The Birdcage Archives

Monday 15 August 2022

Nobel Prize in Literature 2022 Speculation List

The Beginning—
In less than two months Gentle Reader, we will learn who this year’s Nobel Laureate in Literature will be. Following is a list of 102 writers listed for this year’s speculation list. These 102 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 who is considered in contention for the award.
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).
The list is not designed for national interest or advocacy for another. It’s merely an attempt at easier navigation. 
Thank-you & Please Enjoy,
M. Mary
Boubacar Boris Diop – Senegal – There can be no denying that the year 2021 saw a pique in interest for African writers and the novels, poetry, and work coming from the colossal continent, which exists within a realm of exoticized fantasy, and still struggles from a complicated past which includes colonialism and slave trade, followed by civil war, apartheid, and genocide. Yet, when Abdulrazak Gurnah was announced as the laureate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, not only was the literary community shaken and surprised by the decision, but they were also left in complete awe. This inevitably included Abdulrazak Gurnah himself, who initially treated the announcement with suspicion. In turn the biennial Neustadt International Prize for Literature announced Boubacar Boris Diop as the winner of the award for 2022. As a Neustadt Prize Winner, Boubacar Boris Diop is in great company and his Neustadt win should only strengthen the writers international appeal and recognition. As a writer, Boubacar Boris Diop is one of the most renowned French language African writers currently at work, whose work often details the struggle of the African continent to come out of the grips of colonialism and a bloody and oppressive past, complete with an uncertain future, along with an insufferable and impoverished present. One of Boubacar Boris Diop’s most prominent and famous novels (and the novel in which his Neustadt International Prize for Literature win was based on) is “Murambi: The Book of Bones,” which directly confronts and works through the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, detailing the swiftness of the rage and the killings, the wake of sadness and tragedy following, and the chilling horror the events continue to inspire. The novel traces a expat history teacher returning to Rwanda to come to terms with the massacre of his family, and finds the solace and redemption in the greater element of humanity. “Murambi: The Book of Bones,” is a testament of an outsider working to understand the brutality and unchecked hatred and repression of a society hellbent on retribution and viewing justice in a perverted lens on the edge of a machete’s blade. Diop’s other famous novel: “Doomi Golo,” is the first novel to be translate from Wolof into English. In a fashion similar to the Kenyan literary statesmen, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o; Boubacar Boris Diop is seeking to revitalize and make literary works available in the traditional language of Wolof, whereby Diop has not only written works in Wolof, but has created a publishing house which translates works into Wolof and publishes novels to be distributed in Wolof for consumption. “Doomi Golo,” is a complex and interpersonal novel, which moves with fine-tuned intricacies of a symphonic musical composition, “Doomi Golo,” is composed of seven notebooks (six of which are made accessible for the reader) that the narrator wishes to leave behind for his grandson, whose departure for an unknown destination pains him in the same way the abrupt death of his own son had. The novel paradoxically moves between a wide purview and unrelated thoughts and observations, to being expertly crafted and shaped. It is hard to imagine a writer heralding from the African continent receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, after Abdulrazak Gurnah had received it last year; regardless, Boubacar Boris Diop is a marvelous writer, a true hidden gem of the continent.
Ananda Devi – Mauritius (literary language French) – Mauritius is a small country in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometers (1200 miles) from the southeastern coast of Africa and is further 1,175 kilometers east from Madagascar. This small island was the African homeland of the poetically adventurous Nobel Laureate, J.M.G Le Clezio, whose work developed a nomadic and global perspective. A sensational adventurous experience complete with prose which seek embody the sensual and adventurous spirit. Ananda Devi’s work is starkly different. Where Le Clezio’s work took an ethnographical and ecological approach to exploring individuals, cultures, and the world beyond the established confines, and embracing a nomadic and mercurial cultural identity within a increasingly globalized world; Ananda Devi explores with greater precision as a trained ethnologist, with a doctorate in social anthropology, the sensitivities of intertwining identities through intercepting cultures and languages is a continued preoccupation of her literary work, whereby she observes the acuity of an increasingly intercultural world, complete with all the different cultures, values, and beliefs as they build off each other, but also clash and tear each other apart in otherwise insular places. The literary language of Ananda Devi is French, but her novels and short stories also incorporate Creole and Hindi, which further expands the literary languages of expression within the French literary canon. Ananda Devi’s literary style is renowned for its refine lyrical sensibilities, producing some of the most poignant poetic narratives heralding from the Indian Ocean. “Eve Out of Her Ruins,” is a novel written with urgency and brutal poetic honesty. The novel details the tale of four young Mauritians who are trapped within the continued cycle of violence and fears, as they work to define a sense of identity and sexuality within the small island African nation. The novel is polyvocal in scope, with chapters being monologues from each character, distinct with their own rhythmic pattern and speech concerns, grasping the specific cadence of an individual character’s speech, but also their story, their personality, their circumstances. The fluid poetic language which reinvites and infects the French literary language with new cultural and linguistic perspectives grows. Ananda Devi is one of those potent and unique writers who embodies the multicultural and globalized world, whose work is starkly interested in the ecological, ethnographic, and socially anthropological movements of individual and human civilizations.
Breyten Breytenbach - South Africa – The previous South African Nobel Laurates in Literature: Nadine Gordimer (1991) and J.M. Coetzee (2003), were known critics of Apartheid and the blatant racial policies instituted against the indigenous black South Africans within the nation, and the brutality being issued against the populace (with a particular penchant towards the indigenous black South Africans once again). Of the two Nadine Gordimer was perhaps the most active in dissidence and criticism of apartheid, her works having a particular interest in providing social criticism and overview of the times. J.M. Coetzee, in turn provided commentary on Apartheid (“Disgrace,” for example), but extended his work from specifically being socially inclined to work within the realms of apartheid and branched into further and more universal themes and concerns, such as the cycle of violence and empathy, shame, vanity, remorse, power and sexual yearnings, and time itself with all the changes it brings. It does become a curious theme with any writer to be awarded from South Africa moving forward, are they as well to have a literary bibliography which focuses exclusively on Apartheid? In turn, are writers expected to just ignore such as dark and terrible time in contemporary African history, which saw the complete segregation and alienation of people based on racist and fascist inspired policies. Breyten Breytenbach in turn, is informally referred to as the Poet Laureate Afrikaans South Africans, but make no mistake, Breytenbach was adamantly opposed to Apartheid and was no supporter of the police state institutions. For his criticism against apartheid and other abhorrent social policies), Breyten Breytenbach was sentenced to 7 years in prison, where the writer was subject various cruel abuses and torture, after his release Breytenbach entered self-imposed exile, later becoming a naturalized French citizen. As a writer, Breyten Breytenbach is well known for his poetry, which has earned his distinction of being the Afrikaans’s poet laureate, and J.M. Coetzee has described as “An immensely gifted writer, able descend effortlessly into the Africa of the poetic unconscious and return with the rhythm and words, the words in the rhythm, that give life.” His poetry moves from compositions in Paris, to those drafted in prison, to the poems of exile; all of the poetry of Breytenbach take within itself a worldly view but maintain rooted with a notion of South Africa’s suffering. Beyond poetry, Breyten Breytenbach has written plays novels, and multi volumes of his experience in South Africa, as well as essays. Though a remarkable writer, one can’t help but feel that awarding Breyten Breytenbach the award now may be seen as recircling already established themes and recognition to South African writers who also opposed Apartheid. Then the question of colonialism may once again be revisited, which was already discussed with last years award with Abdulrazak Gurnah.
Tierno Monénembo – Guinea – Tierno Monénembo is one of Guinea’s most renowned writers, is a prominent French Language writer to emerge from post-colonial 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 encountered in life in foreign lands. Tierno Monénembo has taken a particular interest in historical narratives, often detailing the lives of the Fula People, such as 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. By preoccupying oneself with the past they are able to gain an understanding of the trajectory that shapes the future. Yet, without fail, the same mistakes are perpetrated repeatedly. The same crimes, the same violence, the same political uncertainty, the same oppressive atmospheres only 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 objective observers, who attempted understand the horror which had taken place. In this, Tierno Monénembo, was an observer tasked to make sense and comprehend the unimaginable societal break down of order and convey with either eloquence and honesty how a country devolved into an uncontrolled sprawl and spree of slaughter and violence. Inevitably it 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.
Antjie Krog – South Africa – The contemporary South African poet, literary theorist, and academic has been described by Joan Hambidge, as the Pablo Neruda of Afrikaans poetry, her first foray in the literary world, whereby she published her first collection of poetry at the age of seventeen. 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, as Afrikaans is seen as 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 – If Mia Couto chronicles the ingrained majestic colourful beauty of Mozambique from a postcolonial perspective, then José Eduardo Agualusa is the Angolan answer in turn, who in turn grapples with the complicated contemporary history of colonial Angola and the brutal often bloody cost for independence and the subsequent postcolonial years and searching grasp for identity. In “Creole,” José Eduardo Agualusa traces the complex and rich colonial history of 1860 Angola and its own part within the greater Portuguese empire and the complicated realities of the slave trade which traversed from Angola to Europe, to Brazil. The novel is salt and peppered with the majestic letters of an adventurer, Fradique Mendes, who’s larger than life persona blossoms and balloons throughout the novel, engaging the reader with the coloruful complexities and horrors of the time, exposing the corrupt nature of colonialism and its oppressive rule of indigenous people but more striking the participation in the heinous slave trade. In “The Book of Chameleons,” José Eduardo Agualusa changes the perspective from historical to contemporary times, narrating a stylish novel through the eyes and perspective of a gecko Eulalio, who through vignette chapters reminisces on his life and past life, while observing the home life of Flix Ventura, an albino Angolan who sells counterfeit aristocratic pasts to successful and wealthy newcomers to a newly minted independent (and war torn) Angola. Both Eulalio and Felix, become endearing and sympathetic characters, creating a rich stylish literary narrative. In Agualusa’s most famous novel “A General Theory of Oblivion,” readers become enveloped in the dark uncertainty of Angola’s civil war of independence, as an exiled Portuguese woman, Ludo barricades herself into her apartment entombing herself into solitary confinement and isolation. From there, the external world and revolution and civil war of Angola meld into the personal universe of Ludo, whose existence is now contained within four walls, but also documented on them in turn. Through a rich narrative focus, José Eduardo Agualusa is able to dance between the poles of public and historical concern and how the personal exists within them, even on in the most marginal and surreal levels. In a sense similar to Mia Couto, José Eduardo Agualusa is often described as a magical realist in the African tradition, which I suspect Agualusa finds disenchanting and dismissive as Mia Couto does. Yet, José Eduardo Agualusa shows the complexities of historical Angola and contemporary Angola, as it recuperates from colonial rule and grapples with the complex work of building a national identity and recapturing a notion of independence while noticing that colonial components in language still exists as part of the everyday reality in the postcolonial world, which creates a blend of dream like realities and palpable recognition of reality to be observed in the work of José Eduardo Agualusa, who is arguably one of the most important Portuguese language writers of the African continent.

