The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 24 September 2020

Milan Kundera Wins Franz Kafka Prize

Hello Gentle Reader, 

Milan Kundera, the famous dissident Czech writer, who was expelled from the then Soviet Allied communist Czechoslovakia during the mid-Twentieth Century, was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize earlier this week.  What may be considered just another run of the mill prize, or another literary prize as a feather in the cap of the writer; the Franz Kafka Prize is a symbolic gesture from Czechia to Milan Kundera, as the two have had a drought relationship over the past half century. 
After his expulsion from the Soviet Satellite State, Milan Kundera lived in exile in France, and began to write and publish his work in French. In return the then Czechoslovakian government banned publication and circulation of his work, which they deemed morally corrupt, and not meeting the pre-approved party standards of the Communist Government. Furthermore, they revoked Kundera's citizenship. 
Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution, and the dissolution of the former Soviet Union; the relationship between Milan Kundera and the now democratic state of Czechia, remained fraught with unresolved differences. Kundera refused his work from being published in the newly democratic country; and Czechia did not completely welcome Kundera in returning to the country, or grant him his citizenship back; despite being one of the most renowned contemporary Czech writers on the global stage, who has also been a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature, until recently. 
Now 91 years old, and after small gestures of reconciliation between the writer and nation; Milan Kundera has decided to joyfully accept the Franz Kafka Prize without hesitation. To award the writer the prize is being considered a monumental move in Czech Literature, as Kundera has been one of the most famous, renowned, and appreciated Czech writers at work on the global stage. Receiving the Franz Kafka Prize for Kundera is as much as homecoming as it is when the Czech writer reinstated his Czech Citizenship last year. In return Milan Kundera has donated his personal papers to: The Moravian Library, in Brno. 
Congratulations to the Milan Kundera on receiving the Franz Kafka Prize. A well-deserved honour. 
Thank-you for Reading Gentle Reader 
Take Care 
And As Always 
Stay Well Read 
M. Mary 

Tuesday 15 September 2020

The Booker Prize Shortlist, 2020

Hello Gentle Reader

This years shortlist has been called the most diverse, Booker Prize Shortlist in recent memory; and in a twist of fate, in order to avoid being called predictable, and claustrophobic to new writers and emerging talent, this years judges did not include Hilary Mantel on this year’s shortlist—an honour we were all expecting the two time Booker Prize winning author to receive. Rather, the writers took a different approach; one that is being both praised and criticized for. First though the shortlist:

Diane Cook – USA – “The New Wilderness,”
Tsitsi Dangarembga – Zimbabwe – “This Mournable Bod,”
Avni Doshi – USA – “Burnt Sugar,”
Maaza Mengiste – Ethiopia/UA – “The Shadow King,”
Douglas Stuart – Scotland/USA – “Shuggle Bain,”
Brandon Taylor – USA – “Real Life,”

It is apparent that the shortlist is dominated by American writers, or writers with duel citizenship to the states; as well as women. Another unique factor of this year’s shortlist is that it is inclined towards writers of a different ethnicity other then Caucasian. Of course, when such occurrences do occur, it is viewed as suspect. Though there has been praise for this year’s judges for keeping diversity in mind; others have viewed the decision being influenced by macro socio-political events, perspectives, and attitudes, and fear that the literary aspect of the prize is being is being sidestepped in favour of meeting a diversity quota, or appeasing the current social and political attitudes; and worst still they worry that the judges will be judged and scrutinized by these circumstances both now and in the future, diminishing their literary achievements.

To say it is a diverse shortlist is not a scandalous statement; in fact it should be praised as such, and welcomed as a breath of fresh air; but it should also be viewed with caution, as we wonder if the literary as simply become a diminished measurement in favour of social engagement and appeasement; rather then the ravaging revolutionary voices that inspired societal and political changes, through thought provoking narratives.

Congratulations to the shortlisted writers, and the best of luck to them.

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