognition and circulation amongst readers and critics, both home and abroad. Olga Sedakova’s poetry is stark, parred down, and yet carry the economic values of earnest expression. Her poetry not only recounts or documents the human experience, but also the goal to achieve the ideal as theorized in the theological concepts of the divine. Olga Sedakova is both a poet of reality, but also of the progressive possibility; the spirit, yearning and pursuit of the superlative.

Fleur Jaeggy – Switzerland (Italian language) – Fleur Jaeggy is the literary queen of dry-ice. Her pen becomes a stainless-steel scalpel etching and dissecting her characters and society at large, through continued minuet observations, revealing at its core a system failed and rotting in its own nihilistic debauchery. Everyday life in Jaeggy’s world is but a thin layer of ice waiting to give way; and beneath the cold translucent sheet of frost lies the misery, the drudgery, the mundane tragedies, and the ever-present violence and insanity of the human psyche. It is in this cold and uninhabitable place, one completely deprived of joy, does Fleur Jaeggy sketch her shadowy characters. These characters live squandered and unfortunate existences—that is if one can call their perilous predilections living at all. They exist only to drift through the sewage strewn river of their life, until the reprieve of death. Their perspective on the matter is the same as their author: dry, cold, and precise. They act with restrained emotion, presenting the world with a rational demeanor, all the while they are consumed in the violet flames of their psyche, prone to fits of rage and passion, all the while never slipping into such pantomime. Instead they calculate their outburst with measured approaches—such as concealing their suicide, by ensuring the gun shot corresponds with the ringing of the church bell. Their violent appetites are sated when they watch manor houses burn for the sheer hell of it. They maintain one aspiration early on: they want to die. One could never call Fleur Jaeggy idealistic; in lieu she depicts the world in frigid naturalistic expression. The biographical elements of Fleur Jaeggy are scarce. She was born in Switzerland, though her literary language is Italian (with her home now Italy)—though her literary works call back to the mountains and dark valleys of Switzerland. She is noted for solitary and reclusive nature, rarely consenting to interviews and evading questions during them. Beyond her literary preoccupations, she is also a translator of Thomas De Quincy and Marcel Schwob. Jaeggy’s literary style is a marriage of different forms. 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. Despite being overlooked, and grossly underappreciated, Fleur Jaeggy is an astonishing and monumental writer. Her work is biting and perhaps mistakenly nihilistic, but her observations and dry-icy cartographical analysis of the depravity of existence is both endearing and admirable, as it refuses to look at the world through priggish moral high handing. It’s an existential vivisection of the depravity to seek universal meaning, only to be driven mad or violent by the inherent meaninglessness.

Jon Fosse – Norway – Before retiring from writing for the theatre to focus on prose writing, Jon Fosse was (and is) one of the most produced and performed living playwright in the world. As a dramatist, Jon Fosse had written over twenty plays, and been hailed as the heir of Henrik Ibsen; but also, Samuel Beckett, and to a minor extent, Harold Pinter. Despite the comparisons and the review of dramatic heritage, Jon Fosse writes in contrary to the other three. Fosse is not a naturalist in the fashion of Ibsen. His work is not a detailed portrait of the individual, as they maneuver through their day to day lives, fit with their own tribulations and predications; thwarted dreams and aspirations, which empathetically connect them to the audience, who sit just beyond the stages end. Nor is Fosse a absurdist, writing in the shadow of Beckett’s mantel. His characters are not veiled modern clowns, performing pantomime routines mocking the absurd cruelty of life as it circles the meaninglessness. Fosse also lacks the comedic menace of Pinter, as well as explicit foray into political discourse. Jon Fosse is his own writer, one of subtle complexities. His work is noted for its minimalist structure and perspective (recalling both Beckett and Pinter) but lacks the absurd and underlying menacing nuances of the two. Fosse’s plays are not realist in tradition either; rather they take place in strange and hallucinogenic worlds, where time and reality and are shifting concepts, and of little concern to the characters interaction with each other and themselves on a more spiritual and emotional level. Longing and lacking for an ideal, of which they cannot quite articulate coherently. Fosse’s dialogue is noted for its simple but poetic structure, filled with long pauses and permeating silence. Jon Fosse’s prose follows the same structure as his plays. His novels are noted for their long-winded sentences and sparse dialogue. Honest communication between characters is never possible. They speak to each other in clipped fragments, as if they are only partially concerned with the conversation, and more engaged with another thought or idea, unrelated to the immediate. Past the minimalist prose; the sparse dialogue; the thinly conceived characters; and otherwise fishbone thick plots; is the eerie sense of theological metaphor and mysticism; as if the deprived and grey world calls out for divine intervention, which never comes. Recent prose publications such as his “Trilogy,” (‘Wakefulness,” “Olav’s Dream,” and “Weariness,”) recounts the tale of the Alse and Alida, who carry a biblical allegory of predestined doom and undying love; calls to mind a stark retelling of Mary and Joseph, and the unborn Christ. Jon Fosse is a remarkable first-class literary writer. Fosse’s prose is salt and peppered with repetition, images, dialogue, and metaphor that creates a lapsing tide, which rhythmically pulls the reader under, lulling them into exploring the existential uncertainty of the characters. Readers of Jon Fosse’s work will note that they do not read or view his work for their plots or their narratives; but rather to be taken in by the eb and flow of the rhythmic linguistic experience.

Sirkka Turkka – Finland – Sirkka Turkka is a renowned Finish poet. Sirkka Turkka’s poetry pays attention towards nature and animals. Themes of nature and animals is a common theme within Finnish literature, both contemporary and late. These writers writes about the respect and beautify of the natural landscape of their nation; and give praise to their animal neighbours, companions, and fierce predators. Sirkka Turkka’s poetry is noted for its explicit warm treatment and fondness of animals—loyal, trusting, and selfless companions, whose instincts are never muddled by the emotional irrationality of human beings. Their thoughts may be simple, but they do have their philosophical ponderings, their witticism, and their own idiosyncrasies. Their flaws are always forgivable. As a poet, Sirkka Turkka serenades these companions with a gentle touch, a caring eye, and an unyielding spirit that is singular in its compassionate treatment. Turkka began being published as a poet at the age of thirty-four, which some may consider a late age for a writer to begin embarking on a literary career. Regardless the maturity of her already developed themes, pierce predilections, and poetic voice were immediately praised. The poetry of Sirkka Turkka is noted for carrying the heart of the storyteller; employing simple language Turkka is able to digress and recount the stories she tells through poetry. Sirkka Turkka is by no means an erudite orator, pontificating from the grand marble stages or balconies. Instead her poetry is warm, intimate, and inviting—reminiscent of previous Nobel Laureate: Wisława Szymborska; and the crystalline reflections of Nobel Laureate: Tomas Tranströmer. The deceptive simplicity of Sirkka Turkka’s poetry is its most endearing quality, as it tackles often powerful questions regarding life, meaning, memory, aging and death. Sirkka Turkka won the biennial Tranströmer Prize in two-thousand and sixteen, and as it stands, she is the only Finnish author the receive the award. Previous winners include the Danish poet, Inger Christensen; and German poet Durs Grünbein. The most recent winner of the Tranströmer Prize is, the American poet, Louise Glück. On a side and sad note Gentle Reader, it has come to my attention that Sirkka Turkka has become unwell over the past year. I am not sure what is the cause of the digression, be it aging or another medica condition; but it makes wonder ponder how this impacts her chances for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Pierre Michon – France – Pierre Michon is one of those quiet writers of French Literature. He does not capture the controversy of Michel Houellebecq or Virginie Despentes; he does not exhume the private, personal, or sensitive like Christine Angot and turn into some tabloid literary feature; he doesn’t quite have the obsessive brooding preoccupations of Patrick Modiano; or the expansive explorative eye as J.M.G Le Clezio. Rather, Pierre Michon, quietly sits back and writes otherwise strange or obscure novels that never make a headline; but gain cult notoriety amongst his readers. His prose is both dense as it is intense, despite his work generally being relatively short in comparison to other notorious dense writers such as: Laszlo Krasznahorkai or Peter Nadas. Any sensation of discouragement or weariness felt towards his work should be dissuaded. Michon is not necessarily a poetic babbling blowhard, challenging but not without reward. Though his work carries poetic symphonic qualities, it is not necessarily pontificating pretense, which seeks to alienate the reader. Patience is still required, as Pierre Michon is generally speaking barely interested in narratives, story arches, or plot. Instead, his work carries the concern for the subject itself—be it lost and forgotten saints, abbots, and monks; or the strange workings of the heart, portrayed amongst the background and context of Paleolithic cave art, echoing through time. Michon is not a warm writer either. His work carries a cold clinician’s eye, with a voice echoing through the marble amphitheatre, into the obsidian catacombs below. Pierre Michon’s work carries little regarding empathy, but an increasingly obsessive attitude towards his immediate subject, be it tangible or cerebral; memory driven, or fictious. Despite the otherwise contrary nature of the author and his work, it has not halted or reduced his career, as he has been granted with numerous literary prizes including the Franz Kafka Prize in two-thousand and nineteen, which only shows his growing appeal and recognition on a international stage. Pierre Michon has always maintained one preccoupation with his literary work: the preoccupation of the microcosmic in relation to macro elements and events. 

