The Birdcage Archives

Saturday 3 October 2020

Final Thoughts on the Nobel Prize in Literature 2020

Hello Gentle Reader,
The year 2020 has been quite a year, complete with a global pandemic that has all but shut down the world killed hundreds of thousands people; and destroyed the economies of many nations; all the while bringing racial and social tensions to the forefront that demand change, reconciliation, and reforms. Throughout 2020 the conversations of the world have become reduced only a few topics: the pandemic, riots, and economics. Of course, when it comes to these topics none of us who casually discuss them would come close to being called a expert. We are not epidemiologists, social workers, or economists. Yet we discuss these events with critical scrutiny, administering judgement ease, and discuss the options to get the economy moving again. There is no denying that since the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, everyone has come to realize how little meaning their life had without the distractions of travel, or usual social activities such as theatres, or dining out at restaurants, or participating in alcohol induced revelry; it seems we’ve all come to the realization of what our life is reduced to, when all leisure measures have been removed. Surprisingly this is not discussed as openly. As if this new reality has forced us to face our almost existential reality of little our life amounts to when all social disruptions have been removed. This ennui seeps throughout our lives now. Everyday riddled with new routines. The news a continual beacon of misery, repeating without reprieve what constitutes: ‘The New Reality.’ This same malaise apparently has seeped into the Nobel Prize for Literature Speculation as well, the entire atmosphere regarding the prize, more lukewarm.
This year the betting sites such as Ladbrokes and NicerOdds, have only recently released their list of potential possibilities, and the list is extraordinarily small initially; but have begun to grow over the past few days. Common names find their seats on their list, with no writer standing out of another—with the expectation of Amos Oz, who is listed, but is unable to be considered the prize, as he died in two-thousand and eighteen. As for the prize itself, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the ceremony and banquet have been cancelled. This leaves one to suspect that all ceremonious celebrations and events will be moved to virtual platforms. How disappointing for the yet to be named Nobel Laureates in their respective fields. The Nobel Prize Ceremony is one of the few events on the world stage with pomp and pageantry, glitz and glamour, where scientists and writers—intellectuals—are celebrated for their achievements, and their life’s work. Such events have become commonly reserved for more populist contests, for more disinteresting mediums, such as music, television, or film. Mediums that do not share the same higher pursuits of human achievement like literature or the sciences.
Speculation this year as previously mentioned remains subdued. The usual suspects are being tossed around as potential possibilities. The same old perennial writers, who must be as tired as the rest of us, seeing their names repeatedly mentioned in contestation for one of the most secretive contests in the literary world. There has also been concern with the continual rise of social justice perspectives, and its adamant ideologues, whose keystrokes are wielded in the same vein as one may wield a sword; where they denounce, criticize, ostracize, and attack all contrary opinions that are contrary to their own. Their fevered adherence to their ideological prescriptions, as well as their fanatic devotion in inoculating others to their newfound awaken perspective. This has caused some concern amongst speculators that the Swedish Academy itself, may buckle under the pressure for diversity, and awarding writers to meet social, cultural, and diversification quota; rather then make judgement based on literary merit, and treating all other sociopolitical concerns as secondary, and better yet peripheral.
The Swedish Academy has been staunch defender of its independence and has rebuked attempts of external influence to undermine its agency and autonomy as an awarding institution. The Swedish Academy has disregarded accusations of political agendas, often showcasing a rather mercurial approach when it comes to writers they award, and their own political predilections and perspectives—for example Herta Müller or Svetlana Alexievich versus Peter Handke or Mo Yan. In other situations, there Nobel Laureates are completely apolitical, disinterested with the dirty business, such as: Alice Munro or Tomas Tranströmer. There Nobel Laureates can often be polite dignitaries of high literary pursuits: Wisława Szymborska, Patrick Modiano, and Olga Tokarczuk. While on the hand they could be incendiary provocateurs of enfant terrible heights, such as: Camilo Jose Cela, Elfriede Jelinek, and once again Peter Handke. It is doubtful that the Swedish Academy would take a reading of the current social barometer and decide based on it. Rather they’ll maintain their own agency free of the concerns and influences of otherwise external influences and do what the Swedish Academy believes is best. Which is always a relief, knowing that the Swedish Academy retains its own sense objectives free from the interloping concerns who do not peruse the higher qualities of literature.