Nuruddin Farah – Somalia – Along with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Nuruddin Farah is a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Farah’s first novel: “From a Crooked Rib,” was herald as one of the most important literary works to have come from East Africa. The novel is written from the perspective of an orphaned woman and unflinchingly depicts what have been described as savage and brutal customs of Somalia concerning woman, who are raised and sold off as if they were cattle. His most recent novel: “North of Dawn,” tackles the alienation and complications of the East African experience in now a more globally accessible world. The worlds of traditional Islamic religious doctrines and the freedom of the western world meet head on, which causes further strife, complications, and encourages (even if inadvertently) further conviction and violence. Each of Nuruddin Farah’s novels detail the violence of Somalia as it attempts to recover in the wake of the postcolonial world, which suffers political corruption, oppression, civil war, and violence that breeds further violence. Escapes to the grander world only prove alienating and discomforting. While attempts at changing or shifting political movements at home prove to be fruitless, as violence breeds further violence, and the cycle continues spinning within itself. Despite the international acclaim and appeal that Nuruddin Farah brings, there are concerns and cynical skepticism that Nuruddin Farah will not receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, as he has not done so yet. Though in the Swedish Academy’s defense, they are often glacial in making decisions. It is rumored that the late Nobel Laureate Tomas Tranströmer had been nominated for the award since the 1990’s to finally receive the award in 2011. 
Ayi Kwei Armah – Ghana – One of the most acclaimed and controversial writes of West Africa, Ayi Kwei Armah’s work its existential preoccupations, review and criticism of colonialism and the desolation of the post-colonial world, cultures either lost or in crisis, and political instability. In his famous novel “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born,” Ayi Kwei Armah traces the plight and crisis of an alienated railway clerk who is routinely faced with moral and ethical dilemmas; does the clerk accept bribes and other easy money, in order to provide for his family with greater ease; all the while his conscious refuses such notions as a means of getting ahead. In this small world of a railway clerk, Ayi Kwei Armah concludes that the nationalist movement of Ghana failed due to rampant corruption and selfish opportunism, which only created further suffering for the people themselves. The newly elected officials—those of independence, free from colonial control—were in their own way, just a new version of a previous regime. High expectations and hopes equally turn to ash in his subsequent novels: “Fragments,” and “Why Are We So Blest?”. Once again insular and common individual’s aspirations are thwarted if not outrightly denied due to societal consumption. “Two Thousand Seasons,” and “The Healers,” continues Ayi Kwei Armah continues his dissection of African revolution and independence failure to achieve the promises and campaigns that fueled their success. Armah’s continued probing and exploration of mistaken resolve, attempt to critically assess the thwarted revolutionary expectations of independence, and the innate corruption that lurks within social reforms instituted with opportunism at the core or basis. In his sixth novel, “Osiris Rising,” Ayi Kwei Armah tackles themes of identity and rootlessness, as a young African American Egyptologist travels to Africa, both in search of roots but also on the coattails of a former lover who has returned to his homeland to fight injustice of a post-independent corrupt African state. The novel forms the genesis and preoccupation Ayi Kwei Armah has regard pan-African unity and the historical consciousness that once united the entire continent as a singular African nation, free from colonial corruption, rule, and erosion. His last novel “The Revolutionaries,” from 2013, is an unapologetic political satire, taking aim at the usual suspects of African leaders who promise resolve and to solve problems, but fail to take action. The novel continued to explore themes forming a continental Pan-African identity and language requirements, leveraging less then subtle satire against other African writers who wrote in an obscure tribal language and self-congratulated themselves for it (a blatant swipe at Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o). Despite the criticism and controversy which swirls and congregates around him, Ayi Kwei Armah is a unique and talented African writer, one whose exploration moves past the typical themes of Western vs African cultural differences, the humiliation of colonialism, and otherwise anthropological treatises; Ayi Kwei Armah has the revolutionary bile and spirit to criticize with unflinching certainty against failed endeavors, delving into introspective wonderment into the national spirit and discern root causes for this otherwise grandiose failures. In turn, however, Armah provides visions of hope for amelioration.
Mia Couto – Mozambique – One of the most prominent and important Portuguese language, Mia Couto is considered one of the most important postcolonial writers of the African continent, in the post-revolutionary and colonial world. As a post-revolutionary Mozambican writer, Mia Couto concerned himself with the aesthetic preoccupations of literature, rather than embrace the frivolous utopian perspectives imposed and propagated by the revolutionary regime, which came to power after achieving independence through a civil war. Throughout his extensive travels through Mozambique, Mia Couto was exposed to the diversity, the colours, the local flavours, and the mosaic cultural identities that made up Mozambique, it was there the future writer became to grasp that the sheer diversity of identities, cultural conventions, and religious beliefs and traditions, could not be contained or described by any monolithic umbrella definition, which has since spurred the author to describe the colourful cultural multiplicities of Mozambique. In Mia Couto’s fiction, identifies are inevitably plural and prone to reinterpretations which ensures all narratives are shifting and evolving. However, it is Mia Couto’s unique employment and deployment of language, which has been the most celebrated feature of Couto’s literary career, which utilizes the unique Portuguese spoken of in Mozambique, its rich tradition of oral storytelling and a poetic evocation of the harsh realities of the south-east African nation, but its Couto’s ability to parrot, barrow, and populate his own literary language with the extensive indigenous languages of Mozambique, as well as its dominate Portuguese official language, and reminiscent of its colonial past, and then the global flavours of English and French among others, which have endeared Couto to the literary establishment, but also ensured that the writer is recognized as a truly singular talent, who is unparalleled in such linguistic ingenuity. The fabulist traditions and realities that are intercepted within his narratives often have Mia Couto classified as a magical realist, in the tradition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, (which Couto detests), but it cannot be underestimated that Couto’s work does undermine and question the borders of reality and the sleepwalking dreams and at times supernatural elements. As far as Couto is concerned these ‘magical,’ or ‘mystical,’ elements populate as much of the African experience as does the ground in which one walks or the sky overhead. There can be no denying that Mia Couto is one of the most important Portuguese writers currently writing and working, let alone one of the most important writers heralding from the African continent. If Abdulrazak Gurnah was a writer who wrote about the experience of the refugee swept up into the currents of diaspora caused postcolonial uncertainty and civil unrest; then Mia Couto writes about what was left behind, and what has sprouted forth from civil war and brutality. 
Ivan Vladislavic – South Africa –Ivan Vladislavic is only starting to gain a foothold in translation on the world literature stage. South African literature was previously eclipsed by others (Nobel Laureates, Nadine Gordimer, and JM Coetzee). Where other writers of South Africa have found inspiration or felt compelled to comment on the troubled racial injustice that plagued the country through the last Century, Ivan Vladislavic has taken an otherwise unique and surreal approach to the landscape, the world, and the human condition, where he explores the possibilities of literature in its relation to communicating the human experience both on 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. Instead, 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, friendships, and mortality. It is 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.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o – Kenya – A titan of African literature, for the past decade Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o has been a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. With Abdulrazak Gurnah, receiving last year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, it is now doubtful that the great Kenyan Titan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o will be considered in contention this year. As a writer, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is a sociopolitical conscious writer, who treats pressing political concerns with severity and seriousness. Early in his academic career, Thiong'o co-wrote a manifesto while at the University of Nairobi calling titled: “On the Abolition of the English Department,” which outlined a extensive position and argument to reposition African literature at the center of the University’s curriculum. This was followed by the famous critical essay: “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” which provided a critical assessment of Conrad’s inherent racism towards the African continent and its cultures, going so far as to depict it as a savage land which would contaminate the European heart and mind, those otherwise polite sensibilities. It was in the 1970’s that Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o abandoned the English language as his literary language, and instead employed the indigenous Bantu language Gĩkũyũ. If Abdulrazak Gurnah is the postcolonial scholar, who with academic authority writes about the displacement, exile, longing for belonging, lingering consequences of colonialism, and the broken promises of the state, as it relates to the disposed, the diaspora, and refugee lost in the wake of postcolonial realities; then Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is the African revolutionary with a Marxist disposition. In this Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o sought to tear down the colonial establishment and reclaim the heritage, traditions, roots of the African identity. The act of ‘decolonizing the mind,’ is now an independent phrase beyond the initial publication outlining the politics of language within the colonial context and is a firebrand movement of individuals seeking reclamation beyond colonial institutions. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o maintains a strong social sense with his novels, each one nestling a political or social thought and perspective. Thiong'o’s novels have detailed the violence and corruption in both the colonial and neocolonial governance in Kenya (which inevitably saw Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o imprisoned and then enter exile). Since “Weep Not Child,” Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o has been one of the most enduring and revolutionary forces within the African continent. Alongside, the late Nigerian literary statesmen, Chinua Achebe, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o presented the world with a new identity, a new notion of what African literature looked like, what the reclamation of African identity would be within a postcolonial world. From the historical, political, and socially palpable novels of “Weep Not Child,” and “A Grain of Wheat,” to the epicist fabulist and politically satirical novel “The Wizard of the Crow,” to the more recent epic poem “The Perfect Nine,” Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o has repeatedly revealed himself as a titanic writer whose preoccupations with the African destiny and heritage are continued to eb explored and expanded. Now in his mid-eighties, it is questionable of whether Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o will ever receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Ben Okri – Nigeria – One of the most important Nigerian writers of postcolonial Nigeria, Ben Okri became an international literary sensation in 1991, when he became (at the time) the youngest recipient to receive the Booker Prize at 32, for the now classic novel: “The Famished Road.” “The Famished Road,” was a stalwart example of postcolonial African literature, seeking to reclaim a unique cultural and African perspective of the world. Following a abiku (spirit child) by the name of Azaro through an unidentified African city (though its speculated to be Nigerian), the novel follows the adventures and realties of Azaro as he exists between two worlds, being harassed by his spiritual siblings who encourage (if not demand) that he abandon the mortal plane and rejoin them in the spirit world, all the while Azaro refuses, though conscious of the spirit world, he resigns himself to live and love within the mortal realm with his mother and father. The novel was praised for its fantastical elements, which many called expert uses of magical realism in African traditions; while others insisted the novel was purely fantastic in literary scope. Regardless of how “The Famished Road,” is to be categorized, Ben Okri’s reputation as one of the most important rising literary figures from the African continent was established by its publication, with two subsequent novels “Songs of Enchantment,” and “Infinite Riches,” completed the trilogy of Azaro, as he traverses the social and political turmoil of an African nation, which reflect the Okri’s own experience during Nigeria’s sociopolitical troubles. Despite the apparent success early on, Okri’s reputation remains insistently reliant on “The Famished Road,” which is the novel academics fixate on within their critical analysis. Okri’s literary bibliography moves beyond these epic dreamscape postcolonial narratives and encompasses a deep breath of realistic short stories; political minded poetry seeking to weave and navigate the complexities of the contemporary world evolving into new forms of modernity and envision an African destiny; and essays of such diversity they populate his literary output like well-seasoned herbs. Despite little to any critical reception or interest being presented towards Okri’s work has maintained a stalwart tradition of experimentation of personal form, while persisting as a writer of who represents (or rather) dreams of a new Africa. A writer who staddles colonial and postcolonial worlds, and as recent laureates of showcased, popular appeal, critical reception, and academic analysis are not necessarily the secret ingredients to receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Northern Africa, the Middle East & Central Asia—