Jaan Kaplinski – Estonia – Kaplinski’s career began in the Golden Sixties of Estonian Literature, where he was known as a rebellious poet; but not a flow blown dissident writer. Jaan Kaplinski gathered appreciation for his humanistic perspective found in 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 lieu he utilizes his broad interests and themes to formulate a mosaic of 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 industriously productive poet at that; Jaan Kaplinski begun writing prose later in his career. His prose takes a wide spectrum perspective, in the same fashion as his poetry. It ranges from autobiographical works, to essays, prose poems, and even science fiction, whereby Kaplinski casts 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; the same one in which humanity seeks to conquer, subdue and form to its whims.

Drajo Jančar – Slovenia – Drajo 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.

Lyudmila Petrushevskaya – Russia – The stories of Lyudmila Petrushevskaya carry the atmosphere of fairytales. They are dark pearls strung along on an onyx coloured chain; each one a glistening, gleaming, inky tear of unfortunate events, and circumstances; depicting desperate individuals. During the Soviet Era, Petrushevskaya was prohibited from publishing her stories and novels. Her works were and are not political in nature; they do not encourage revolt, or rebellion; they do not inspire dissidence. Her work never showed any inclination or predication towards political machinations. Rather, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya was proscribed from publishing due to her work ‘blackening reality.’ In other words, her short stories and novels did not adhere or prescribe to the socialist realism and propaganda requirements of the Soviet System. Petrushevskaya did the complete opposite; she described the reality of Soviet life: unhappy marriages, childhood poverty, disparity in wealth, and inhumane living conditions. There was no praise and no ideological fanaticism; no proletariat toiling away for the greater good, though there were workers toiling (then drinking), but it was to make the minimal wage they were provided for the few grahams of bread they could have to go with the other inexpensive accommodations of their life, under the Soviet System. The inspiration for the narratives of Lyudmila Petrushevskaya come from the people of Russia, especially the women, who are keener and more interested in talking about life, gossiping about their neighbors, and venting their frustrations. These women become the modern Soviet Homers, who ride the subway or the buses, sit in cafes, and on park benches. From them, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya concocts a witch’s brew, and present their narratives in her finely shaped, dark pearls of fairytales. Now days, Petrushevskaya has become a somewhat Saintly figure—or Minerva—to the Russian women, who view her as a medium, who has given material form, and voice to the marital discord of the Soviet Union to uncomfortable democracy, which is a reflection of their own broken marriages and divorces. All the while Lyudmila Petrushevskaya never digresses to political commentary. Though her popularity may still be on the rise, her apolitical position is still able to 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 with biting irony.

Durs Grünbein – Germany – Few writers are referred to as having herald from the former “East Germany,’—and if they are, it usually a mere footnote in their biography. For Durs Grünbein, East Germany, was the incubator for his poetic upbringing, preoccupation, and literary treatise. Born in 1962, the poet grew up in the former state, and under the regime, which provided him great influence in his early political, social, and literary influence; by the time he had begun to publish, the state was already in deep decay. Despite being a East German poet, it was renunciation that brought Durs Grünbein his immediate poetic and literary achievement, providing him the environment to envision and participate in a new Germany; a reunited Germany. Grünbein was not overwhelmed by the immediacy of the changing times and events, but rather one who changed with the times, and adapted to the opportunities now on offer. Since his initial debut in the late eighties, Durs Grünbein was noted for being of the most invigorated, and powerful new voices in the German literary scene, especially in the field of poetry. His poetry marked a changing wind in German language poetry, one that breathed new life of a complete German whole, rather then the segregated camps of frail and crumbing concrete. Durs Grünbein’s poetry is noted for going beyond the autobiographical and personal, and instead turns it eyes towards more stately, historical and external aesthetics. He tries on different styles and forms like suits, while giving respect to the classics, though never impeded or constrained by their dogmatic principles. Grünbein’s early poetry was noted for its deadpan expressions, ironic perceptions, and bitter sarcasm. Over time these earlier themes were replaced by classical styles, complete with austere restraints; which then once again abandoned for a measured and aged version of his earlier work, now fermented into a tonic of playful severity, and abstaining from the sarcasm and cynicism beforehand. Beyond poetry, Durs Grünbein is an accomplished essayist, whose subjects and themes range as electrically as his poetry; though they blend memoir or autobiography, with further concerns with politics, history, aesthetics, science, medicine, ethics, or antiquity.

Magdalena Tulli – Poland – The literary family tree of Magdalena Tulli houses the apples of: Bruno Schulz, Daniil Kharms, Franz Kafka, and Jorge Luis Borges. The roots firmly anchor this tree deep into the earth. The apples are often warped, surreal, and carry the tinge of cynical bitterness, riddled with the absurd, and at times the surreal. When one drops and begins the slow process of decay, one can spy in its fermenting juices and rotting peels, a world ending. A city of steel, brick, and glass collapses. The sky once distant now encases in closure. The sidewalks crack; while the roads warp. The seeds remain as postmodern jewels, offering inclinations of the fragmented realities, narratives, and stories beneath the last material, which has yet to decay. The world of Magdalena Tulli is continually in a state of postmodern creation and maintenance; disrepair and repair. Her novel “Dreams and Stones,” recounts the creation myth, through the postmodern lens, and creates a narrative that has neither narrator, character(s), story, narrative, or plot; but rather recounts through the objective perspective of some distant and haphazard voice, in the most poetic documentary tone, the creation of a city, being either created or rebuilt through the wishes and dreams of the populace. The novel is characterized in a polarizing fashion. Some have described it a work of poetic prose (or prose poem); while Magdalena Tuli maintains with singular certainty that it is a novel. It has been called a critique of the traditional creation myth, as well as dissertation on the apocalypse. Others have deemed it an allegorical rendering of the rebuilding of Warsaw, after the Second World War. The author offers no elucidation to either claim, and instead promotes the interpretation readers and critics entertain. These metafictional qualities, first established in “Dreams and Stones,” would follow later on in her other novels: “Moving Parts,” “Flaw,” and “In Red,” where gradually traditional elements of novels were introduced, though always with postmodern twists, and often playfully; until finally settling on the most conventional notion of a novel—at least by Magdalena Tulli’s fashion. Her latest works, yet to be translated, take a more autobiographical approach to her literary. They are introspective journey’s, where Tulli traces the shadow of the Second World War and the Holocausts impact on her mother, who had survived the concentration camps, but carried the shadow into her life afterwards, and subsequently endowed it on to her own daughter, who grappled with notions of guilt, grief, and death from an early age. The works of Magdalena Tulli are true feats of a literary master mind. Her production is little and slow, but the quality is world class. Her literary language is dense, poetic, and lush. It riddles with vibrant images, metaphors, and symbolism. She is able to deconstruct the world with surgical precision, and in its ruin reconstruct yet another world of a completely different shape and form. In Magdalena Tulli’s literary work perception creates and shapes reality and defines how an individual interacts with it. Magdalena Tulli is talented, as much as she is a literary genius. A truly remarkable writer, who is deprived of the appreciation she deserves. However, the recent Nobel no provided to Olga Tokarczuk will hinder Tulli’s chances in the immediate future.

Şükrü Erbaş – Turkey – Şükrü Erbaş is one of Turkey’s most beloved, celebrated, and best-selling poets. His complete literary oeuvre spans over twenty collections of poems and essays. The poetic inclinations of Erbaş initially concerned human relationships, seen through the lens, and the details of the overlooked, and ignored aspects of everyday life. These inclinations fermented and matured overtime to take in broader subjects of society, individuals, and their relationship to nature, maintaining the eye for the overlooked details, and mistakenly overlooked portrait, and rebuttal against the mistaken emotionless magnanimity of the natural worlds grandeur, compared to the progressive urban landscape; the former of the two always eternal, and timeless. Şükrü Erbaş’s poetic language is noted for its simplicity, in order to fend off preconceived prejudices that uninitiated readers may have towards the poetic form, with its concern for hermetic preoccupations, emotional resonance, and omission of narrative structure. The use of lucid language will ensure readers are never met with an air of pomp and pretense, whereby they can read the poems with the intention of understanding, appreciation, and contemplation. The use of everyday metaphors allows Şükrü Erbaş to bridge the poetic world and the real world, with an imbued sense of symbiosis. This lucid and simple language has, endeared himself to the reading public of Turkey, and allowed his poems to touch all members of society, who approach his work with casual curiosity; and when they have closed the clovers of his volumes, are gifted with a unique poetic vision that at no point in time, pontificated from the ivory tower of academia; but presented rather a natural soothing language, which could be found at a park bench, café, or down the street.