With the world under quarantine house arrest; debating about the effective measures masks have to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as their side effect of emasculating men; or being concerned about the rising rampant national debts, coupled with the waves of unemployment; then of course there is the continual clashes of social groups, and riots—everywhere riots. With the whole world gone to hell in a handbasket, there is certainly enough distractions to keep everyone from speculating and wondering about who will receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Such speculation is a necessary distraction when the world is influx of tearing itself apart. Which is in complete contrast to the world months prior, at the onslaught of the virus and the quarantine measures being enacted by governments. People had been reduced to living mannequins, mere people in the windows, who looked beyond their pane at a world at once mundane and foreign. Now they are no longer framed within those glass panes, which only reflect violence—be it police or otherwise—riots, fires, and another debacle fumbling into another catastrophe.
The Nobel Prize’s social media arm has also been lacking in trying to get the speculation heated and curiously provoking the frenzy to theorize potential Nobel Laureates in Literature. In years past they’ve released snapshots, of previous Nobel Laureates, with a quote form their work, or a general quote the author had stated prior.
The current Social Media Posts pertaining to the Literature Prize have been the following of record from September, from the most recent to the earliest documented post in the month.
September 27th:
A post on Grazia Deledda:
“Deledda was born on this day in 1871 in the village of Nuoro on the island of Sardinia, Italy. She had six siblings and her father worked the family's land. Friends used to gather in the family's kitchen and share their stories, which shy little Grazia absorbed. She attended school for just four years, which was considered sufficient for a girl, but also received private lessons in Italian. Her teacher encouraged her to submit her writing to a newspaper and, at age 13, her first story was published.
Deledda's childhood was shaped by old traditions with deep historical roots and the unhappy fates of her family members imbued her with a strong belief in destiny. Themes like uncontrollable forces, moral dilemmas, passion, and human weakness recur in her stories.
Deledda was awarded the 1926 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general."
Read more about this extraordinary laureate on”
September 25th:
“Take a look at some of the literary masterpieces written by previous Literature Laureates - do you have a favourite Literature Laureate so far?
Stay tuned to find out which author(s) will be awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature.”
Listing in a photo:
Olga Tokarczuk: “Flights,”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: “One Hundred Years of Solitude,”
Ernest Hemingway: “The Old Man and The Sea,”
Nadine Gordimer: “The Conservationist,”
William Golding: “Lord of the Flies,”
Alice Munro: “Dear Life,”
Toni Morison: “Beloved,”
Rabindranath Tagore: “Gitanjali,”
September 25th:
William Faulkner Quote: “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion.”
September 22nd:
Olga Tokarczuk: “’There was suspicion that it was some kind of prank!”
Last year when Mats Malm, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, tried calling Literature Laureate Olga Tokarczuk, just before the announcement of her Nobel Prize, he was met with some suspicion.
“I didn’t have a direct number so I tried translators, publishers and eventually got through, but obviously not without proving who I was.”
He finally reached her in her car, in the middle of a book tour in Germany: “She was quite shocked and thrilled. I gave her a few minutes and then I called back so she could find a parking space to think about things. Then we spoke for a while more, and then it was time for the announcement.”
“I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to get hold of her, but I was also very much looking forward to talking to her. She’s been a wonderful acquaintance only through the books so far. I’m really happy to be able to get to know her better and have her here in Stockholm.”
Which writer(s) will the Swedish Academy try to get a hold of this year? Stay tuned for 8 October when the 2020 Literature Laureate(s) will be revealed.”
September 19th:
“Remembering William Golding, born September 19th in 1911] followed by a quote: “Words may, through the devotion, the skill, the passion and the luck of writers prove to be the most powerful thing in the world.”
September 17th:
Another William Golding post:
“Have you read 'Lord of the Flies'? The novel, written by William Golding, was first published #OnThisDay in 1954.
Golding was awarded the #NobelPrize in Literature in 1983 "for his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today."
Golding was born in Cornwall in 1911 and was educated at Marlborough Grammar School and at Brasenose College, Oxford. Apart from writing, his occupations included being a schoolmaster, a lecturer, an actor, a sailor and a musician. His father was a schoolmaster and his mother was a suffragette.