Agi Mishol – Israel – Politics is an uncomfortable bit of baggage many writers are forced to carry with them. Of course, this luggage is not evenly distributed and is in essence discriminately applied. If a writer heralds from a contentious region one with a reputation of having contentious politics, human rights issues (allegations included), or a totalitarian state, then a writer is expected to embrace dissention and criticize. They are to champion human rights, democratic ideals, and freedom of expression. Agi Mishol is of course of no exception, heralding from Israel the question of politics is always leveraged against her. Yet with grace and ease Mishol is able to dance and waltz around the subject with an airy approach that is noncommittal as its abstract and opaque. In lieu, Agi Mishol allows her poetry to embrace the multifaceted realms of reality and the fractured states of existence, encompassing the multilayered perspectives of the human condition. If politics are to be discussed, it is discussed on the slant and in the sly. In a manner similar to the Polish master Wisława Szymborska, Agi Mishol embraces curiosity and travels with humour. Her poems contain wonder, delight, and an ironic smirk. Her poetry is both observational, socially aware, and astutely pondering; while remaining introspective and personal in its predilections, hermetic orbiting around a selfish sun. I suspect, due to Mishol’s lack of political allegiance and explicit loyalty, is why she remains firmly beloved and admired by the reading public, who enjoy her poetry for its palpability, fresh engagement with reality, and commentary on the wonders of life. The late Amos Oz provided the following praise regarding Agi Mishol’s poems: “Agi Mishol's poems know how to tell a tale, to sing a song and also dance – all at once and the same time. I love the splendid surprises in them, the subtle and exact sadness, and the mysterious manner by which she makes this sadness overflow with hidden joy.” Through poems that both playful, mercurial, fluid, and always expanding in their commentary reach, Agi Mishol has won her position of being a poet admired, adored, and loved by the reading public, who engage with her poetry for the sheer enjoyment that flows within the books. As a poet Mishol ponders and observers, injecting irony into serious topics, be it condescending math teachers whose logical analysis limit and cap the otherwise limitless world; or a donkey who becomes an unknowingly martyr in a suicide bombing. Through thick and thin, Agi Mishol provides a bountiful commentary on the human condition, celebrating it the entire way.
Bahaa Taher – Egypt – The elder statesman of contemporary Arabic literature and Egypt’s best kept literary secret, are just a couple of honorifics and terms of endearment attributed to the Egyptian writer, Bahaa Taher, who is renowned for his captivating novels that explore contemporary Egyptian society in its independence, and the at times difficult relationship Egypt had with democratic notions of freedom, especially in a political sense. Authoritarianism, oppression, censorship, these are elements Bahaa Taher suffered firsthand as a radio director of cultural programing for Radio Cairo, where Taher would come to be acquainted with the Egyptian great and giant of contemporary Egyptian focused literature, Naguib Mahfouz; but also produced radio adaptions of classic Greek theatre as well as contemporary theatre such as Samuel Beckett’s absurd comedies. Taher, openly expressed his political sympathies for what are defined as left leaning, which ran contrary to the government’s perspective, which ultimately saw Bahaa Taher dismissed from his position and leading into exile. From here Taher’s central themes of the political state vs the cultural ambitions of the individual, and the struggle for creative for to be recognized, endorsed, and empowered, came to be formed as a central basis of his literary occupations. It is through the lens of artists, writers, and thinkers, Bahaa Taher crafts a collective experience and character of Egypt’s beautiful and ancient history, but also its contemporary culture and life living within the shadow of the greatness of civilizations past. In turn, the state’s desire to manipulate and influence the creative mediums working through subtle acts to brutality. This sense of oppression can be found routinely within Taher’s work, which reflects that Egyptian society is not just at the mercy of the desert and the sun, but also routinely under the boot of the breathtaking egotistical dictators who have entered and exited political office. In this, Bahaa Taher recounts the biography of the Egyptian people and society as a microcosm of the universal longevity of culture and its ability to weather all storms, but also short lived political interference, and the enduring resolve of equality and liberty, as the natural and fulfilling state of all human culture and civilization, free of sectarianism or other institutionalized borders, which are clearly reflected in the lyrical novel: “My Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery,” which evokes the tolerant Egypt before Islamic endorsed sectarianism and encouraged divisiveness. While Taher’s novel “Love in Exile,” laments the disappointment and outrage of the everyday Arabic individual, through the occupation of Lebanon by Israeli forces, and the subsequent massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. While his highly regarded masterpiece of the existential novel of Egyptian spirit “Sunset Oasis.” Now in his late 80’s, its difficult to see Bahaa Taher being viewed as a serious contender, but as a chronicler of the modern Egyptian individual, complete with understanding the hopes of the revolution and the disappointments that persisted thereafter, but the spark for change continues to ignite, even as the Arab Springs ashes blow into the desert.
Sahar Khalifeh – Palestine – Warmly regarded as the ‘Virginia Woolf of Palestinian,’ Literature, Sahar Khalifeh is one of the most critically acclaimed and respected writers from the brutalized Palestinian state, who has recounted and registered with absolute sincerity and unflinching brutal honesty, the realities of Palestinian life. This inevitably means that Khalifeh recounts a very immediate and intimate modern history, where events are not left to ferment to take on a historical importance but move with the transience of history in motion. The details which are swept up and dusted away, which grants Khalifeh’s work an authenticity with the qualities of an affidavit providing raw testimony. Sahar Khalifeh’s biography shapes her literary perspective as much as the troubling and complex problems of Israel and Palestine relations. Khalifeh remarked from an early age she understood that her sex was useless, dangerous, and miserable, which was continually remarked and reflected on. Though a bookish child with an interest in arts and culture, she was arraigned into marriage, which for 13 years were described as brutal, devasting, and soulless, with books being her only indulgence. Her first serious literary attempts were in resistant focused poetry (in a fashion of disciplined of Mahmoud Darwish), but as a female, there were restrictive topics in which she would provide commentary on within this sphere of Palestinian resistance. Her first foray into prose was confiscated by Israeli occupying forces; her second novel “We Are Not Your Slaves Any Longer,” was immediately noted, and was followed up with the successful and classic work of contemporary Palestinian literature: “Wild Thorns,” which depicts the interactions of families within an apartment complex after the war and delved into the class nuances which befell the west bank during the occupation. Sahar Khalifeh’s work is noted for its poignant palpability and potency in dealing with the complications of Palestinian society, where livelihoods are always at the cross-roads, be it entering into a life of exile and abroad habitation, or subserviating one’s own principles and working in institutions of a foreign occupier. In “The Door to the Courtyard,” Sahar Khalifeh traces parallels between the Palestinian Intifada and women struggling beyond their own historical placement within a enslaved context. In turn “The Inheritance,” questions the events of the Oslo Agreements and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, whose shape and mold comes from the grooming hands of the Zionist movement—in other words, its an authority of Palestine, which Israel deems acceptable and therefore controllable. The macro political infrastructure is always played out within the main focus of her literary preoccupation and subject: women’s rights within the Arabic context. The dilemma of the Palestinian state is reminiscent and metaphorically related to the atrocious realities of women’s lives, housebound, virtual enslavement, unequal, and a lack of opportunity elicits revolts and calls for emancipation, autonomy, and equality. The very battle cries similar to the riotous battle cries of infuriated Palestinians, who unleash another invigorated strike against Israel. Through lyrical and penetrating prose, Sahar Khalifeh is able to trace the macro and the personal and maintain a sociopolitical opposition to both the situation of Palestine and the Israeli occupation of the disputed West Bank, and the subjugation and social inequality that women suffer in turn, which is clearly parallel and reminiscent to the Palestinian struggle for independence.
Ibrahim Al-Koni – Libya – One of the giants of contemporary Arabic language literature, Ibrahim Al-Koni is one of the most extraordinary and interesting writers from the region. Al-khoni’s childhood is steeped in adventure. Growing up in the traditions of the Tuareg (colloquially known as ‘the veiled men,’ or ‘blue men,’) the Tuareg people are nomadic pastoralists, which left Ibrahim Al-Koni’s early life in a state of transit and movement, whereby the writer was exposed to the traditional stories, folklore, mythology, spiritual and Sufi parables of this culture. In turn, however, Al-Koni did not learn to read or write in Arabic until the age of 12, as the vast majority of his early life was spent in the desert. Despite the delayed introduction into the realm of reading and writing, Ibrahim Al-Koni has is one of the most influential writers from the Middle East, who has studied at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow and then worked as a journalist in turn. Al-Koni’s bibliography and literary oeuvre is intrinsically linked to his upbringing, incorporating the myths, folklore, Sufi mysticism which informed much of his early upbringing. There is also a deep-rooted sense of environmental responsibility and respect. The desert in Ibrahim Al-Koni’s work is as much character as it is landscape. A place, which is viewed as expansive, arid, unforgiving, and torturously cruel, the desert in Al-Koni’s literary universe is a place of spiritual transcendentalism, where despite the brutality of everyday life, life still survives, and even flourishes with breathtaking resolve. “The Bleeding of the Stone,” is an apt example of Ibrahim Al-Koni depicting traditional ways of life outside of the modernity, and the stewardship and care placed on environment, which is greedily tarnished by outsider influences and commercial activities. “Anubis,” depicts with gentle tenderness the desert life of his Al-Koni’s heritage, this time a Tuareg youth ventures into desert in search of the elusive shadow of his father. What ensures is a mythic and spiritual quest. “Anubis,” is a celebration of the desert and its culture, in all its brutal and beautiful forms. In the shifting sands paradise exists as a isolated and forgotten oasis and is lost in turn. The Egyptian god of burial rites, in turn becomes a paganistic symbol of the brutality and traditions of the desert, where sacrifice, incest, animal transformations, are not just narrative techniques, but the realities. As a writer, Ibrahim Al-Koni becomes an anthropologist and weathered surveyor of the specific realities of desert life, infused with its ancient stories and mythologies, furthered by Sufi parables, Ibrahim Al-Koni in turn, turns this genesis and well-spring of preserved cultural attributes, to be a reflection of the universal concerns of the modern individual’s plight and the human condition.