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. Gyrðir 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.

Henrik Nordbrandt – Denmark – Before her death ten years ago, the late Inger Christensen was considered serious 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, that was both readable, and displayed 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.

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 the 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 it’s skillfully designed with jeweler’s 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 pillages and pilfers the Greek populace of hope, stability, and places them on the edge of collapse and ruin. Her most recent English translation is the fictionalized three-day sojourn in Paris, of the Egyptian-Greek poet, Constantine P. Cavafy. Ersi Sotiropoulos had called, Cavafy, a monumental Greek poet of the last century—perhaps even more important than Nobel Laureates: Giorgos Seferis and Odysseas Elytis. The novel combines fact and imagination, to create a sensual, erotic, and hallucinogenic narrative of the three days Cavafy spent in Paris, which would inspire and mature his poetic endeavors.

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.

Claudio Magris – Italy – Scholar, essayists and novelist, Claudio 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.

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.

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 some of 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. 

António Lobo Antunes – Portugal – António Lobo Antunes is the 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.

Doris Kareva – Estonia – Doris Kareva embodies the soul and spirit of the poet, as a pearl. Her poetry is human, riddled with emotional brilliance and resonance, its sole goal is to be felt and understood through the sensory and emotive sensations. 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 noted for observing a strict adherence to her personal form, one based on brevity and clarity, in an otherwise condescend form. Her poetry is noted for its paradoxical movements, by employing both vivid imagery, clear diction, while maintaining open interpretation of meaning within her work, once again relying on the readers emotional reaction to imbued or guide meaning. 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. When one opens the oyster of Kareva’s poems, they will find a pearl as stunning, ethereal and elusive as the 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. Her foothold in the English language is also becoming more paramount. Bloodaxe Books recently released a collection of selected poems titled: “Days of Grace,” in English translation. The collection has been well received by critics and poetry readers alike, who admire her ability to create a multitude of meanings through a singular strength of vision, distilled with such economic clarity; as well as her poems harmonic grace, and continuity in thought that expands throughout the collection.

Pere Gimferrer – Spain – Pere Gimferrer is one of Spain’s most critically acclaimed and renowned poets, who also happens to write in both Spanish and Catalan. Earlier on his poetic career, Gimferrer sought to move contemporary Spanish language poetry away from the influences of Octavio Paz and Vicente Aleixandre, who he often vindicated and looked upon with suspicion. Afterwards, Pere Gimferrer began to write and publish in Catalan, and since then has alternated between the two languages with brief forays into French and Italian as well. As a poet, Pere Gimferrer has made a career of bring experimental tendencies back to poetry, which were quickly abandoned in the Spanish literary language after the Spanish Civil War. This preoccupation with ingenuity and formal experimentation is a bit off putting. The consumption of poetry has since dwindled steadily over the years, as readers have become less interested in literature that seeks formal experimentation and linguistic ingenuity. Readers instead prefer natural and graceful forms of literary expression, which do not seek to speak with the cold chiseled marble certainty of a writer convinced of their own intellect; but rather one who is able to provide with natural expression and grace, the wonders and beauties of the world with clarity, and sober thought.

Jón Kalman Stefánsson – Iceland – Iceland is a small nation residing in the Atlantic Ocean, who’s closest neighbours include: the Faroe Islands and Greenland; while further on Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (specifically Scotland). Despite being small, Iceland is regarded as one of the most literary in the world. Icelandic authors are also no strangers in finding success in translation, and are often noted for its powerful literary talents, such as the lyricist turned prose writer: Sjon. Jón Kalman Stefánsson is a dark horse of Iceland letters. His novels carry unique and often foreboding titles: “Heaven and Hell,” and “About The Size of the Universe.” The novels of Jón Kalman Stefánsson beckon forth the Medieval Iceland Saga’s of the past. They trace the profound exploration of life, love, desire, and of course death, all in the rugged, harsh, and breathtaking landscape of Iceland, a land of fire and ice. Jón Kalman Stefánsson has been nominated for the Booker International Prize, as well as the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize on four different occasions. He is an author who with a profound simplicity remains concerned with the human condition’s primeval nature, which lurks beneath our societal image of ourselves; there lurks the carnal and primal urges, hankering for release, through the unabashed and raw need for desire. All of this is recounted through the deceptive simplicity of prose, detailed with a poet’s acumen to mine right to the heart of the matter, with a keen philosophical eye, continually observing the wayward wills and oppression of the human condition.  Jón Kalman Stefánsson, came to more prominent attention last year, when he was considered one of the nominees for the revolutionary ‘New Academy Literature Prize,’ which sought to fill the void left behind by the absent Nobel Prize for Literature. Since then Jón Kalman Stefánsson, has been mulled and ruminated on as a possible, contender—but no more than any other writer.

Zsuzsa Takács – Hungary – the “doyenne of contemporary Hungarian Poetry,” as described by World Literature Today; though Zsuzsa Takács is often overlooked by comparision to other contemporary and widely translated Hungarian writers: László Krasznahorkai and Péter Nadas, who are noted for their dense, philosophical, and at times apocalyptic works, which are deemed the highest caliber of serious literature. Despite this, Zsuzsa Takács has been a quiet voice, but striking voice within the wings, her poetry striking, forceful and sharp. Since her initial debut in the nineteen-seventies, Takács poetic voice was already developed, with motifs that would reoccur continually: 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-entendres. Zsuzsa Takács is a unique poet in Hungary. She followed the Postwar Poet, who in returned gave their blessings and praise, to her early poetic work. She had the privilege of observing her country’s metamorphosis since her debut, from one ideology to another—from the stifiling political atmosphere of the Soviet Union, complete with ideological constraints, and demands; to the independent nation of Hungary, which now moves towards a stronger more ‘ultra-nationalistic,’ perspective, in contemporary politics. In her early poems, she discussed homelessness as a state of existence, and then remarked on the claustrophobic realities of: apartments, rooms, and hospital wards. Zsuzsa Takács most recent collections of poems showcase her own literary transfigurations, where 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, and her own.  Zsuzsa Takács is a Hungarian treasure, one who is waiting for greater English introductions. 

Éric Chevillard – France – Postmodern literature has become a literary cliché. when it first became a literary movement, postmodern literature sought to move away modernist perspective, and instead of hiding or celebrating the universal ideals held by prior modernist writers, and instead sought to exemplify and celebrate the artificial measures of literature. Often these writers utilized metafictional narratives, or strong authorial voices, or eschew narration, plot and story in favour of long digressive treatises on the inability of literature to capture a unified perspective of reality. If modernists were idealists; postmodernists were by satirists. Éric Chevillard is no different, as he is considered one of the great postmodernist writers of the French language.  A practitioner of the experimentalist literary form, Éric Vuillard uses multiple postmodern stylistic techniques in which to dissect and celebrate the artifice of literature and the novel. In his novel “The Author and Me,” Chevillard seeks to dissuade the notion that any narration or narrative voice is simply an act of ventriloquism of the author, and instead tries to clarify through a lengthy monologue of a narrator how they are completely different from the author. Though there is no denying that Éric Chevillard is an extraordinary stylist and experimentalist, whose literary merit cannot be overlooked, his work risks coming across as cold, unappealing, and certainly absorbed with its own grandiose narcissism and echoing histrionics.

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.

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.

Viivi Luik – Estonia – Some writers sit or remain dormant after becoming their initial publication. They are unsure if they can repeat the success of their first work. Others never reached any success the first time around and worry about publishing into the void again. Viivi Luik has never had an issue with publishing. She has been described as the Estonia literary ‘wunderkid,’ her first collection of poetry was published when she was eighteen in the Estonian Literary Golden Years of the nineteen-sixties, and she was noted for being a changing wind in the Estonian literary scene. This is perhaps why, Viivi Luik is often regarded as the Canary poet, for her ability to take note of the changing poetic predilections, sociopolitical atmosphere, and economic tides, but also the personal, private, and sensual changes of the human heart. Her poetry is often noted for its chameleon like flexibility, nimble measures, and undying musicality. Her poetic forms often reflect and refract, personal observations, private moments, intimate minuets, into the mystical and universal, through the metaphors and lens of the natural world, landscape, and other external forces. Her poetic voice is ever sensual, preceptive, and understanding of the world in which we all inhabit, but experience is such different and unique measures. Beyond her poetry, Viivi Luik has also published three novels. Her first two novels were noted for their immediate poeticized language. Language, experience, and the depiction of the intimate and immediate, are often noted as focal points of the novels, not the usual narrative structures typically used in prose deconstruction and criticism. These first two novels were noted for their depiction of the political situations of the Eastern Europe and life behind the Iron Curtain in the grand Soviet Union. “The Seventh Spring of Peace,” tells the story of an Estonian childhood, riddled with absurdity, fear, and paranoia, in the countryside, as a child seeks to make sense of the macro machinations of the world around them, fit with fear and uncertainty. “The Beauty of History,” recounts the love story of a young woman and a young man, during the Prague Spring, and reflects the mentality and reality of the Baltics at the time, and the malaise of Eastern Europe in its grey fortification. Viivi Luik has also written, essays on matters of art, literature, and the conceptual meaning human beings bring to them. She is one of Estonia’s most beloved and special writers, who is unfortunately under translated and underappreciate