He was brought up to be a scientist, but revolted. After two years at Oxford he read English literature instead and published a volume of poems in 1935. He taught at Bishop Wordsworth's School, Salisbury before joining the Royal Navy in 1940 and spending six years afloat, except for seven months in New York and six months helping Lord Cherwell at the Naval Research Establishment. He saw action against battleships (at the sinking of the Bismarck), submarines and aircraft. Golding finished as Lieutenant in command of a rocket ship. He was present off the French coast for the D-Day invasion, and later at the island of Walcheren. After the war he returned to teaching, and began to write again. 'Lord of the Flies', his first novel, was published in 1954.”
September 17th:
A Doris Lessing post:
“’Oh, Christ!”
“That was Doris Lessing's first response after hearing that she was awarded the 2007 #NobelPrize in Literature. Lessing heard the news from a Reuters correspondent after arriving in a cab at her home in London, UK.
Which writer(s) will be awarded the 2020 Literature Prize?”
September 10th:
An Alice Munro post:
“Imagine having a voicemail from the Nobel committee informing you that you have been awarded the Nobel Prize? A voicemail forever saved in your telephone. 
That is what happened to the master of the contemporary short story, Alice Munro. On 10 October 2013, the Swedish Academy couldn't get a hold of the newly awarded Literature Laureate. After several attempts, the academy finally left Munro a voicemail informing her about the news.
Who will the Swedish Academy be calling on 8 October this year? Join us to hear the news first.”
It should be noted that the social media arm of the Nobel Prizes, are managed and operated by the Nobel Foundation, not to the awarding institutions, such as the Swedish Academy. Therefore, these posts are not necessarily secret divination tea leaves in order to gauge or predict current possibilities of Nobel Laureates. Though they can provide the inspiring provocations for further or continued speculation. Reviewing the posts throughout September, I noticed quite early on the continual fixation on English language writers, such as William Golding (on countless occasions), Doris Lessing, William Faulkner and Alice Munro. My first gut reaction to this the usual thought that its going to yet another English language writer. One of those highly contested writers, who are always speculated about, and of course when it happens rather then the media stating: “who?” they’ll cry out with: “Finally!” because this particular English language writer—be it Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Joyce Carol Oates, Salman Rushdie, or Margaret Atwood—has finally got that gold stamp of approval, the highest accolade that literature has to offer. Yet, it also suggested Anne Carson; that bewitching writer who defies poetry with her unapologetic chimeric creations that usurp the poetic establishment, while providing greater context for the form that is both academically infused, and experimentally whimsical all the same.
It is also curious to note that the social media posts appear selective, spotlighting either popular or recognizable laureates, over lesser known Laureates, or more controversial laureates. I can’t think of any social media posts that look back on Camilo Jose Cela, Elfriede Jelinek, Dario Fo and Jaroslav Seifert. Instead the social media campaign has mentioned writers beyond the aforementioned: Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ernest Hemmingway, and Olga Tokarczuk. The most obscure writer mentioned is Rabindranath Tagore; though over the years he has been continually discussed or mentioned. To see, Hemmingway and Golding mentioned is enough to make the stomach roll. I don’t like Hemmingway as a writer. He’s lack luster, blunt, and dated; though his life is now a literary legendary. Whereas I find William Golding’s equally lacking in any poetic charm and riddled with an under current of depravity. I can still recall the force feeding of “The Lord of the Flies,” and “Old Man and The Sea,” from my early education, and refuse to ever have my reading requirements dictated to me again.
The post on Grazia Deledda is interesting. She falls into the nebulous category of writers, who are neither known any more, nor have little to no relevance; lost to the abyss of history. She was not a controversial laureate by any means, though apparently not a memorable one either. Much like Sigrid Undset, Grazia Deledda collects dust in the back halls, where she is all but forgotten. Though she is joined there by the likes of fellow laureates: Roger Martin du Gard, Frans Eemil Sillanpää, and Saint-John Perse. While less then deserving writers such as John Steinbeck persist. At least I can always count my own fortune that Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” or “The Grapes of Wrath,” where never ground up and funneled down my throat during my early education. Small miracles indeed.
This year is also the final year that the Swedish Academy will allow a group external members to work within its ranks. After this year, Rebecka Kärde, Mikaela Blomqvist, and Henrik Petersen will depart from the Swedish Academy, their contributions fulfilled under their two-year stipend agreement. Of course, the Swedish Academy did not just come to this notion on its own. Rather it was a caveat set forth by the Nobel Foundation in order for the Swedish Academy to continue to announce and award the Nobel Prize for Literature. The famously clandestine eighteen-member academy swallowed the horse pill along with its pride and has managed to due reasonably well, only loosing two of the five external members in the process. Both Gun-Britt Sundström and Kristoffer Leandoer emancipated themselves from their appointments, citing inconsolable differences.