Abdellatif Laâbi – Morocco – One of the most important contemporary Moroccan writers at work today, Abdellatif Laâbi has written novels, plays, and essays, but is well revered for his critically acclaimed poetry. A contemporary and colleague of Tahar Ben Jelloun, Laâbi was also persecuted by the Moroccan government for his opinions and was imprisoned and tortured due to these same opinions. After being released from prison Laâbi would leave Morocco and find himself taking refuge in Paris, France where he found intellectual and political freedom. Free to publish without censorship or threat of oppressive retaliatory action, Abdellatif Laâbi wrote critically about the political situation of Morocco as it sought to recover and regain itself from the colonial ruling period and enter a post-independent and post-colonial world. Laâbi’s autobiographical novel: “The Bottom of the Jar,” recounts a childhood lived during the twilight of French colonial rule, as Morocco began the campaign to regain its sovereignty. What follows though is a world envisioned and experience through the eyes of a child. Fes emerges like a city of dreams. Its labyrinth streets and alleys become the corridors for characters to share their stories; they are tunnels of mysteries; the thresholds of journeys not yet taken. There are the dramas of family; the turbulent and perpetual unfairness of childhood; and the enshrined freedom that only children are in possession of, with their limited agency and overflowing imagination. Yet it is the poetry of Abdellatif Laâbi that remains his strongest suit, as it is a diverse palette of domestic lyrics of love and longing, to the firebrand inspiring proclamations that demand change and social reform, political renovations, and renewed respect for the basic principles of human rights and freedoms.
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.
Shahrnush Parsipur - Iran – With the world moving into abstract realities of post-liberal, post-truth, and post-capitalism, with an increase in a sense of niche and micro-tribalism and ideological dogmatic allegiances being declared, a writer with more grit, conviction, and comprehension of suffering, may be required to bring the world back to some semblance of civil understanding. Shahrnush Parsipur is a writer of such qualities, being a revolutionary (and often considered dangerous) voice in Persian literature. Always found on the side of the disenfranchised and the humanistic in approach, Shahrnush Parsipur is often the target of political demagoguery and persecution, both under the former Iranian Shah and then under the authoritarian rule of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Her prison memoir “Kissing the Sword,” recounts the cruel depravation, degradation, and abuse running rampant throughout Iran’s prisons; the book is viciously honest not sparing either the state for its own inhumanity, nor the author herself who committed her own betrayals while in prison. “Kissing the Sword,” is considered a brutal reflection with sparse eviscerating prose which runs contrary to Parsipur’s expansive and imaginative works. It is for her novels that Shahrnush Parsipur is widely recognized and critically acclaimed for, where in Parsipur defied and broke every taboo of traditional conservative fundamental Islamic society and doctrine when it came to the reality of women’s lives, their psychological existence, feelings and ambitions, which apparently ran so contrary to the fundamentalist perspectives employed today. Her most well-known novels “Women without Men,” (which resulted in imprisonment) and “Touba and the Meaning of the Night,” detailed and discussed the concern of the condition of women and gender issues in Iran. Her free spirited and lively female characters rebel and criticize traditional cultural values which result in sexual oppression, and further resist the stifling patriarchy dominating their lives. This inevitably led to a feminist discourse both prior and post-revolution. In “Women without Men,” Shahrnush Parsipur expertly decries and spits at the religious fundamentalism instituted by the revolutionary clerics, and frames itself as a revolt for progress, modernity, and pushing forward, and advocated for women’s rights, as their bodies had suddenly become the battleground for men to dominate further. It is on these grounds, these palpable sociopolitical themes that Shahrnush Parsipur remains a contentious figure in Iran, while also celebrated young writers (especially female) who have found an icon of discourse, who revolts against the taboos placed upon them. Shahrnush Parsipur writing is not concerned with micro-tribalism or post-truth concerns but is instead a writer of pushing against the tiresome reality of continued tyranny.
Tahar Ben Jelloun – Morocco [Language: French] – Perhaps a byproduct of colonial attitudes, but high culture and business is often conducted in the French language. This may be because French is considered more open, broader, and accessible in the Western hemisphere, and therefore will lead to further development in business relations with a broader clientele. Whereas Arabic became the language of the streets, the everyday. It was the commonplace tongue. Sadly, this perspective may continue to be increasingly persistent even today, as writers of certain generations may find themselves at cross-roads of which language to write in, be it French or Arabic. In the case of Tahar Ben Jelloun, he has chosen to write in French, though his first language is Darija (or western Arabic, or Maghrebi Arabic). Throughout his youth, Jelloun was educated in both French and Arabic, and would complete post-secondary studies in both languages, gaining a doctorate in social psychiatry in French, which would become his literary language. While living in Morocco, Tahar Ben Jelloun worked as a philosophy professor (before his doctorate) and helped found the now defunct literary periodical Souffles, which took a critical stance against the oppression of the Moroccan police and government. Jelloun inevitably suffered for, as he was sentenced to a military prion style camp. During this period, his initial poems were published in France, and Jelloun would leave Morocco for France to continue his studies. It is in Paris that Jelloun began to publish once again in Le Monde, afterwards his novel “The Sand Child,” was published to critical acclaim; and his next novel “The Sacred Night,” earned him the Prix Goncourt making Tahar Ben Jelloun the first Moroccan writer to do so. The work of Jelloun maintains a strong cultural understanding of North African culture, but also of the immigrant experience in new lands, and the shadow of colonial history. His novels and work are noted for their pedagogical stance, seeking to educate, and building further understanding between competing cultures and identities through education and empathetic comprehension. His monumental work of non-fiction “Explaining Racism to My Daughter,” made Jelloun a public intellectual receiving continued invitations to lecture and speak at universities and schools on the topic, along with interviews with French news and media outlets. The strength, however, of Jelloun’s literary merit resides in his novels and short stories, with “The Sand Child,” “The Sacred Night,” and “The Wrong Night,” being considered the hallmarks of his work.
Elias Khoury – Lebanon – A renowned and critically acclaimed Lebanese playwright, novelist, and public intellectual; like many Middle Eastern writers, Khoury is also a politically involved writer, one who continually seeks political reform in a democratic vein. Despite his western approved perspectives, Khoury retains a contrary and fluid intellect and perspective that maintains a grounded and well-versed understanding regarding the regional complexities that is the Middle East. For example, Elias Khoury condemned (along with Adunis) and other writers a holocaust denial conference being hosted in Beirut, when the Israeli government praise his open protest to the conference, Khoury in turned criticized the Jewish nation for its mistreatment and appropriation of Palestine land. Politics in reference to the Middle East is not a graceful Viennese waltz, but a tepid and apprehensive polka bouncing and skirting landmines or seeking to attempt to evade another airstrike or an explosion. Khoury’s novels tackle these same subjects, with his same objective and critical eye. His novels tackle political subjects while avoiding the unnecessary pontificating moral high-handed forms, preferred to simplify matters for western readers, and glorify their stances or perspectives. Khoury not only eschews such nonsense, but he also completely denies it and criticizes. Instead, Khoury presents the ambiguities of the political dimensions of the Middle East going beyond simple dichotomous complexities of the good versus the bad. Instead Khoury fundamentally questions the behavior of people during these situations and seeks to present an objective portrait via the use of internal monologues, conversations, and statements originating from the characters to provide a spectrum oriented panoramic viewpoint on the situation, both politically and individually. This otherwise fair and balanced approach to writing about political measures in one of the most contested and volatile regions of the world, make Elias Khoury one of the most integrity defending writers of the Middle East, rising above the pettiness of politics, while still providing complex treatise and thought regarding the socioeconomic and political landscape of the region, undoubtfully makes Elias Khoury one of the most well-respected writers of the region. A writer of both literary quality and humanistic merit.
Hamid Ismailov – Uzbekistan – Central Asia is that unfortunately neglected and mercurial landscape, much like Eastern Europe, countries appear and disappear on the map with ease. Allegiances and political influences eb and flow through region, flooding it with ideological thoughts and demands for decades, then receding into a purge, leaving the landscape battered and beaten. What exists or takes hold within the waning years is often a totalitarian force, which mimics the previous regimes behavior without the ideological indoctrination but maintains the same brutal and brunt force to conduct its affairs. Post-Soviet Uzbekistan is one such prime example, where accusations that slave and child labour have been liberally utilized in the harvest and work in the nations cotton fields. There has been noticeable control of the press, political movement and thought, and extensive use of prisons to qual dissidence. In the past few years, progressive changes have been made to absolve slave labour and provide further freedoms to the citizens. To no surprise, Hamid Ismailov is not welcomed or read in his native Uzbekistan where he has been exiled from. Despite leaving Uzbekistan and living abroad in the United Kingdom and working for the BBC World Service (leaving in 2019 after 25 years of service), Ismailov remains interested and critical of Uzbekistan. Ismailov’s novels are intricate postmodern and post-soviet parables that contemplate the unique trajectory of the modern man in search of purpose and meaning in the world. The novel “The Underground,” traces the coming-of-age story of a bastard child who is born in the Soviet subway system by a Russian woman and a African athlete who competed at the 1980’s Mosco Olympic Games. The novel becomes an intricate travelogue of the city of Moscow through underground, and the development of a multiracial young man greeting a new world. “The Dead Lake,” recounts the nuclear testing conducting in the barren steppe of Kazakhstan, which still suffers the Soviet nuclear tests which took place out there during the Cold War. This desolate landscape riddled with abandoned silhouettes of buildings and unnatural lakes formed by the tests, becomes the startling grim fairytale like story of “The Dead Lake,” where a boy seeking to impress the girl he fancies, dives into one of these nuclear lakes. What follows is all but expected.  Despite not being read in Uzbekistan, and living his professional writing life in exile, Hamid Ismailov remains one of the most important post-Soviet writers heralding from the Central Asian states, whose work is not just politically important, culturally significant, but maintains literary significance.