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. He studied English philology, translated classic of English Literature into Spanish, as well as lectured at Oxford on the art of translation. Javiar Maris had an upbringing, surrounded by intellectualism and dissidence; his father a Spanish philosopher was persecuted by Franco’s regime, and was imprisoned, for his teachings and criticisms. Due to the hostility of Spain under Franco’s rule, Javiar Maris along with his family, moved briefly to the United States, where his father lectured at universities. Throughout his childhood and adolescences, Javiar Maris proved himself as a literary prodigy; writing his first ‘mature,’ short story when he was fourteen and later publishing in a collection of short stories titled: “While the Women are Sleeping.” He published his first novel at the age of seventeen, and his second novel while studying in university. His work is noted for its postmodern pastiche and playfulness, combing genres, themes, and preoccupations to bring a conceptive fragmented perspective of the modern world, while remaining a sense of humour and playfulness. He is regarded as one of most important contemporary Spanish language writers currently at work.

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 pursuits, the Silver Age persevered 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.

Kjell Askildsen – Norway – [ Recommended by Bror Axel Dehn ] – Kjell Askildsen is regarded as one of the most important Norwegian writers working in the contemporary short story; often characterized as 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 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.

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 individual’s 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. With the Nobel Banquet now cancelled, and safe to presume al ceremonial activities, lectures, and other conventional events related to the Nobel Prize cancelled; it would be perfect for Gerald Murnane to receive the prize. After all he’s not much of a traveler.

Asia & the Indo-Subcontinent –

Kishwar Naheed – Pakistan (Language: Urdu) – Named Pakistan’s most important female and feminist poets, Kishwar Naheed proves that a literary voice is not just a creative and linguistic predilection, but one imbued with civic and revolutionary obligations. Naheed is noted from an early age at being a independent force, one which rejected openly conservative traditions and values of the time—she fought to go to school (completing her high school studies via correspondence), and without her families support continued on to post-secondary education, completing a Master’s Degree in Economics. Yet it is poetry that has brought Kishwar Naheed to the attention of the world. Throughout her life, Kishwar Naheed cultivated and unleashed a confident and forthright manner. This acerbic candor allowed her the ability to take charge and challenge the otherwise inequal opportunities provided to her as a woman, and her male counterparts. Her battling nature strengthened her convictions and resolve, and are paramount in her literary works, which refused to concede and simply churn out petty lines to appease an otherwise male dominated audience. Rather, Kishwar Naheed published poems that called for action, rebellion, and defiance to discriminatory practices on whatever grounds; be it: creed, colour, caste, gender—those who were considered less then were called to defy and resist the unfair treatment. It is said that every Pakistani woman found themselves reflected Naheed’s poems. Her poem: “We Sinful Women,” became an anthem for Pakistani feminists. As a poet, Kishwar Naheed is noted for her candid, direct, and fierce poetic expressions. Her poetry, though noted for resonating strongly with women; transcends the confines of gender politics and discusses universal themes and ideals regarding the struggle for: equality, justice, progress, and freedom.

Yōko Ogawa – Japan – As of late, Yōko Ogawa has begun to receive greater attention and recognition in the international literary world, specifically the English language. With the publication of the English translation of her novel: “The Memory Police,” Yōko Ogawa gained immediate attention in the English language literary world, which only grew as the Covid-19 Pandemic took hold and the notion of normal was amended and edited. “The Memory Police,” was shortlisted for the both the Best Translated Book Award, as well as the Man Booker International Prize. The drought and lack of appetite for reading Yōko Ogawa’s work in the English language, is that Haruki Murakami has been the dominate Japanese writer to have his foothold in the English literary market that also had public appeal, as well as commercial success. Publishing as a business sought to repeat the success of Murakami and attempted to solicit and market other Japanese writers to readers who wanted more. Yōko Ogawa is often rumored to be one such writer but failed to break into the environment already established by Haruki Murakami. On the contrary though, Ogawa found immediate readership, with lengthy translations and publications of her work in France. Yōko Ogawa’s literary output is noted for its grotesque, macabre, and subtle violent tropes. Her literary themes are centered around the ideas of memory, loss, and absence. This immediately distinguishes her from her contemporary, Haruki Murakami, whose uses more surreal dreamscapes, and magical realism romps; where Yōko Ogawa fixates on more psychological, interpersonal, and intrapersonal environments, with the subtle inclinations of the visceral and vicious lurking around the mundane edges. Ogawa’s literary language it straightforward and plain, though it will verge on the subtle, poetic; but never enters the stages of extraordinary poetic. She has been endorsed by Nobel Laureate: Kenzaburō Ōe; who has praised Ogawa for giving expression to the subtle psychological workings of the human mind, through prose which is both gentle and searing in its penetrating perspective. Yōko Ogawa is a superb writer, renowned for her unadorned literary style, which explores the peculiarities of memory, and the ghoulish world of loss and absence. Her narratives often fixate on the struggles of outcasts (be it physical or mentally deranged), who are at odds with the claustrophobic society, which seeks and demands conformity and abject assimilation. Ogawa traverses the shadows of the modern individual’s psyche, whereby she paints an intimate portrait of a society deceiving itself of its own madness; or a society on the brink of losing its own memory in willful consent, in order to escape the tragedies of the past in favour of the uncertainties of the future. Yōko Ogawa’s work is not grand or epic, but rather intimate and endearing, as it fixates on the private and personal tragedies of the individual mirroring and reflecting on the greater society as a whole, especially the cracks which have slowly over time become chasms and canyons, where the macabre and the grotesque dance in the shadow of the abyss, and in the ripe and rotten suppression of modern society.

Kim Hyesoon – (South) Korea – Some female writers who write with an inclination towards feminism, do so in subtle and otherwise graceful ways, without engaging in immediately shocking imagery; Kim Hyesoon, on the other contrary engages in more extreme, almost fanatical poetic discourse. She has been described as an engaged and revolutionary feminist poet, one whose poems are disquieting in their surreal, visceral, and grotesque imagery. In her poetry, Kim Hyesoon readily challenges the (South) Korean opinion and perspective of women in societal standards and hierarchy. Hyesoon readily rips apart these social conventions; and casts a critical eye on the socio-economic system, as the cause of the social hierarchy, and the subjection of woman. Kim Hyesoon views capitalism as directly linked to (South) Korean patriarchal oppression, which views woman as less than, or a lesser status then their male counterparts. 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 and disenfranchised the vulnerable and neglected of society. With that in mind, Kim 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. In two-thousand and nineteen she was awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize for her collection: “Autobiography of Death,” which cycles through how individuals and people move through the structure of death, trauma, illness, and injustice.     

Can Xue – China – Can Xue is considered one of Chinas greatest contemporary writers. This acclaim is provided by Western media and readers, more than it is in China. In her native China, Can Xue is regarded as controversial and dissents away from the main literary circle of the country. Her work is noted for being highly abstract, surreal, and pushes the limitations of the conventional notions of postmodernist literature. Her work is often understood as allegorical—especially in a political context. The author vehemently denies the political interpretation of her works. Instead, Can Xue, explains her work is more a literary experiment, which explores herself as a subject. This means as one pulls the layers of the abstract, unconventional, surreal and visceral back, at the deepest pit of the narratives, their lies within itself an aspect of Can Xue; meaning her work initially is constructed in an autobiographical thought, which is only encapsulated in the surrealistic of the subsequent narrative after the fact. Can Xue is not considered the most reasonable authors, nor the easiest read. Her work is riddled with contrary perspectives, contradictions, and as noted above an abstract and surreal perspective, which has gathered both acclaim abroad and controversy at home. Being one of China’s most experimental writers may come from the fact Can Xue had little to no formal education, and she is able to use language and words in a more natural (or rather, unnatural manner), whereby she is able to explore the rhythm and cacophonic nature of language which both entices and disrupts readers. Her narratives are often free from the technical or formal lectureships provided via education, and her work is not interested in conforming to the political and ideological standards outlined by more accessible, promoted, and available authors. Can Xue’s writing on the contrary has been influenced by a natural interest for language and writing, as well as years of reading. Often regarded as the Chinese Kafka, Can Xue’s surreal narratives defy convention, formal narrative and literary structures, and unsettle readers with a disquieting and resonating force of an imaginative power which is strictly her own.