With their tenure now ending there appears to be an under current of a battle in perspective between the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Foundation. The Nobel Foundation has stated that it would prefer and even rationalizes that the external members should be kept on and consulted with, as other awarding intuitions do. On the contrary the Swedish Academy has been polite in its praise of the external members assistance but is ready to help them pack their backs and see them out the door. Whether or not the external members had much to any sway within the gilded halls of the Swedish Academy is unknown. The academy itself, however, is also not at full capacity, two of its chairs remain vacant: Chair No. 5 and Chair No. 14; following the deaths of Göran Malmqvist and Kristina Lugn. What the future holds for the Swedish Academy is still unknown. As for Rebecka Kärde, Mikaela Blomqvist, and Henrik Petersen this could be a trail run for them, as they too may be officially appointed to the Swedish Academy at later dates, as they are relatively young—and in the case Kärde and Blomqvist, quite young.
As for the Nobel Prize for Literature itself, its less than a week until the winner is announced. A few of the social media posts have made insinuations of a joint award which is a rarity. The last time the Nobel Prize for Literature was shared between two writers as in 1974, between the Swedish writers and academy members: Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, which erupted into controversy. Last year two laurates were announced, but the prize was not explicitly shared. Olga Tokarczuk was retroactively announced and awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in two-thousand and eighteen, as the prize was previously postponed due to the scandal surrounding its lack of internal governance. While Peter Handke was the official Nobel Laureate in Literature for two-thousand and nineteen.
With Nobel Week set to begin Monday, and less then a week until the Nobel Prize for Literature is announced, there is still some otherwise muted curiosity as to who will win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Perhaps this is the first time in many years, that the Nobel Prize for Literature is explicitly secretive, without the leaks by the former member of Katarina Frostenson to her husband Jean-Claude Arnault. There have been a few grumbles around the world, about how the Nobel Prize for Literature will be awarded to some writer they have never heard of, who they’ve never read, and in typical petulant fashion have no interest in reading. I take a contrary perspective to this and hope for a truly surpassing and unique writer to receive the prize. Not one that is mediocre or compromising, such as Kazuo Ishiguro; who is one of those good writers but would not be considered memorably great. His oeuvre is rather uneven and slim, with but a few remarkable novels to his name, with others laying in the background. There was nothing strikingly unique about Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing or thematic occupations. Memory and one’s relation to history, coupled with understated and restrained prose, appeared no different than many other English language writer’s contemporary with Ishiguro.
With that being said, if I were to look over my speculative list and decide to attempt to name the writes, I’d like to choose to receive the award, I’d find it very difficult and complicated. I enjoy most of the writes listed on my Nobel Speculation List, in some form or another. Though truth be told, there are some writers who are more enjoyed or interested in then others. However, in typical capricious fashion I fall in and out with these thoughts with mercurial speed. I never wish to become overtly invested in one over another, out of some misplaced superstitious form of guilt. As if asking a parent to decide who their favourite child is, though more candid parents answer the question without hesitation. Due to the unique circumstances of last year announcing two winners, one for the calendar year, and the other retroactively; I had made a list of three columns based around my own personal favorites of the writers I had listed in my speculation list, in a series of three columns with external factor shaping how each column was directed: one was purely female; another was a hybrid of half female writers and half male writers; and the final one was only male writers. The exercise proved to be difficult after it was completed, with immediate thoughts about other writers not included on the list. Still it’s not going to stop me from giving this another attempt, which will end in regret hours later.
The following are three lists of writers from the previous speculation list, who I’d like to see receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Following I provide a selective and short rationale for some of the writers listed. I’d like to note these three short lists of eight are based on personal preference, not necessarily any potential greater or otherwise that would seem them to be likely candidates to receive the prize.