Ghassan Zaqtan – Palestine – There can be no denying that the greatest Palestine poet was the late Mahmoud Darwish, who was often described as the Poet Laureate of Palestine, the poet who gave voice the soul of the Palestinian people. Yet is a poet of equal nourishing strength and enduring ephemeral wisdom. Routinely compared to the late Yugoslavian/Serbian poet, Vasko Popa, Zaqtan in turn finds equal measure to mythologize his homeland and dreamed glory, while also recognizing the violent realities of the present with unflinching certainty. In awarding Ghassan Zaqtan the Griffin Poetry Prize (in an International category) for his collection” Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me,” the judging committee praised the versality of Zaqtan’s poetic oeuvre, which is enriching as the soil, water and air, inspiring and ingraining itself in all forms of existence, breathing new life, new experience, and understanding into the intimacy of the act of living, which includes enduring war, despair, and a ever changing global perspective. In turn his collection of selected poems “The Silence That Remains,” was well received by critics. “The Silence That Remains,” is a collection that balances between the ethereal realms of memories as they exist in the cerebral intimate and personal reality, and the desire to enunciate and elucidate them, to capture and encapsulate them, which inevitably seems them disintegrate, their sensations never translating fully to a palpable and shared reality. It is here through faded recollection, endless cataloguing that imperfect experiences are rendered in Zaqtan’s pitch perfect poetry. In “The Silence That Remains,” Ghassan Zaqtan becomes the curator pf a personal museum of memory, reminiscence and recollection, casually displayed like inventoried and catalogued specimens, which provide measured depth and life to these quotidian objects such as ashtrays, photographs, even a village accent, which spring forth a thought, a image, a memory of a times past, and beyond immediate encapsulation and so imperfect in its impermanence, wistful and as transient as the wind.
Amina Saïd - Tunisia - Poetry often wavers between sound and silence. Spoken and unspoken. Fullness and space. Perhaps as the literary profession (or vocation) that is most in tune with the primeval soundscape of language, poets are acutely aware that silence in conjunction with language can breed as much meaning to the human experience than just a torrent of verbiage. Though the continued description of poets as masters of silence, form, and necessary words, diminishes their potency and poignancy, becoming in its stead cliches and caricatures, two dimensional in form and practice. Yet, poets understand the brevity and the white space of the page, more so than a prose writer. They understand how absence and nothingness frames the fossilized emotive experience and expression transcribed on the page. The text emerges like solitary islands within a bleached ocean, screaming out to further distant shores, but lost either in the calm of the sea; or the capricious waves sinking it. For the Tunisian poet, Amina Saïd silence is a continued loyal theme and dog which trails and shadows the poet and her personas throughout her collections of poetry. Silence takes on varied expressions and forms throughout Saïd’s poetry. It is not just language or sound muted or deprived from merriment or scream. It takes the form of absence (both physical, visual, aurally); as well as being expansive and open, consuming in the never-ending vastness of spaces. Perhaps silence and absence are resistant functions to the crowdedness and connectedness of today's world; the continued urban claustrophobia and social sycophancy we have grown accustomed to. Language plays a unique identifiable feature in the work of Amina Saïd's poetic work, as it grapples with the concept of history, heritage, oppression, and colonization. Born to a Tunisian father and a French mother, Amina Saïd learned to speak and write in both French and Arabic from a young age. At university, Saïd studied English and became a translator of the Filipino writer Francisco Sionil Jose (who wrote in English) into French. French, however, is the literary language of Amina Saïd, a unique decision as it recalls both the cultured cosmopolitan fluidity of the language being able to traverse the literary landscape of the world through a common and recognized language, but also recalls a language of colonization and oppressive forces through history. Despite the historical and linguistic complications language possesses, Amina Saïd has found great success in the French language as a poet, with Paris becoming her adoptive home from Tunisia.
David Grossman – Israel – The 1966’s Nobel Laureate in Literature, Nelly Sach once commented that her fellow laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon represented and wrote about the hopes and future of the Israeli state, while she wrote about the tragedy of the Jewish people, specifically in the context of the horrors of the holocaust. The Canadian born Jewish-American writer, Saul Bellow, may not have taken direct influence from either Nelly Sachs or Shmuel Yosef Agnon, but he too sought to find a literary manner in which to transcend the dilemmas of the age, and of a century hellbent on relapsing into greater fits of atrocious violence and subsequent tragedy. Yet, as Israel’s battle for legitimacy and security became more solid as the century rolled on, its literary preoccupations changed. Shmuel Yosef Agnon for example remains a niche writer at best, though Nelly Sach remains poignant and painfully relevant, a poet of the most frightening merit and measure, whose work should not be dismissed or forgotten. As the Israeli state became further embattled with its neighbours and displaced Palestinians, three literary statesmen came to forefront of being the public conscious, away from the political pettiness of politicians and supposed statesmen (Israel’s current political state is a revolving door of little men). These three titans were: A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, and David Grossman. Of them, Amos Oz was considered the favourite to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, not only for his masterful literary talent, but also having polite politics. Now, only David Grossman, and is perhaps at times the most underestimated of the three. Grossman’s revolutionary article published in English “The Yellow Wind,” exposed the sheer hatred the Palestinians felt towards the Israeli’s, the venom and vitriol expressed by the Palestinians and translated by David Grossman, became a scandalous surprise, as Israel was not aware the extent of the hatred aimed towards them. “The Yellow Wind,” which became prophetic as the Palestine intifada became a reality, propelled Grossman into internal prominence. Yet it was his 1986 novel “See Under: Love,” which is regarded as Grossman’s masterpiece, which has been compared to some of the classics of the 20th Century: Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” Grass’s “The Tin Drum,” and Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” “See Under: Love,” is a masterpiece in historical reimagination, chronicling Momik the only child of two Holocaust survivors, which inevitably haunts the boy, Momik attempts becoming disassociated and detached, in attempts to evade the tragic history of his parents, but also the second Holocaust he fears on the horizon. Yet through stories by his great uncle, Momik is infected with humanity and can no longer evade the facts that life is full of emotional experiences. “See Under: Love,” is a complex novel that is both epic and intimate in scope. What followed was a continued and steady output of a writer who maintained a strong and conscious pulse check on the society and its moral consciousness, its historical placement, and the everyday suffering. Recent accolades presented to David Grossman include “The Man Booker International Prize,” and the “Israel Prize.” As a writer, Grossman maintains remarkable attention to the Jewish experience lading up to the present era and has not abandoned the diaspora and scattered culture before Israel, which saw to clench its fists against tragedy, against perceived weakness, and instead be recognized as a strong militarized nation capable of defending itself, no longer at the mercy or fretful of a resurgence of antisemitism. Its David Grossman’s careful treatment and panoramic perspective of the entire Jewish experience, both historical and contemporary, and its acute ability to maintain strong morals, which makes Grossman a humanistic writer, a morally conscious one, with an understanding of the entire complexities of the middle eastern situation.
Gyrðir Elíasson – Iceland – The Nobel Prize for Literature is a strange prize in its vision, one that seeks to define universality and commentary on a shared collective idea of the human condition, while in turn acknowledging personal, private, provincial, parochial, and writers of introspective intimacy. Such writers include of recent memory: Louise Glück, Alice Munro, and Patrick Modiano. These writers were able to turn otherwise private thoughts (Glück) into reflecting ponds of universality; the small, stifled, and chastised provincial landscape of Munro, becomes a landscape everyday individual has inhabited at one point in time, complete with all the joys and tribulations it conjures; while Modiano’s obsessive investigations and ruminations of memory, illusion, forgetting, delusion, and absence/departure grapple with our perceived relations with time, memory, and societal acts of remembrance, and how these versions creates different revisions of history. Halldór Laxness in turn was a provincial epicist, providing the overlooked land of Iceland and their ancient customs, folktales, sagas, and heritage and bringing it to the forthright of world literature as they provided saga like testament to the human condition from the Icelandic perspective. Gyrðir Elíasson in turn is not an epicist in the scale or scope of Laxness. Renowned as a novelist, short story writer, and poet, Elíasson’s work is well known and beloved for the casualty of its narratives and poems, which produce matter of fact detail and observation to preserve and understand the world in an encasement of amber. This casual and measured writing provides Elíasson the ability to build tension by producing further detail or introducing surreal, dreamlike, or nightmarish elements, in the same measured tone, which end not with bang, but an elliptical epiphany or encompassing image; be it tealights drifting on a pond beneath the indifferent starry night; the vandalism of a piano; a mammoth fleeing into the evening pursued by the first men; or the anxiety of spring with the silver glint of autumns scythe freshly sharpened. No story, novel, or poem contains an element of sentimentality. This pristine and crystalline prose becomes the polished veneer of iridescent poetry, while disregarding any misbegotten attempt at being described as being uninspired in the beige fashion of insipid minimalism. The world and narratives of Gyrðir Elíasson becomes the impressionistic watercolours of a painter, with light, shadow, and colour dancing across the palette of the painting, providing a ballet of sensation through detail and insinuating depths far beyond the face value. These iceberg depths are what leaves readers craving more, as Elíasson depicts the expression of moments; vignettes of existence; portraits that echo into further and greater possibilities; which can be observed in the story: Breffritarinn (“The Correspondent,” rough translation), where the entire story exists of a man writing and receiving letters, but the received letters provide the gateway for the world to arrive at his humble quarters. Gyrðir Elíasson is both connoisseur and composer of solitude, shadow, and silence. His bibliography is comprised of collections of poetry, novels, and short story collections. Though Elíasson considers himself a poet first and a prose writer second, his short stories have what earned him his greatest acclaim, whereby his poetic pointillism is trained towards ensnaring the portrait qualities of the stillness of space through crystalline and iridescent language, based on matter-of-fact observation and commentary, which gradually introduce the dreamscapes of the individual infecting the perspective of the world with their own interior one. Gyrðir Elíasson is an accomplished master stylist of form, whose precision of language and vignette compositions have constructed a poetic understanding of the complexities, anxieties, and menace that haunts and orbits the human condition through finely tuned and nuanced prose and poetry.