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.

Yoko Tawada – Japan/Germany – When Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for Literature in two-thousand and seventeen, there was a bit of a discussion of whether he was an English writer or a Japanese writer. The debate petered out abruptly. It is a fair statement, however, to propose that Kazuo Ishiguro is quintessentially an English writer. His literary language: English; his characters: English (apart from his first two novels). Yet, his themes carry the watermark of Japanese sensibilities and characteristics, but that is where the Japanese aspect of his literary output and style conclude. They are merely aspects of heritage and cultural impressions through parental endowment. Yoko Tawada, by comparison resides on the farther end of the spectrum. She is by all accounts an exponent writer, working in two languages: her native Japanese and her adoptive German. Tawada works in both languages and is known for drafting her novels and stories in both languages, often creating two different manuscripts with two different voices, often employed in different literary forms. Longer works—novels and plays—are written in Japanese; while shorter works—short stories and essays—are drafted in German. The duality of language, and the contrary perspectives created by two different languages, has influenced Tawada’s use of language as well. She has expressed language as unnatural, and more artificial to the point of magical. This sense of bewilderment is often seen within her use of neologisms and wordplay within her works, to provide a linguistic portrait of the everyday through the perspective of how we discuss it, communicate it and describe it within the confines of words. Reality in this sense does not influence language. Language on the contrary frames and provides the necessary infrastructure to understand and interact with reality. Beyond language and the peculiar technicalities of language and its relation to understanding perceptions of reality; borders and boundaries and their crossings, is another theme of Yoko Tawada’s work. Borders are not just physical, geographical, ideological, cultural or linguistic in her work; they are also philosophical and metaphysical: exploring the difference between waking life and dreams, animals and humans, thoughts and emotions, and other abstract phenomena. Language may provide context, but in narratives, Tawada employees postmodern literary techniques and magical realism to explore these otherwise strange notions of our differentiating and dissenting perspectives on a dichotomous plane of contrary polar opposites. Yoko Tawada, is for all intents and purposes a cosmopolitan and worldly author, eschewing geographical boundaries and language barriers to create both a career and literary oeuvre to reflect the mercurial state of a world and its linguistic shadow theatre.  Unlike, Haruki Murakami, Yoko Tawada does not eschew her Japanese heritage or first language. She employees and embraces these notions fully. She also embraces and employees her adoptive language of German, as an equally unique partner in her literary output and career. In this she exists in a unique no-man’s land, based around a dual perspective of two different languages and cultures, and endearingly belonging to both; while Murakami exists continually as an outsider (with self-righteous indignation).

Ouyang Jianghe – China – Chinese literature over the last century has gone through numerous periods of upheaval, adjustments, abuses, and reformations. After the communist revolution and the Mao years, Chinese literature entered a dark period of political messages, ideological confirmations and propaganda propagations. The nineteen seventies saw poetry take up the mantle of resistance, though these poems were often obscure, their politically charged messages and dissidence often saw them banned and their writers persecuted. After the failed democratic protests of the late nineteen eighties, Chinese literature once again shifted along with its economic capabilities. Ouyang Jianghe is known as a writer of the third wave, or a post-misty poet. Despite being considered a post-misty or obscure poet, Ouyang Jianghe is noted for being intellectually driven and challenging; though his poetry does not take a political stance. Rather the poetry of Jianghe concerns itself with the ideas and ideals of art for art’s sake, choosing the poetic medium as an intellectual conversation, riddled with scenes and thoughts from the ubiquitous, mundane and commonplace. His poetry resides within the personal and the private, and preoccupies the double meaning of everyday objects, figures, scenes, thoughts as they relate to the reader and the writer. On these grounds, Ouyang Jianghe is considered one of the most avant-garde and difficult poet working in the Chinese language in the past few decades. 

Ý Nhi (Hoang Thi Ý Nhi) – Vietnam – Ý Nhi is one of the most important Post-War poets of her generation. Nhi’s poetry style is noted for its grace, gentleness, and subtlety. Her subject is always humane, though tinged with the inclinations of tragedy. Her poetic format is regarded for its modernist form, detailing the emotions of the Vietnam War, and its last effects on the Vietnam as well as the populace specifically women. During the Vietnam War, Ý Nhi worked as journalist, where she recounted and reported the horrors and devastation the war caused, as it ripped through the country. It is therefore no surprise that the war has been a major influence on her literary output and work, which carries a gentle poignant sadness throughout her collections as it depicts the great loss of the times from a female perspective, be it: lover, husband, son, child or friend. Her work moves beyond just wartime literature classification—though it carries the pit of bitterness in itself—there is always gentle grace and philosophical wisdom, as she works historical themes and events in the grander narrative and consciousness of society and culture. Over the past years, Ý Nhi’s reputation and work has begun to find readership beyond the borders of Asia, with her poetry being translated into French, Russian, German and Spanish, as well as a few poems have been showcased in poetry anthologies in English. In two-thousand and fifteen, Ý Nhi became the first Vietnamese poet to receive the Cikada Prize, whereby her work is expected to gain even further international recognition in Swedish as well.

Moon Chung-hee – (South) Korea – Is considered by many (South) Korean literati as one of the most important Postwar Poets of (South) Korea; which is ironic considering, Moon Chung-hee’s poetry is not necessarily concerned with the war and all the suffering, the division, the hunger, and the human malaise. This would explain why some literary critics to make the distinction that Moon Chung-hee, is the leading Female Postwar Poet. The notion carries the inclination that the poets’ gender denotes and predefines her subject matter, preoccupations, and poetic output. As if Moon Chung-hee is resigned to write poetry about love, longing, heartache, domesticity and married life, children, and other feminine preoccupations, in a Postwar context. Femininity and the female gender are a preoccupation within Moon Chung-hee’s work, it is not denied or overlooked; but it is also not subservient or complacent to the subjection instilled on it via the masculine perspective. It is not portrayed as being fragile or delicate.  It is a paradox of turmoil and bliss. It is the spirit of fire and quiet rebellion. It is powerful, though viewed as soft and overly sensitive. In the works of Moon Chung-hee the feminine is not degraded or typecast to poetry of exalting love or insufferable heartbreak. Moon Chung-hee’s poems eschewed these preconceived notions sentimentality and instead fixated and focused on the feminine as complex, contrary and revolutionary; much like fire, which can both provide warmth and cook, but aso become enraged and destructive. The poetry composed by Moon Chung-hee reviews the female experience as existential, complicated, revolutionary, and rebellious, a vibrant spectrum of human experiences, complete with commentary on social, political and cultural topics and issues. Her poetry is not denoted or disregarded as trivial, light, or cheap, but striking in its vigor that has provided a new poetic perspective of the human experience from the female perspective. A perspective that is fearless and fiery as it changes the social and gender issues of the country and its poetic prejudices, against itself.

Wang Anyi- China – Eileen Chang was considered the literary jewel and darling of Shanghai before the Cultural Revolution and eventual takeover of the Communist Party of China. Chang’s novels were both fashionable, but also riddled with literary sensibilities. By the nineteen-fifties, Eileen Chang had left China, before settling into the United States, where she became a recluse and died alone in her home in the early nineteen-nineties. Wang Anyi is often compared to her cosmopolitan predecessor, Eileen Chang, because both writers are have written fervently about Shanghai. Eileen Chang escaped The Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong; Wang Anyi was less fortunate, she was sent to a rural forced ‘re-education camp,’ at a young age, which deeply impacted the writer at a young age. She was not permitted to return to Shanghai until the late seventies, and then her literary career began to take hold. Initially, Wang Anyi wrote about the day-to-day lives of the people she imagined, disregarding the overtly social and political novels demanded by the communist state at the time. It was not until she attended the International Iowa’s Writers Workshop, that her work took a different more engaged perspective of the Chinese novel, and wrote more socially engaged novels that often caused a stir of controversy, through depicting otherwise social taboos, such as the unspoken carnal love found depicted in: “Love on a Barren Mountain,” “Love in a Small Town,” and “Brocade Valley.” Another novel of hers “Brothers,” pushes the bounds of the notion of love, by depicting platonic homosexuality between two men. Despite this her modern classic novel: “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow,” has by far been her most critically acclaimed novel. The novel recounts the life of a woman born in the 1940’s Shanghai, and traces her through the Second World War, the Chinese Civil War, the Cultural Revolution, as well as her life post-Cultural Revolution. It is often considered her most important novel, and a groundbreaking achievement of Contemporary Chinese Literature. The most constant theme in all of Wang Anyi’s work is her attention to urban detail of life in Shaghai, riddled with brutal densities, long lines, the futile waiting, and indomitable jostling and rudeness of life in the urban. 