Doris Kareva                           Yoko Tawada                          Magdalena Tulli
Annie Ernaux                          Gyrðir Elíasson                       Mircea Cărtărescu
Yoko Ogawa                           Can Xue                                  Nancy Morejón
Olga Sedakova                        Lyudmila Petrushevskaya       László Krasznahorkai
Fleur Jaeggy                            Jon Fosse                                Jaan Kaplinski
Sirkka Turkka                          Ibrahim Al-Koni                    Wang Xiaoni
Kim Hyesoon                          José Eduardo Agualusa          Rodrigo Rey Rosa
Duong Thu Huong                  Durs Grünbein                        Elena Poniatowska
There are three lists of eight writers for each column, for a grand total of twenty-four writers. it was a conscious thought not to include any duplicate or repeat writer on any of the lists. They are listed and organized in no particular order or fashion. Each list is compromised of writers who are viewed with personal interest or favour over other writers who have listed on the larger and more comprehensive speculation list. Though as previously noted, this will of course change once again the coming days, or even hours. My interest and fascination with the writer’s ebbs and flows like fickle tides, at the mercy of an intoxicated tyrannical moon.  
I made a slight conscious effort to include poets on these lists, at least the ones I find interesting in some way or another, despite not being a reader of poetry myself; though a few poets and their poems are admirable, nonetheless.
My three main poet frontrunners are: Doris Kareva, Sirkka Turkka, and Kim Hyesoon. Doris Kareva interests me in part because of where she heralds from, that North-Eastern country of Estonia, which is sadly changing sides throughout history, but has finally matured and come into its own after liberation from the former Soviet Union. Doris Kareva remains interesting because she is not a particularly politically oriented poet; though in her youth she was removed form university due to her dissidence, though she graduated remotely with a degree in philology. Her poetry is expertly refined, to the point of being measured and control to the point of brevity. These few lined poems become appear as fragile and clear as crystal but resound with crystalline harmony that give voice to the individual soul, while echoing into the universe at large. Doris Kareva, is the poet in grace, who abandons the pretense, the patronization, and the pontification of the poets of the past, in favour of something more approachability, grace, and duplicitous simplicity betraying the echoing resonance of a cosmic ballet dancing within in harmonic elegance, embodying virtuosic grace of the poet. I have nothing but endearing admiration for Sirkka Turkka. The Finnish poet writes with again simplicity, clarity, and a forthright form of expression. Her work is not some esoteric correspondence of air. Her poems are cryptographs, which require a secret key in order to decipher them, navigate through them, and ultimately comprehend them.
Annie Ernaux is gaining recognition outside of France, where she has been a powerful literary, cultural, social, and academic voice within France. Her work at face value appears to be autobiographically oriented, which can induce apprehension and annoyance.  Thankfully Annie Ernaux is not interested in dredging up cheap trivialities, unfortunate events, or otherwise private pornographic fantasies, and calling it literature. No. Thankfully, Ernaux probes the personal in relation to the social and the macro, taking a sociological approach and critical analysis of the private and the social realities, to provide an examination of societal needs, individual rights, and what means to be human. Ernaux is by far one of the great writers of French literature, showcasing how memoir and autobiographical work, can provide ruminations on the changing societal perspective, social attitudes, and historical movements which progressed them forward. Annie Eranux envisions both sociologically and historically the progress of society and the individual through history, with an otherwise personal perspective.
Gyrðir Elíasson has only one book translated into English, “Stone Trees.” A slim collection of his otherwise impressionistic stories. Elíasson has a poet’s eye—and he is an accomplished poet—but its his prose which has gathered him great acclaim. Elíasson stories are explicitly short, but riddled with impressionistic images that haunt further off of the page. His characters are rarely named, and their landscapes are anonymous, taking place within nebulous dreamscapes of anywhere. Its this brevity and condensed narrative that makes Elíasson so endearing. His work is placeless (for the most part) and is not preoccupied initially with narrative or form; but the impressions one gains from life, the enlightening and revelatory moments of memory, dreams, and experiences, that inspire and ripple well beyond their initial action or inaction. If Halldor Laxness is the modern Icelandic epicist, Gyrðir Elíasson is the impressionist of the interior.