Annie Ernaux – France – Annie Ernaux insists she writes novels and fiction, with her work finding their genesis in the intensely personal and intimate realities of her life, previously recorded, and documented in journals, and are reshaped into works of fiction. This of course explains why most critics choose to denote and classify Ernaux as an autofiction writer. Autofiction being autobiographical fiction. Critics and readers often debate the form of Ernaux’s writing, as they seek to find the correct placement in the taxonomy and classification scheme. For Ernaux, she persists her work is fiction, which takes inspiration from her own life and experiences. The Swedish Academy over the years has taken a broad and panoramic view of literature over the years. In 2015 when awarding Svetlana Alexievich, the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Swedish Academy provided their gilded rubber stamp seal of approval Alexievich, who for decades crafted her own unique literary trajectory, encompassing both historian, journalist, chronicler and cartographer. Her works traced the personal destinies of the Soviet and Post-Soviet individual, and gave a human voice, image, personality, and empathetic understanding of a geographical conglomerate that occupied the imagination of the West but eluded their understanding. Annie Ernaux is writer at work in the same vein as Alexievich, but rather than being a historian, journalist, or cartographer of the personal and human lost in the machinations of the political, the disaster, and the events of contemporary world history that changed the destiny and dissolution of the Soviet Union, Annie Ernaux is a multifaceted social scientist who utilizes her own experiences and perspectives as the vantage point to encapsulate and comment on the changing times of civil and French society. The literary Ernaux becomes the muse Clio, a barometer and recorder of the changing societal elements with an unimpeachable dedication to truth and probity, however uncomfortable they may be. She has detailed and documented her botched abortion; her mother’s absence in the eclipsing ellipses of dementia; her parents undying ambition and resolution for a better life; an impressionistic narrative and commentary on French society from her girlhood in the 1940’s into her golden years of the early 21st Century. Throughout it all, Annie Ernaux remains an invigorated sociologist observing the changing attitudes within French society, with the advent of the pill being introduced into society; or rampant consumerism creating a world of disposable nihilistic material meaningless. Throughout it all, Annie Ernaux becomes the personal guide, providing palpable understanding and empathetic vision of the changing course of society and a shared social destiny. Ernaux comments on vogue ideologies, youthful idealism, minor revolutions, the fashionable philosophies, and developing technologies. For Annie Ernaux, the self as the anchor and vantage point to provide narrative decree and understanding makes Ernaux a welcomed writer, one who provides real time commentary on the human condition, without wringing it out in the realms of dry academia, which eventually leads to the myth making of these historical events, which gloss over or neglect the mundane, the trivial, the ordinary business of daily life. In this Ernaux presents an often-contrary perspective, which vocalize the disappoints, lost hopes, and tarnished ideologies of the movements that promised such great possibilities. Ernaux's unflinching perspective, provides a qualitative study of society, history, and the individual. It would be shortsighted to refer to Annie Ernaux as an author of autobiographical fiction when she has fastened a career of being a consummate observer and astute social critic. In the works of Annie Ernaux, the personal becomes the literary universal. Over the past years, Annie Ernaux has been tipped a potential contender for the prize, there is no doubt she is more than worthy.
Mikhail Shishkin – Russia (residing in Switzerland) – Russia has produced some of the greatest and eternal writers of history: Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva, Ivan Bunin, and the metropolitan Vladimir Nabokov and exiled Joseph Brodksy. These writers have explored the complexities of the human condition with a mastery of form, language, and eye for harmonic and at times dreary beauty. They’ve revolutionized forms, produced the inkling seeds of future philosophical developments, and will be interned in immortality not only as classics, but as chroniclers of bygone eras and times, but whose originality and contribution to form resonates and remains a permanent fixture of admiration. As if tradition within this glistening pantheon of golden and silver figures, Russia continues to produce great admirable and respectable writers. Mikhail Shishkin is one of the most important contemporary Russian writers, who is praised for his expert refinement of language noted for its cohesion and lucidity, while his novels are regarded for their complex intricate and dense narrative structures. “Maidenhair,” which is often noted as the spring board of an introduction to his work is full of allusive complexities, but is riddled with a richness of text, considered so ‘out of vogue,’ in the English language, that in its cascading baptismal flood it is easy for readers to be swept away in, which means its difficult novel to completely maintain a conscientious relationship with, as competing information and a lack of clarification of who the information is coming from and from where, can often lead readers to feel alienated, disoriented, and stranded within a sea of text. The mastery, however, is remarkable. “Maidenhair,” is a multilevel complex narrative, continuing to mimic the consciousness of the interpreter and his multifaceted reality (letters to his son; the dissolution of his marriage; the transcripts of his role as a translator for political asylum seekers; the biography of a Soviet-era singer the interpreter is commissioned to write, and so on). All of these texts, perspectives, and reminisces flood and compete for the literary real estate and Shishkin indulges. A common thread and theme of Mikhail Shishkin’s work are the eternal and universal preoccupations of life and the inevitability of death, the confines and barrier producing world of time and space, the pains of love and its transcending qualities. In all the dramas of life is but the blank canvas for Mikhail Shishkin, who in turn molds an enriched fulfilled maximalist lush language of prose to detail the continued perplexities of the nature of living.

Mircea Cărtărescu – Romania – In Eastern European literature (and especially Romanian literature) Mircea Cărtărescu is an unrivaled giant of critical acclaim and readership appreciation, but is also a brilliant writer of the highest caliber, whose saturated postmodern dreamscape novels are a literary banquet, riddled with expressive bright colours, surreal and dream oriented logic, startling original and evocative imagery, and octane overdrive hyperreality narratives that blur the lines between reality and unconscious infused imaginative versions of reality. “Blinding: The Left Wing,” for instance, is a rich textured novel, cascading through a abundance of descriptions, images, scenes, real and imagined events, blurred perspectives, and imaginings, Bucharest is transformed from the myriad communist wasteland, being bled dry to support the extravagance of the Palace of the Parliament (or The People’s House) and Nicolae Ceaușescu’s inflated and bloated ego, and transforms this majestic mythic and ancient city into something where magical realism, dreamscapes, surreal distortions, personal histories, and cosmopolitan world history, meld together into a fresco of hyper textuality within the surreal dimensions always on the verge of falling apart, flooding and collapsing into a irreconcilable mess of postmodern torrent of excessive verbiage, but instead remains consistent through pitch perfect cadence and measured oscillations, balancing between a gluttony of imagination, metaphor, maximalist language and a undefined sense of loosely defined narrative. Its truly a feast for readers who enjoy an expansive narrative and language which is all encompassing in its sheer majestic quality, which is often compared to Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges. Despite being known as a critically acclaimed writer of doorstop and complex postmodern novels, Mircea Cărtărescu first began his literary career as a poet and was considered the founder of the Romanian ‘Blue Jean Generation,’ of poets, and has been a mentor and lecturer of many of Romania’s contemporary writers, including the up-and-coming great prose poet, Doina Ioanid, among others. In the last quarter of 2022 Mircea Cărtărescu will have a new novel translated into English: “Solenoid,” which has been described as another masterclass example of Cărtărescu’s writing predilections and preoccupations in the postmodern, revolving around the interior reflections and delusions of a high school teacher and diarist, and from this genesis spawns another cerebral dreamscape exploration into the uncanny, visceral and surreal dimensions (Mircea Cărtărescu is not a home and garden magical realist) that combines the components of a novel, essay, and poetry (or poem) and cascades into a commentary regarding philosophy, life, history, mathematics, and more, which will be engulfed in the typhoon of text, cascading across and down the page, which for an inexperience or uncontrolled writer, would be described as an excess, is perfectly manageable by Mircea Cărtărescu, reflecting the stimulating bombardment of stimuli produced and consumed through the late 20th Century and further amplified by the 21st Century. 

Doris Kareva – Estonia – The poet as the fearless spelunker of the soul, spirit, and intricate lattice work of the emotional psyche, would be an ample way to describe Doris Kareva, but the notion of delving, crawling, freefalling and blindly reaching out in the foreboding depths of an endless chasm, summons an image of a poet of uncompromisable dread and dour gloom. Thankfully this is not the case with Doris Kareva, whose excavation of the psyche in both soul, emotional enrichment, and shadow is not reduced to the blind spelunking, but rather the deep dive or even trawling of the human experience in the existential vastness of human condition as seen as an ocean. Kareva’s poetry is riddled with emotional brilliance and resonance, like the opalescent interior of shells, who reveals unknown beauty within the hidden depths beneath the waves; or through the fine cultivation and patience creates a harmonic poem which encapsulates the world within its pearl like essence—not reduced or redacted—but condensed to the quintessential harmonic state that enshrines grace as a multidisciplined virtue. Doris Kareva is a highly sophisticated poet whose poetry are rich in imagistic form and breathtaking condensation encapsulating within the most striking imagery and words the quintessential without being regarded as economical in nature. Kareva’s poetry graceful shimmers and saunters between the obscure, abstract, and metaphysical preoccupations of mysticism, divinity, existence, and the cornerstone questions which have puzzled humankind for centuries; to a reflective and emotionally harmonious chorus of poetry, which through pitch perfect clarity and imagistic cadence strikes the nerve of the emotive response, the heart of the matter does not beat within the poet but beats and radiates outside of her and everywhere. It is in these beats that former the lodestone of Kareva’s perfective poetry, which is not articulation and description, but an empathetic act of listening with tuned understanding of the nuisance and the correspondence transmitting around. In this Doris Kareva is perhaps the most prolific correspondent of air, who glides across the expansiveness of the human experience recounting the most ethereal and emotional context of the human condition, the mercurial nature of the soul, and the flippant and expansive realities of the human destiny. Doris Kareva is a masterful poet of harmony and grace, whose poetic ascensions deliberate between the human frailty and the pursuit of permanence within an increasingly impermanent and transient world. Doris Kareva’s poetic language is refined with expert care, becoming pointed in expression whereby the images and words reverberate long after they have been read. 