Yi Mun-yol – (South) Korea – Yi Mun-yol is one of (South) Korea’s leading contemporary writers and is considered the public’s favourite author to be noted for the prize (or so I am told). Mun-yol’s work consists mainly of novels and short stories, alongside social and political commentaries. Yi Mun-yol’s literary is generally considered to splitting in to two categories: the macro and the micro. The first category, the macro—or external—consists of an exploration via allegorical elements, of Korean society during the past century, fit with injustices, rampant ideologies, and how everyday lives are shaped and governed, by the ideological, and powerful external forces over seeing their lives, and attempts to create solutions for these dilemmas. The second category, the micro—or internal—comprises of work that is considered semi-autobiographical in scope, and is more concerned with introspective exploration, existential themes ranging from angst, identity crisis’s and issues, and the eventual implosion of society as a whole, imploding due to its own failures, but also the implosion of the individual. The theme of connection and abandonment make ready appearances in Yi Mun-yol’s work, due to the isolation of his youth, and the abandonment of his father, who defected to (North) Korea, during the Korean War. The defection and crime of the father had a profound impact on the Yi Mum-yol’s upbringing, as he was treated as a social pariah, by peers alike due to the actions of another. The notion and suffering of division can often be found as an exploration in both of his categories of work. The work of Yi Mum-yol is noted for being multilayered and complicated, due to the extensive use of linguistic wordplay, symbolism, and the characters relation to language. Translators of Yi Mun-yol’s work, have noted it is difficult to translate this unique use of homonym wordplay into other languages, as the same form does not exist. The two categories, plus his own personal background, make Yi Mum-yol a unique writer, as well as noteworthy. 

Hiromi Itō – Japan – Japanese poetry is not as well-regarded as other cultural and literary exports from the island nation (such as Haruki Murakami and video games). Regardless, Japanese poets remain active in their cultural spheres of influence. One of the most important poets of the late Twentieth Century and contemporary Japanese poetry is: Hiromi Itō. In a similar fashion as (South) Korean poets, Kim Hyesoon and Moon Chung-hee; Hiromi Itō is often regarded as one of those unique, revolutionary, and famous feminist poetic perspectives in the Japanese literary canon. Despite the feminist perspective forced upon her, and her early poetic predilections were aimed at the relationship between the sexes, motherhood, womanhood, and child-rearing; her work continually evolved, adapted, and changed its skin like that of a chameleon, never fixating or focusing too long on a topic. Her literary perspective and output have ranged from poetry, to essays, to criticism; but also taken into consideration Native American oral traditions of storytelling; shamanistic and holistic poetry; as well as the lifecycle and plants. There is no discipline—be it cultural, social, literary, or scientific—that Hiromi Itō does not find endlessly interesting and inspiring, while also not critically analyzing and studying. For example, in her early career she was a formulative figure in feminist literary criticism in Japanese. Now she has become an instrumental figure in literary ecocriticism. Despite the varied interests of her literary output and career, the qualities of her literary style remain predominate throughout: that same wandering, longing, transitional quality, continually seeking the interconnectedness of cultures, people, and history.  

Bei Dao – China – Is often cited as one of the most prominent proprietors and poets of the Misty Poet Generation of contemporary Chinese poetry. The Misty Poets of contemporary Chinese poetry are a dissident and reactionary poetic school of writers, who promoted democratic visions and ideals through their poetic works. Their works were noted for employing obscure imagery and poetic techniques to both evade censorship, as well as to force the reading populace to contemplate and think about the poetry they were reading. The Misty Poets became the de-facto literary enemies of the Cultural Revolution, and the Communist Party of China. The goal of encouraging the reading populace to think becomes a dangerous activity in authoritarian institutions. If the populace thinks, they will then question; if they question, they will begin to question the reality, they will then question why are subject to the needless suffering of the ruling elite, which inevitably leads to the downfall of authoritarian figures, institutions, and governments. A: thinking, questioning and contemplating population, becomes an uncontrollable one. Bei Dao has inevitably been disciplined for his poetic dissidence. He has been sent to re-education camps and forced labour camps in order to understand the back-breaking ideals of communism. Yet, undeterred the author continued to refine and secretly publish his works, even in the harsh conditions of his confinement and education. He participated in the first Tiananmen Square protests, before being forced into exile, and banned from re-entering the country. In exile, Bei Dao had the liberty of publishing his poetry, but retained his hazy language and obscure symbolism to provoke and inspire. China now on a global stage, is showcasing its aggressive and almost impudent might. Protests in Hong Kong have received worldwide attention, alongside economic wars between other nations. Awarding, Bei Dao, would be considered a concise and political message, in complete contrast to the earlier (mistake) of Mo Yan. Despite the political atmosphere, Bei Dao’s poetry is noted for its peculiarity, especially in the use of language, as well as sociopolitical preoccupations. His poetry is forever aimed in an idealistic direction of the unwavering spirit of human resilience and stoicism, despite rampant corruption and oppression.

Duong Thu Huong – Vietnam – The Vietnam War was often considered one of the biggest political and military blunders of the twentieth century. Just like its predecessor the Korean War, which divided (and still divides) the Korean Peninsula; the Vietnam War rouse suspicion and questions of the ethical efficacy of the American War Machine, which had been glorified and promoted during the Second World War, as unstoppable in its victorious virtues. The Vietnam War, by contrast presented the notion of war not as a patriotic parade, but one of horror, trauma, and often inhumane slaughter. The rise of mass media showcased its ability to present a narrative to both gather support of the public, but also their accusations of savagery.  The war itself did not unite a country; it divided it. Since then, the translation of Vietnamese literature has been rare and often limited. Duong Thu Huong has often been the most translated Vietnamese writer in the English language, mainly due to her work being dissident in nature. In nineteen-eighty nine, Duong Thu Huong was expelled from the Communist Party for her criticism of corruption in the government. She would later be imprisoned for her critical writings against the government, subsequently she would lose her job as a prizewinning screenwriter, her works were banned from publication, and she was forced to earn a living as a translator. Further insult was added, as the writer was prohibited from forming any group, party, or movement which could be seen as operating in complete contrast or autonomous to the government. In order for her to express commentary on freedom and democracy for Vietnam, Duong Thu Huong would need to turn to her pen, but be denied publication and be threatened with further imprisonment. In two-thousand and six, Duong Thu Huong was granted permission to leave Vietnam, and has since resided in exile in Paris, where she promotes change through uncensored and critical writings. Her novels and stories often take the form of conventional narratives and stories, often with subtle political annotations and context, from there the author is able to provide a fierce and fiery barrage of criticism levelled against the communist government and its corruption. In this case, Duong Thu Huong is considered one of the strongest writers in translation from Vietnam, based off translation quantity alone, and the rarity the countries literature has found in other foreign languages. The promotion of humanistic ideals: freedom of speech and thought, independence, autonomy, are strong pillars of the author to stand on as well.

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.

Wang Xiaoni – China – Wang Xiaoni is often classified as a Misty Poet alongside: Bei Dao, and Yang Lian. Despite this, Wang Xiaoni lacks the political motivations and convictions found in the works of the Misty Poets, whose obscure poetry sought to provoke and inspire democratic principles and social movements through literature. Instead Xiaoni has eschewed political stances in favour of a distinct and personal poetic form and style which emphasizes emotional resonance, and a preoccupation with the personal and private human psyche and soul. Her poetry is renowned for its striking style that Wang Xiaoni has crafted for herself, which details the feelings (both physical sensations and emotional response) to the landscape, scenes, and messages found in the everyday. Early in her literary career, Wang Xiaoni clarified immediately her interest was in the personal and its relation to the existence of others, as well as this relationship with the landscape and society as a whole, entirely deprived of the adulterating influence of politics and ideological messages. Her poetic style is noted for its intense detailed effort to capture the internal and introspective meaning, before being shaped into a musical and graceful composition. The emotional impact takes precedence over stylistic and compositional concerns. She avoids linguistic experimentation and is skeptical of writing poetry merely to showcase the peculiarities of language or the cunning nature of a writer willing to display their own clever aptitudes. Likewise she shuns mystical tropes and themes, which she views with skepticism, all in favour of displaying and discussing with great accuracy the human spirit, shadow, soul—the psyche of the individual—fit with its physical sensations and emotional resonances, in the constrained form of poetry.