Though I have yet to read Can Xue and she remains continually on my list of writers to read; she is a fascinating being, one devoted explicitly to her work, her own form, her own style, and her own surreal and challenging voice. Despite Chinese critics demeaning her and devaluating her as trivial, insane, or lacking any pursuits in serious literary communication; Can Xue remains one of the most experimental and boldest writers at work today. Her defiance against the Communist ideological requirements and the preferred literary prescription in narrative, has made her one of the most innovative writers at work, where she has found a cult following, and wide readership well beyond the borders of mainland China, and this should not be overlooked.
Ibrahim Al-Koni is another writer who has often overlooked, but whose contribution to Arabic language literature transcends his nomadic and desert upbringing, which has provided him an otherwise mystical and fabulist perspective in prose. Despite having numerous novels translated into English, and even highly regarded by reviewers; Ibrahim Al-Koni has received no international recognition or accolade, beyond a nod from the Booker International Prize in 2016. Recongition then is far overdue for one of the most important writers in the Arabic language, whose influence on contemporary Arabic language literature is as considerable as Naguib Mahfouz, both now rival masters of form, narrative, and language in their respective rights.
The chances of another Polish writer receiving the award so close to Olga Tokarczuk’s win seems unlikely; but one cannot deny that Magdalena Tulli is one of the most unique voices writing in Polish. Her novel “Dreams & Stones,” still causes debate between critics and readers alike regarding the classification of the work be it prose poem or novel. Tulli herself has stated it’s a novel, while her translator thought of it more as a prose poem. Either way Tulli’s debut became the cornerstone of her literary output, the postmodern meta-narrative that is infused with the richest and most complex language that is a feast to the eyes. Her worlds are flimsy, built on spare parts, and are often incomplete. They provide silhouettes, uniforms, and enough illusion to set the scene and give way to character. What more is needed? From there Tulli is able to systematically deconstruct the literary with psychoanalysts penetrating gaze, reducing everything to its most artificial pretense.
Perhaps the father of contemporary Romanian literature, Mircea Cărtărescu is by far one of the most recognizable, well-known, and acclaimed writers heralding from Romania. One does not need to look far to find a world saturated in the incomprehensible and the surreal. Cărtărescu’s “Blinding: The Left Wing,” of his three-volume novel “Orbitor,” is riddled with the poetic cadence; lush photographic descriptions saturate the pages of the novel, and the slowly grow increasingly more surreal, stranger, more dreamlike. Reality resides on sifting sands, continually being lost and recovered throughout the course of the novel. Experiences and memory are inherited as they are created. The narrator is infused with a double helix of contrary endowments and traits from his both of his parents. Showcasing that the individual transforms through repeat metaphorizes, rather then remains transfixed as a being. Despite little translation of his other work in the English language, Mircea Cărtărescu is a powerhouse in contemporary Romanian literature; whose dedication to form, and the higher pursuits of literary meaning cannot be overlooked or denied.
It is my understanding that Elena Poniatowska is a polarizing figure within the Mexican literary scene. I am not in the possession of all the facts to know why, Elena Poniatowska is viewed in a dichotomous manner within the Mexican literary scene; but I do know she is highly respected and regarded within the Spanish language literary scene, receiving the Cervantes Prize among other honours. If social consciousness is an aspect in which the Swedish Academy wishes to review alongside literary merit, Poniatowska meets that requirement. Her work, be it reportage, journalism, fiction, documentary, or essay have their roots in tracing the working struggles of the Mexican people. Her work is not entirely sure of itself in the English language; as if the question of who Elena Poniatowska is, is still undecided. Is she a journalist, essayist, or a fiction writer? Perhaps it’s this complete lack of identifiable literary tracer that makes more curious about the writer. But if Elena Poniatowska is merely a commentator and reporter of the trials and tribulations of the unfortunate social situation within Mexico, this may play against her; as the Swedish Academy previously awarded the Belarusian reporter and documentary journalist Svetlana Alexievich for this form of literary output.
Nobel Week is just around the corner Gentle Reader. It is set to kick off on Monday. As we move down the week from Monday into Wednesday, though those pesky science prizes, we will finally receive the news of who the Swedish Academy has deemed the suitable Nobel Laureate in Literature for two-thousand and twenty, and will kick off a new decade. Here's hoping speculation and buzz around the award will increase as the date nears. It would also be wise to note on the other awarding institutions will go around in announcing their laureates. These new platforms, be it digital or distanced, will provide a precedence and precognitive understanding of what will await us on Thursday.   
Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
M. Mary