Amin Maalouf – France – In being awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature in 2010, the prize citation referenced the historical breath and depth of Amin Maalouf employees when addressing the human condition, and the unique cultural and linguistic mosaic of the Mediterranean. The diversity of language, culture, and religion can be observed Maalouf’s own heritage, both his parents came from different catholic sects and raised their children in a cosmopolitan neighborhood, ensuring Amin Maalouf went to a French Jesuit school for his formal education. During the Lebanese Civil War in 1975, Amin Maalouf left Lebanon entering exile in France, where he has since resided. One of Maalouf’s most famous novels “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes,” provides an Islamic and Arabic perspectives to the Crusades and the holy war that took place during the medieval period. Maalouf provides historical fact and perspective, to create a historical novel which allows the author to revision and review this tumultuous and contentious point of history, through another perspective. The violent clash of cultures, identity lost within historical context, and the needless violence of the times are all hallmarks of Amin Maalouf’s novels. The most recent translation into English “The Disoriented,” (originally published in French in 2012) is a novel of moral conscious, political consequences, conflicting cultures, identities, and values; personal divisions, and aching unresolved bitterness, are all found within this novel, which directly comments on the Lebanese Civil War, through the different lives of childhood friends, whose paths diverged throughout the conflict. The narrator and protagonist, Adam is a historian who took refugee in France and remained, now beckoned back to his homeland he confronts the consequences of the civil war, which includes the bitterness directed at those who fled, and moral questionability of others who stayed but in turn sacrificed their principles. The novel is full of nostalgia, which the longing for misspent youthful ideals, but also the consequences and compromises that come from violent confrontations. The moral weight of the human condition within a violent predisposed world, which views war and conflict as solutions are hallmarks of Maalouf’s work. As a writer, Amin Maalouf is acutely aware of the suffering, the clash of cultures, the division caused by historical identities, and incompatible violent perspectives in an increasingly globalized world, where cultures are bound to interact on some level or another. Amin Maalouf’s commitment to moral preoccupations both from a historical context and within the modern world.
Olga Sedakova – Russia – The Brezhnev Regime of the Soviet Union was one of the most stifling generational eras, often called the Brezhnev Stagnation or the Era of Stagnation, which stalled the Soviet economy and further enforced cultural austerity upon the citizens. There is something to be said about a lack of enriching public life or discourse, as it inevitably ensures the populace becomes more introspective, turn their attention towards more enrichened interior lives, which often meant hosting private readings and art displays in apartments. Artists who thrived during this sterile lobotomization, founds ways to bring the bleached reality to new imagined heights, such as Vladimir Weisberg, whose white-on-white paintings, are ghostly images of geometric studies and still lives within a spectrum of washed-out neutrals. Literature of the Soviet Union is conventionally divided into two groups: Soviet sponsored socialist propagators (Mikhail Sholokhov) and dissident writers (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn). Then what of writers such as Olga Sedakova who was not a propagandist or a dissident? These writers are often called members of the ‘Second Culture,’ who worked and wrote as if the Soviet Union did not exist, which explains why Sedakova did not begin to publisher work until 1989, when the Soviet Union had begun to collapse. Yet, the oppressive grisaille stagnation of the Brezhnev Era, did provide Sedakova the motivation to continue with her studies, achieving a doctorate in philology and becoming fluent in Greek, French, English, Italian, Latin, as well as the Old Church Slavonic, the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church, which Sedakova is a devotee. As a poet, Olga Sedakoka, does not engage in the autobiography, confessional, or otherwise solipsistic attitudes, rather, Sedakova’s poetry has a neoclassical structure complete with a high seriousness which resolves to reconcile what T.S. Eliot called: “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” which also includes a great deal of dissertations and treaties with biblical and theological allusions, which during the Soviet period would have been considered anti-socialist, and polluted in nature. The nature of God, love, spiritual fulfillment, should not be regarded or snubbed of as dry Christian prat or poetry for the religiously indentured or soon to indoctrinated; but rather poetry which seeks to contemplate within the vastness of the human experience, the theological, spiritual, metaphysical, humanistic, and philosophical, and pursuit of transcendence. It is from the enclosed and stifling Soviet Union and the castrating principles of Brezhnev that Olga Sedakoka would ferment, refine, and tune her poetic voice and achievement into the most luminous liturgical literary endeavors. Beyond poetry, Sedakova is an accomplished scholar and essayist, whose work varies from philosophical and theological thought, to travelogues, and humanist reflections, along with a variety of critical articles and assessments. Olga Sedakova is one of the best kept secrets of poetry on the stage of global literature. Sadly, considering the aggressive blatant inhumane actions taken by the Russian government against Ukraine, it is reasonable to suspect that the Swedish Academy may wish to avoid any acknowledgement or laureateship which could be seen as politically motivated in nature. Regardless of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Olga Sedakova remains one of the most profoundly unimpeachable poets currently at work, whose singular poetic voice is unmatched and unrivaled in both composition and humanistic and philosophical undertakings.
Leonard Nolens – Belgium (Flemish language) – Leonard Nolens is a giant of Flemish language literature in Belgian literary society, as a particular favourite poet of the northern neighboring Netherlands. As a poet, Nolens is that particular brand of European poet, a certain high level of intellectual pedigree and experimental bent, which is a description that will surely send most uninitiated readers running or seeking shelter. Nolen’s early poetry was noted for its lavish baroque experimental poetry, which were uncompromising in their juvenile certainty; yet by the midway point of Nolen’s poetry career, his poetic preoccupations turned to more sober contemplation, which employed a spoken language like form, to provide some accessibility to a form which is renowned for its exclusive exclusion-oriented behavior which alienates the common reader. As for his poetry, Leonard Nolen’s work is noted for its diverse and classical preoccupations addressing reoccurring concepts as they cycle back to the poet, which range from the mundane, the immemorial, existential, and at times dreamscape preoccupations. It is perhaps this polyphonic and plural view of the world, which provides each of Nolen’s poetry collections their own self-contained preoccupation, engaged in a self-contained examination of a complete whole, rather than providing slivers, fragmented of moments, which in turn create a spectrum of emotive responses, but lack a rich mosaic or tapestry to piece them all together, whereas Nolens can provide unity to an otherwise fragmented depiction. In addition to his prolific and award-winning poetry, Leonard Nolen’s is an accomplished diarist (not memoirist) whose published diaries, form as much of the Leonard Nolens literary oeuvre as his poetry and is reviewed and analyzed with equal consideration for critical and cultural comprehension. In the past decade (2010-2019) early Nobel Speculation pointed, Leonard Nolens as a favourite and Nobel contender to win, and the poet has remained a permanent fixture on betting sites and speculation, though the aforementioned acclaim and tips have since fallen to the wayside, with the poet often occupying lukewarm to a rather safe distant from heated speculation for other writers.
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 minute observations, revealing at its core a failed system rotting in its own nihilistic debauchery. Everyday life in Jaeggy’s world is but a thin layer of ice waiting to give way, where 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 with 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 likened to 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.
Javier Marias – Spain – Eduardo Mendoza once described Javier Marias style as: “unmistakable, but almost impossible to describe.” Yet, critics and scholars always point to Marias’s expert erudite knowledge, which is employed with his allusions which populate through his literary works and are incorporated into his text; lengthy digressive reflections; prose formed with the highest quality rhythm, which are often compared to symphonies and poetry (without it being a cliché); all the while, a plot of a Javier Marias novel orbit the narrator and their philosophical musings, who obsessively reflect upon the issues of language, truth, secrecy, memory, betrayal among other existential preoccupations and ponderings. If one were to truly provide some critical node point to Javier Marias it would be a high postmodernist, with his novels exploring a sense of intertextuality, continued skepticism and questioning attitudes, and a skeptical attitude towards the notion that there is one inherent idea of meaning, or a unified central humanistic vision, where instead, the world is far more fragmented and mosaic in conception, structure, and reality, with competing ideologies, philosophies, religion, ideologies, and sociopolitical realities, which are all explored in with a humorous or satirical bent. In Javier Marias literary capabilities, the concept of reality becomes increasingly uncertain, where language becomes the scaffolding that influences our ability to understand reality, but languages inability to represent it with accuracy, which is further explored by Javier Marias ability to utilize different languages (such as English) to prove this point and create greater discourse in certainty. Yet throughout his novel, Marias’s narrators continue to pursue the notion of truth, the idea, the concept, and through plots and narratives which are hypertextual and enjoyable for readers to delve into and then be assaulted with the full force of Marias’s aphoristic philosophical quips and rhythmic language. His mature trilogy “Your Face Tomorrow,” (“Fever and Spear (1),” “Dance and Dream (2),” and “Poison, Shadow and Farewell (3),”) have seen Javier Marias be described as the ‘New Proust,’ which further confirms the authors appeal and reach throughout the literary world; where in Europe, Javier Marias is a highly popular writer and intellectual celebrity. One can see the Swedish Academy shrinking (if only slightly) to this popular appeal, but they’ve made far graver decisions previously, and Marias is not only talented but credible.
Antonella Anedda – Italy – Poetry is always considered the higher form or the purer form. Its more distinguished. All the while being completely incomprehensible, unapproachable, and singularly distinguishable for its pretensive airs. Yet it’s a royal in poverty. Admired, but worthless, neglected. In turn, prose maintains the appeal of the masses. Prose gets to the matter. It mines; it burrows; it investigates; it tours; but in the end it tells a story and involves. Prose gets to the heart of the matter. While poetry exists at the heart of the matter. Poetry is the impermanence of the shadow of moments, thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Its vague as it is ambiguous, which attempts to encapsulate the transience of life in motion. From there comes a plethora of poets. Those of loquacious lyricism. Those of pastoral perspectives. The Homeric epicists. Interpersonal hermits. As a poet, Antonella Anedda falls into her own category of being singular, specific and mercurial. Where other Italian poets compose rhetoric in lyrical eloquence, Antonella Anedda remains a staunch supporter of honest reflection and rumination. Her poetry collections remain emancipated and independent of each other. In a fashion similar to Louise Glück, Antonella Anedda ensures each of her poetry collections retrain their independence, whereby the poetic vision and voice rises with phoenix empowerment, continually reborn, refashioned, redesigned, and renewed. Yet, certain preoccupations are salt and peppered throughout the poetry of Anedda, a continual incomprehensibility of reality, laced with an ever-present palpable admiration for the act of living. Thankfully, Antonella Anedda remains concise and distrustful of grand gestures, which would eclipse her merits with cliché kitschy sentiment, over taking the fragility and grace of her compositions, which tremble at the tremor of violence underlining contemporary European life. this made no more resoundingly potent now with the war in Ukraine. This sense of unease, incomprehensibility, and suspicion, recalls the forefather of Italian modernist poetry, Eugenio Montale, whose work exhumed and contemplated the anxieties of the Post-War World, and rejected the unsensible futility of the symbolists, for something more utilitarian. Antonella Anedda is similar in scope, fiercely independent in her poetic compositions, which pays homage to the Mediterranean literary form, but is not consumed in the fashions of the time. There’s a sense of personal ritual and private traditions, especially where the domestic and commonplace becoming poetic subjects (kitchens, balconies, sewing and cooking). Antonella Anedda’s language remains refined and fully formed, shifting between epigrammatic and ironic observations, to more stoic and sober contemplations. Though like any great poet, Antonella Anedda ensures the personal ‘self,’ is redacted from the poet, disembodying the voice. If one were to make only last sketch between Antonella Anedda and Eugenio Montale, it would be sense of place. For Antonella Anedda, the island of La Maddalena (in Sardinia, Italy) remain intensely referenced in her poetry, just as Liguria was of poetic value and personal importance to Eugenio Montale.