Mend-Ooyo Gombojav – Mongolia – Mend-Ooyo Gombojav is considered one of Mongolia’s most critically acclaimed writers. Known for the versatility of forms in which he writes in including poetry, short stories, novels, and essays. He first embarked on a literary career at the age of thirteen when he wrote his first poem under the tutorship of Dorjiin Gombojav, who was his mentor. In his early twenties, Mend-Ooyo Gombojav became a founding member of the underground literary movement called ‘Fire,’ in Mongolia, which would set the stage as an early milestone as a movement revolutionizing and modernizing Mongolian literature. Over the latter half of the twentieth century Mongolia would begin to chance its political landscape, and Mend-Ooyo Gombojav was considered one of the greatest writers shaping and influencing the literary landscape. By the nineties, the singular communist party rule had come to an end, and democratic reforms were taking shape. Free from presenting his work to the communist censors, Mend-Ooyo Gombojav was able to freely write and publish his work without meeting the constraints of ideological demands. During this time, Mend-Ooyo Gombojav wrote extensively about the pastoral and nomadic culture and heritage of Mongolia. These poems are often considered the most important works that Mend-Ooyo Gombojav has produced, as they presented a unified identity of Mongolia through its heritage, by celebrating the nomadic culture and history. Over the past three decades, Mend-Ooyo Gombojav became an increasingly striking, vibrant, and powerful voice in Mongolian literature. His bibliography ranges between his renowned poetry to novels, as well as scholarly and essayistic work.

Li Ang – Taiwan – Here is a paradox: calling a female writer, a woman writer is considered rude; yet calling a female writer, a feminist writer is considered a compliment. The two are used interchangeable but carry different connotations. A ‘woman’s writer,’ brings to mind a female writer whose literary preoccupations are trivial, marginal, and of no literary significance. Whereas a ‘feminist writer,’ carries the weight of a female writer, who provides social commentary and criticism, on sociopolitical issues, especially issues regarding gender inequality, and female struggles, it carries the weight of more serious and severe thought. The Taiwanese writer, Li Ang is regarded as a ‘feminist writer,’ 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 in 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. Beyond examining gender politics, Li Ang has also written candidly on the state of Taiwanese politics, especially its continual assertion of independence. If literatures is meant to push the envelope, explore boundaries, and envision new and striking methods of communicating ideas, Li Ang dances within these flames proudly and unapologetically.

South America & Latin America; with the Caribbean –

Nancy Morejón – Cuba – Often called one of the most prominent poets of Post-Revolution Cuba, and the most translated female poet from Cuba, certainly does not hurt Nancy Morejón’s reputation on the global literary stage. Morejón is considered the first professional Cuban writer with African ancestry. Her poetry focuses on issues of ethnicity, gender; the individuals relation to history; politics, and the Afro-Cuban identity; which are all displayed in her colourful and vibrant poetic compositions that blend Spanish and African cultural traditions, and ponder questions of these two unique traditions, and what it means to be a product of both. Though Nancy Morejón celebrates and writes of ‘blackness,’ in all its beauty, experiences, and rich cultural traditions, there is a resistant refusal to subscribe struggle or adversity within a singular parameter. Ethnicity, history, and politics are themes within Morejón’s poetry and will became entangled with each other, they take on intimate notions such as family situations or scenes, or ancestral explorations of the past. This can be observed as one explores the notion of slavery, its relation to the present, and the effects on the individual as they relate to society, their family, and history. Nancy Morejón’s poetry is noted for its lyricism, slight mystical tones, erotic fasciation’s, and intimate spiritual nature. As a poet, Nancy Morejón views poetry as a form of social communication and eschews all attempts at hermeticism or closed off language preferences. The goal remains the same, to communicate beyond geography, language, and gender with others, on an experience, a thought, an emotion, a moment, all expressed through the unique narratives of her poetry.

Rodrigo Rey Rosa – Guatemala – Rodrigo Rey Rosa – Guatemala – Rodrigo Rey Rosa is a profoundly humanistic author, whose styles of writing can be described as both diverse and digressive. Rosa can be both fluid and fragmentary; eschewing national identity in favour of a more global reach; coupled with a mosaic prose writing that documents and exemplifies his vagabond and transitionary existence. His travels have taken him throughout Central America and Mexico, as well as sojourns in North Africa—specifically Morocco, where the tutelage of friend and mentor, Paul Bowles, proved to be a major influence on his writing, intercepted with his own heritage, experiences, and preoccupations. His most recent translated work into English “Human Matter,” has been described as frustratingly fragmented; defying any traditional notion of proper classification within the literary scope. It has been described as a collection of notebooks, investigations, and a recorded exploration of humanity, memory, integrity, and cruelty. It’s too fictious to be defined as non-fiction; yet, to discursive for many to call it a novel. All the same, “Human Matter,” is defined and marketed as a novel. It’s been praised as a treatise exemplifying human dignity, integrity, as well as collective identity, but in the family sequence, but also on a national level. Throughout his erudite and colourful career, Rodrigo Rey Rosa gained praise, support and acknowledgement from others. The late Roberto Bolaño praised Rodrigo Rey Rosa as being one of the best writers of his generation. In fashion similar Bolaño, and other Post-Boom writers, Rodrigo Rey Rosa employees more postmodernist techniques and perspectives in his literary output. His work carries the influence of myth and folktales of Guatemala but takes a more global attitude in preoccupation. Unlike the predecessors of the Latin American Boom Generation, Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s concern is not necessarily limited to the mystical, exotic, and magical lands of South and Central America, but instead pushes the otherwise southern land to the forefront of the global literary stage, providing a unique dialogue not hindered by national identity or provincial concerns.

Adélia Prado – Brazil – Adélia Prado – Brazil – Adélia Prado is one of Brazils most renowned, and beloved contemporary poets. Her poetry was first discovered when she was on the cusp of middle age, when she decided to relinquish a few poems to a poet, essayist, and scholar, who in turn passed these poems on to the Brazilian modernist master, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who quickly heaped praise on this otherwise startling and unknown voice, writing from the interstate of Brazil, away from the high urban, cultural, and cosmopolitan centres of the time. Adélia Prado’s poetry was noted immediately, as being independent, unique and striking, as it never fell into the fashionable preoccupations of the time. Rather, Prado’s poetic perspective was one of the everyday: the physical (carnal and erotic), as well as the spiritual and religious, and that of the perspective of being a woman. Adelia Prado is a devote practicing catholic; which carries the aris of solemn conservative stiffness, with little enjoyment, and an exacting sense of self-flagellation in order to bring on sufficient suffering for penance and repentance in order to gain a more intimate and masochistic relationship with a holier being; Prado’s poetry eschews this image abruptly, by displaying erotic details that become both shock and contrary to faith. She defends this practice by stating the poetry is not the eroticism of the flesh, but the intimacy of soul. Her themes move beyond just the theological eroticism of spiritual and soulfulness, as it also recounts the details of the lives of women of Brazil, their concerns and their preoccupations, which through her poetry is never just ordinary. According to the poet, it is the workings of the devil, which provides the illusion that the everyday is somehow deprived of any extraordinary details, or a sense of the bewilderment, as she relentlessly persists there is poetic enjoyment and beauty within the world of the everyday, and its ubiquitous charm. It is in the simple acts of life, and those brief moments of reflection that the metaphysical, divine, and transcendental reality is revealed. Six years ago Adélia Prado was the recipient of the Griffin Lifetime Recognition Award, an hour she shares with poets:  Adam Zagajewski, Ana Blandiana, and the late (Nobel Laureate) Derek Walcott; which only cements the international recognition, and appeal that Adélia Prado is in possession of.

Frankétienne – Hati – Frankétienne has been regarded as Hati’s: Father of Letters—a wizened 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 it’s 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 in warmth and ecstasy. 

Elena Poniatowska – Mexico –Elena Poniatowska is considered by many the Grand Dame of Mexican Letters; but Poniatowska may view herself as a journalist first, and a writer of literary pursuits second. 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, have some declaring her a political and human rights activist. There is always a tint of irony, though, when those who challenge and question the socio-political inequality, usually come from privileged and upper-class lives. In this, 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), her family would later leave France due to the Second World War, and the Nazi invasion of France. The family left for Mexico (where her mother was originally from but fled during the Mexican Revolution). As a young woman of reasonable noble birth, Elena Poniatowska was expected to be raised, and behave like a lady. Imagine her mother’s dismay and despair, when Elena Poniatowska showed greater interest in the people of the streets, the maids in the house, and all their stories and experiences; before becoming a journalist, rather than concern herself with fashion, and the life of a socialite, and finally a proper marriage. Escaping the world of fashion, interior design, and other leisure lifestyle preoccupations did not end the moment, Poniatowska became a journalist. Her first journalistic position was that of a lifestyle columnist, which she stated was dreadfully dull and boring. After satirically mocking the fashion of the time, she was instructed to conduct boring interviews everyday for a year with individuals she came across. Over time though, Elena Poniatowska would begin to cover the sociopolitical and economic disenfranchisement of Mexico, and its subsequent violence. After writing about the student massacre in Mexico in nineteen sixty-eight, Elena Poniatowska would set to become one of the most powerful literary voices within the country by being both journalist, social critic, civil activist, and prose writer (novels and short stories). As a journalist, Elena Poniatowska cannot be described as objective, her work is always centered, and delivered on the behalf of the personal and human stories of the affected—specifically the poor, and woman—who are inevitably the victims of the violence and corruption. Throughout her career Elena Poniatowska has been the recipient of numerous literary accolades including, The Cervantes Prize in two-thousand and thirteen. In receiving the award, the prize jury praised Elena Poniatowska for her devotion to the journalistic form; brilliant foray into different literary genres; as well as her firm understanding and commitment to documenting, reporting, and disseminating contemporary history.