Post Script Edit 

Hello Gentle Reader,
With only one more day and one more prize to go (October 7th, Chemistry) before the Nobel Prize for Literature is announced, media speculation has picked up indeed. The Guardian for example, is predicting a safe winner this year rather then another controversial award, considering that the Swedish Academy in the previous years has been embroiled in controversy. First in 2018, when the prize was postponed, and again in 2019 when Peter Handke was announced as the Laureate.
To its credit though, the Swedish Academy did choose a safe winner retroactively for 2018: Olga Tokarczuk, who was sadly overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Peter Handke. Journalists, speculators, and theorists are gambling that the Swedish Academy will circumvent further controversy by going for a ‘Safe,’ choice for this years Literature Laureate. The kind of Laureate who will not bring attention to themselves by their unfashionable political opinions; or have been a speculated contender for years, while also having a strong presence or renown in the English language; or whose political views could be considered agreeable with the current constitution of the current publics mindset.
I find this thought process difficult. The Swedish Academy as aforementioned has relished in its own agency, its own autonomy free from intrusion of third-party inflections. The safe bets for this year as proposed across the board are:
Anne Carson
Jamaica Kincaid
Maryse Condé
Margaret Atwood
Haruki Murakami
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
One could sit here and argue for and against in all cases until they are blue in their face. I’d theorize of this who has the best chance is most likely Anne Carson. Then again, I could be wrong, which is known to happen on numerous occasions.
Alex Shepherd of The New Republic has published an equally tongue and check article, whereby he attempts to predict who will win the Nobel Prize for Literature and who won’t; but like me, Alex is also known to make mistakes, when we both stated with equal adamant that a certain singer would not win the award, and they went on to win the award.
For now, though Gentle Reader I’ll leave you a link to the article mentioned above. As the day inch closer, second by second, we will finally come to learn who will win the Nobel Prize for Literature. But if you want my honest opinion, about whether or not the laureate will be considered controversial or not, or publicly acceptable enough I’ll state this in strong language:
The Swedish Academy does not give two royal fucks either way. To quote Ander Olsson: “it is literary merit first.” Everything else is just secondary. 