Luisa Valenzuela – Argentina – Heralding from a literary family and background, it comes as no surprise that Luisa Valenzuela became a writer. Throughout her childhood home, writers frequently visited her family; her mother, Luisa Mercedes Levinson hosted many social and literary gatherings attended by the Argentinean literati, including Jorge Luis Borges, who composed a story with Levinson. Initially interested in the natural sciences, Valenzuela turned towards writing in her late adolescences, and embarked on a literary and journalistic career from there. Valenzuela’s literary career and bibliography spans over thirty published works, in a multiple of different forms including: novels, short stories, flash fiction, and essays; which coincide with her journalistic work as well, and teaching and lecturing engagements. Despite her privileged background, Luisa Valenzuela was not immune to the political turmoil and social upheaval of Argentina during the seventies; as the military junta came into place, intellectuals, and writers were feared as enemies of political power and certainty, and were quickly censored and removed from their positions into others, in order to ensure they could not touch or engage with others and provoke freedom of thought, or political revolution. Luisa Valenzuela often tackled themes of political oppression, and women’s oppression at the hands of authoritarian governments. Valenzuela’s use of language is also a remarked as being highly refined, along with her engagements in political and social interests. Language becomes malleable form for the author, subjected to her authority and providing new perspective, description, and recollection of events and themes with ease.  Despite writing and publishing around the same time as Latin American Boom writers, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Carlos Fuentes; Luisa Valenzuela, is described as one of the earliest and most profound Post-Boom writers. Regardless, she is a world-renowned writer, who has been instrumental in paving the way for other writers of the Southern Continent to have their voices heard and appreciated on the literary stage.

Carmen Boullosa – Mexico – Boullosa is one of Mexico’s leading contemporary writers, who has worked in a variety of different literary formats, which includes novels, short stories, poetry, plays, as well as a foray into screenwriting. Arguably, Boullosa is most famous for her novels, which are consciously written in a different format, style, and thematic form then the others. This conscious desire to write each new novel in a new format, style, and thematic occupations, is the hallmark Carmen Boullosa’s literary personality, and overarching literary style. Her novels vary between historical fiction and magical realism. Her satirical trilogy of plays uses similar devices as they deploy historical settings and a inclination for the fantastic, to satirize the traditional perspective gender norms, and woman’s oppression in the patriarchal society framework. Feminist issues within the Latin American context, which has made her one of the leading female voices of contemporary Mexican Literature; who has been praised by the late Carlos Fuentes, and Roberto Bolaño.

Cesar Aira – Argentina – Cesar Aira is a prolific and industrious writer, producing two to four novellas a year. Aira is known for being a practitioner 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. Aira’s 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 viewpoint of the world, with 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 argue are severely underdeveloped in favour of his stylistic forays. Regardless of either criticism or praise, Cesar Airia is perhaps one of the most important literary writers in the Spanish language; one that has moved from the Latin Boom Generation, and facilitated a multitude of genres, perspectives, and themes with every novella written, produced, and published.

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.

Ana María Shua – Argentina – The Southern Continent is an extraordinary continent filled with literary talent, which is only now beginning appreciated across the globe. For decades though, the South and Latin American literary culture was dominated by what was known as the Latin American Boom Generation. There were of course other writers who wrote independently from the Boom Generation, they’re risked being overlooked for not participating in the otherwise more dominate culture or literary group. Ana María Shua (much like Luisa Valenzuela) worked independently from the Boom Generation. In a similar fashion as Valenzuela, during the Argentinean military junta, Shua was forced into exile; there in France, she worked as a journalist. After the dictatorship fell, Ana Maria Shua returned to Argentina that her literary career began to take hold and take off, when she published her first novel. Since then, Ana Maria SHua has published over eighty books in a variety of forms including, novels, short stories, flash, fiction, poetry, drama, essays and children’s literature; while also being anthologist of Jewish folklore and writing books of humour. The micro story (flash fiction) is what Anna Maria Shua is most known for, often called the ‘Queen of the Microstory,’ both in South America and in Europe.

Cristina Peri Rossi – Uruguay – Nearing the end, throughout this section of this Nobel Prize for Literature Speculation List, the Latin American Boom is referenced with a few writers, Cristina Peri Rossi will be the last writer to have a reference attached to the previous Boom authors. Where others are merely associated as being post-Boom or being admired or praised by members of the Boom Generation, Cristina Peri Rossi, appears to be the only one listed who had a partial association with them. Arguably Cristina Peri Rossi, is also the only woman writer who was associated with the Boom Generation as well. Throughout her association, she was actively involved in championing the causes of the generation during the 60’s and 70’s, as well as forced into exile twice; she also was a dear friend of the late Julio Cortázar. Despite her relation to these writers, she was only partially associated, mainly due to her own desire to maintain a distance from the formalities of being categorized as one of them. Rossi is an independent writer, who sought to retain that independence free from literary associations; while others may argue that her gender played a key role in the lack of formal induction. Regardless, the Uruguayan writer is one of the most accomplished, beloved, and renowned writers of South American literature. Her work is comprised of both novels, short stories, poems, as well as essays, journalism, and political commentary. Throughout her bibliography, Cristina Peri Rossi has maintained common themes throughout her work, which include political and social injustices; love and passion; sexuality, feminism, and issues relating to gender.

In the End: Closing Thoughts –

There you have it Gentle Reader: my Nobel Speculation List for Two-Thousand and Twenty. My sincerest apologies that the list is later than previously desired. Thank-you for your patience.

Following are some statistics and data of this year’s list:

86 writers are included on this year’s speculation list.
35 writers are female.
51 writers are male.

Of these eighty-six writers, 12 are new to this list. These new writers are separated by geographical area in the following:

Africa – 1
North Africa & The Middle East – 2
Europe – 3
Asia & The Indo-Subcontinent – 3
South America & Latin America, with the Caribbean – 3

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 to five writers named in correlation to nation. Those countries are:

South Africa – Ivan Vladislavic, Wilma Stockenström, Antijie Krog, and Athol Fugard

Morocco – Abdellatif Laâbi, Abdallah Zrika, and Leila Abouzeid

Estonia – Doris Kareva, Viivi Luik and Jaan Kaplinski

France – Annie Ernaux, Pierre Michon, and Éric Chevillard

Russia – Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, Mikhail Shishkin, and Olga Sedakova

Hungary – Zsuzsa Takács, László Krasznahorkai, and Péter Nadas

Norway – Jon Fosse, Kjell Askildsen, and Dag Solstad

Japan – Yoko Ogawa, Hiromi Itō, and Yoko Tawada

(South Korea) – Moon Chung-hee, Kim Hyesoon, Hwang Sok-yong, Yi Mun-yol and Ko Un

China – Ouyang Jianghe, Can Xue, Wang Xiaoni, Bei Dao, and Wang Anyi

Argentina – Cesar Aira, Luisa Valenzuela, and Ana María Shua

On one more small side note Gentle Reader, of all the continental categories, one category has more female writers listed then the others, which generally have more men listed.

The above Gentle Reader is merely a continual enjoyment of classification and categorization, in an almost deconstructive and dissected manner. It provides a unique overview of components of the above speculative list, providing nothing more than some unique analytics. South America & Latin America, with the Caribbean, has a total of 8 women writers listed, with only three men. Of course, this was not planned, and some writers were not included on this year’s list, as in previous years. But it seems unique in retrospect.

This year’s list is also somewhat of a personal disappointment Gentle Reader. When I had first begun the work in assembling it months prior, I had begun to sift through prior speculation and lists; other international awards to find unknown or interesting writers. I added each of them to the list, but overtime, it became apparent that I had bite off more than I could chew, and some of these potential writers were put on the back burner. Perhaps they will appear on next years list, as I once again rotate through, weighing the interest of keeping some writers on the list due to a sense of obligation; and maybe I’ll actually have worked and prepared on the list in advance time to properly edit, add, and remove as necessary and publish on time as well. Disappointment aside, I look forward to seeing who this year’s Nobel Laureate in Literature will be.

As previously mentioned, there is no point in vouching, proclaiming or even beginning to state if any of the above listed writers have a chance to receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature or not. The goal remains the same, to provide the beneficial aspect of providing readers to discover new writers, while we patiently for the announcement to come, while participating in fierce debates as readers, who champion their literary writers.

Until October 10th Gentle Reader, we will not know who this year’s Nobel Laureate in Literature will be. But it’ll be exciting to find out—though disappointing as well, that the ceremony is cancelled due to complications relating to COVID-19.