  1. Hum, thanks for another much needed long Nobel post, providing even more in-depth insights on writers you consider worthy of the prize (there has been so little coverage on the news at large so far...).
    I’d be very excited for either a Can Xue or an Anne Carson win :)

    1. I must add also it’s so refreshing to read someone who share your political views. This place is a haven for freedom of thought. Thanks

    2. Hello Gabriel,

      How lovely it is to hear from you! The count down is on for the big reveal. But I'll agree with you, this year all speculation and coverage regarding the award has been muted. Here's hoping as we inch closer to the award that there will be a increase interest in the award, and who will become the Nobel Laureate in Literature.

      Admittedly I wont be disappointed with either a Can Xue win or a Anne Carson win. Both writers to my limited knowledge and experience with them, are deserving nonetheless.

      While finishing up this post - which once again was rushed - I was given the opportunity to become reacquainted with Gyrðir Elíasson again, only to become irritated over the lack of any other translations of his work in English. Maybe in the near future (oh to dare to dream!).

      I'd also like to say with great appreciation that you believe this place is a haven for freedom of thought! No greater compliment could ever be given! I find it frightening that in this world it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to have contrary opinions to others, which has resulted in greater division between people, and a lack of dialogue. True intellectual growth comes from engaging in conversations and debates regarding perspectives that are different from our own. The increased notion of 'Social Censorship,' currently running rampant through social media is disturbing to witness. I appreciate your thought that this blog, this place is a sanctuary of thought, speech and expression, which is free of censorship. Thank-you Gabriel!

      Stay Safe & Healthy!

      M. Mary

  2. Thanks for the pruned list of 24 names. I haven't read all of them. A few are quite familiar names though. Personally, I would have loved to have the names of Abdellatif Labbi, Ersi Sotiropoulos and A B Yehoshua to figure in this list based on my preferences, not because they represent three different continents, but by virtue of their sheer brilliance. May be I would include Hamid Ismailov as a wild card entry- an intuitive interpolation in tune with the recent SA predeliction for the surprise factor.

    1. Hello Girish Kumar,

      I hesitate in calling this list my own sense of a shortlist. At the time the twenty-four writers were the ones that interested me at the moment, and that has since changed. I thought about including Ersi Sotiropoulos in the first round, but I have still yet to read her novel: “What’s Left of the Night,” and decided to hold off. I find it interesting that you mention Hamid Ismailov. He’s been one of those writers who has continually been on my radar, though I have yet to include him on my list. Have you read anything by Ismailov? Do you have any recommendations as to where to start?

      M. Mary

  3. Hi Mary,
    Yes. It is true that what is the best pick in a given moment keeps changing each day. As for Ismailov, I could get only three of his books until now. "A Poet and Bin Laden" is a good window onto his ouevre. Also "The Dead Lake" is a little jewel of a book, at once intense, dreamy and poetic. I am yet see a contemporary author from that part of the world who could universalize central Asian realities so dexterously with a kaleidoscopic imagination.

    1. Hello Girish Kumar,

      With the Nobel Prize in Medicine being announced today, we only have two more science prizes—physics & chemistry—before the Nobel Prize in Literature. You are right about that, what we enjoy today will certainly change by tomorrow. High praise for Ismailov! I’ll certainly being adding: “The Dead Lake,” to my list of books to read. Thank-you! I’ll also certainly need to start considering inducting him to speculative list for the future—in the even that he doesn’t he win this year.

      M. Mary