Ivan Wernisch – Czechia – Only one Czech writer has received the Nobel Prize for Literature, Jaroslav Seifert in 1984. The poet is scarcely remembered and in the succeeding decades has become an exemplary case of when the Swedish Academy awards (for lack of better or more eloquent word) a dud. Yet upon further investigation and even reading some of Seifert’s poems (those provided via the Nobel Prize website) may not that perhaps during his time Jaroslav Seifert may have been seen as a worthy candidate. Yet, much like William Golding who was awarded the Nobel in this same decade; a high-level overview would not rank Jaroslav Seifert as a remarkable laureate. In turn, one would not be quick to regard, Ivan Wernisch as a globally recognized literary name. The obscurity of Ivan Wernisch is palpable, with one publication in English, and the author only receiving The Franz Kafka Prize in 2018 as his only international literary award to acknowledge his poetry. Yet, despite Wernisch’s lack of global appeal he is regarded as one of the most important contemporary Czech poets, whose poetry is well regarded for its unreliability, playful demeanor, dubious perspectives, satirical character, and lightness of being with mercurial tones. Ivan Wernisch has crafted his own literary hoaxes, such as the creation of the persona: Václav Rozehnal, who had a collection of poetry published and appeared as an independent author within an index of banned poets. This is also what makes Ivan Wernisch a unique writer from a former Soviet occupied state. Under communist ideology, Ivan Wernisch was either denied publication or censored, in turn also harassed and fired from his jobs, be it professional, cultural, or menial in nature. Yet, Wernisch fails (or rather refuses) to provide any commentary on the political or social situations within the country. Wernisch’s poetry instead fixates on being purely poetic in form and nature, free from political or social discourse and allegiance, and instead remaining indifferent and independent. As a poet, Ivan Wernisch is chameleonic in nature, writing a diverse portfolio of poetry from imagistic centric haikus, to bewildering Dadaist manifestos, nonsensical and playful parables, prose poems, fictious ‘translations,’ of non-existent originals, surreal visions, explorations of dreamscapes, echoes of folksongs, and a variety of other forms and genres. Though warmly recognized, reviewed, and received in his native Czechia, Ivan Wernisch remains homebound in this regard, with a lacking international reputation or readership. Then again, before the Nobel Prize for Literature, one would not have remarked that Abdulrazak Gurnah was an internationally accomplished writer, which means the odds are equally in Ivan Wernisch’s favour as well, as there are no odds when it comes to the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Vénus Khoury-Ghata – France [Lebanon born, literary French] – Some writers cross linguistic boundaries providing them a dual perspective when reviewing reality. For Nobel Laureate Herta Müller the German of her home and village contrasted with the Romanian language of the larger country and found within the city. For Müller language did not just inform an opinion of the world, but in fact created a new world unto itself, and the individual’s relationship to it. The ability to shift and live in the duality of language is an equal benefit to Vénus Khoury-Ghata who is home was filled with two languages, her father spoke French while her mother Arabic, and through this marriage of languages Vénus Khoury-Ghata was able to both inhabit her homeland of Lebanon, as well as a foreign and metropolitan world of France and the shining start of Europe. Despite living in France since she was 33 in order to escape the conflict in Lebanon, Khoury-Ghata remains attached to Lebanon, with greet emotional affection being displayed to the Levantine land. During the 20th Century French poetry was often dominated by a anti-lyrical and twilight surrealist poetry that has occupied the space after Baudelaire, yet, when Vénus Khoury-Ghata entered the literary scene she was able to provide a bridge between the French poetry tradition complete with its new forms of expression and post-structuralist literary theories and the Homeric parabolic communal narrative of Arabic poetic traditions, complete with its semi-mythic tropes, which allowed Khoury-Ghata to occupy a position that was both alien and relatable, being an otherwise dual ambassador between the two cultural perspectives, languages, and literary traditions, and in the meantime creating her own position within the French literary pantheon. Yet universality or any commentary provided on the matter does not come from excavating or divining the two faces of Vénus Khoury-Ghata heritage. Rather, the bridge of empathetic universality, Khoury-Ghata routinely returns to her childhood and the wonders of the world that took place there, eventually of course the realities of the world invade, and death becomes a shadow throughout. The fable as an element of the poem are the hallmarks of Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s prolific poetic career, which has carved out an absolutely singular space for the poet within the French literary canon. In addition to writing poetry, Khoury-Ghata is also a prolific prose writer and novelist. Through translated into English, Vénus Khoury-Ghata is often overlooked or discussed with a slight air of frivolity. Most critics make light or comment on her winning the Miss Beirut pageant when she was young and her socialite activities and engagements this required of her. Yet in France, Khoury-Ghata has become a respected and distinguished poet and writer, whereby she received the Prix goncourt de la poésie ([the] Goncourt Poetry Prize) in 2011, which has shares with other distinguished French poets, Yves Bonnefoy (1987) and Philippe Jaccottet (2003). The award is meant to acknowledge an accumulative (or lifetimes) body of work. Khoury-Ghata is also the recipient of the Grance Prize for Poetry from the French Academy. As a poet, Vénus Khoury-Ghata operates as a correspondence of air between a dual heritage of French and Arabic, but also a bridge between the two poetic traditions, one in continued flux of theories, inventions and movements, the other rooted in weathered and stalwart resolve of ancient traditions, customs, and cultural attitudes.
Péter Nádas – Hungary – One of the grand epicists heralding from Hungary, where László Krasznahorkai is the considered the monk and the master of literary apocalyptic vision, for his dystopian, dreary, and difficult novels, riddled with labyrinth sentences and the deluge of text; Péter Nádas is the postmodern scholar examining with critical scrutiny the enteral and ethereal concerns of time and memory, written in enriched prose, often gaining Nádas comparison to the posthumous modernist master of memory, Marcel Proust. In English, Nádas’s reputation began with the highly ambitious and complex novel: “The Book of Memories,” which is a multilayered novel, complete with three different narratives which meld and synthesis throughout the novel. The first narrative concerns the love triangle in East Berlin of the 1970’s between a young Hungarian writer, a young German, and an aging actress. The second narrative is composed by the writer, who writes about a 19th Century German aesthete, whose experiences mirror his own; which inevitably lead to a blurring question of history and the sanctity of the individual experience. In the third narrative, the novels final layer is the voice of a childhood friend, whose unexpected venture competes the narrative. Critics pointed out, where Marcel Proust was psychologically insightful and even more curious in delving into the psychological realities of his characters, ruminating and germinating with their own consciousness, perceptions, and memories; Péter Nádas is more external scope, encompassing an otherwise cinematic perspective fixating on exterior detail, action, and consequences, rather than delving into the consequences of the psychological and how they fit in with the characters perspective of the matters; Péter Nádas brings gravitas through the exterior recounting with saturated detail the effects of the storm as it rages and its aftermath. “Parallel Stories,” in turn is often referenced as Péter Nádas’s masterpiece in literary fiction, a mammoth monumental postmodern novel of intensity, “Parallel Stories,” was the first of Nádas’s work to eschew the first person narration, but instead take the form of the mercurial and unknown third person narration to fixate on the subject of Kristóf Demén, a young German man, whose biographical information reflects and mirrors the author, who narrates and often lapses into the comfort of the singular person directed narrative; but more of then not, Nádas wrestles such indulgence free and maintains a dispassionate, even scrutinizing narrative; which means Nádas has pruned the lengthy meandering sentences found in “The Book of Memories,” and clipped them in “Parallel Stories,” to be abrupt in nature, taking on further jagged appearance. Confessional and elegiac indulgences are abandoned and replaced with a sense of objectivity that dispassionately and explicitly reviewed in turn. “Parallel Stories,” recounts the history of Hungary and Europe at large through the 20th Century, with omissions in turn. Yet the novel is once again expertly praised for Péter Nádas cinematic scenography, the elaborate tableaux, which fill the densely compact novel with an enriched landscape. If the Swedish Academy wanted to bestow the Nobel on to a writer of such cinematic talents within the literary landscape, Péter Nádas is a contender without contest; but more importantly the author has a significant contribution to world literature and has ruminated on the eternal questions of the nature of memory and history.
Eeva Tikka – Finland – One of Finland’s great but gentle writers who has crafted a career of quiet and subtle masterpieces. In a similar fashion of other Finnish writers, Eeva Tikka maintains a strong respect and admiration for the natural world. This is evident not just in her writing, but also as a previous career as a teacher of biology and geography before retiring to become a fulltime writer. The Finnish landscape is one of deep and ancient woodlands, pristine icy lakes, and of course boreal plains of snow. As a writer Eeva Tikka has written novels, short stories, and poetry as well as children’s books. Tikka’s novels and short stories are known for depicting people, families, and couples whose lives are altered by illness, accident, fate, tragedy, or unexpected events, with the remainder of the novel or short story being an examination of the events, always from the slant or the periphery. The contrast of being ill or overly sensitive to the expectation of normalcy as defined by clinical templates or social structures, are routinely explored, with the boundary between the two being given careful examination, as in the case of Lohikäärmekylpy (Eng: “Dragon Bath,”) contemplates the dichotomy of two aging sisters, one who is sensitive, fragile and a dreamer; the other harsh, pragmatic and realistic in scope; only for their roles to be reversed and made precariously difficult as childhood trauma’s haunting grasp influences the present. The natural world, theological imagery, and animals become a reflection of the interior and the psychological landscape and realities of the characters. The literary language of Eeva Tikka is highly refined in its impressionistic lyricism and symbolism, becoming gentle and subtle in its depictions of characters who retreat into solitude both physically and psychologically, whereby they seek out peace, contemplation, and understanding. The emptiness or shapelessness of the human condition provides the fertile ground for it to grow with grace and be harvested with hope. Hopefully the impressionistic water colour stories and novels of Eeva Tikka will be translated and published into English (English readers should scrape together what they can find at the now defunct Books from Finland website), she is a master of the subtle and understated.  In turn Eeva Tikka’s poetry are sermons on memory, nature, the loss of innocence and the passage of time.
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. António Lobo Antunes work is known for being long and exhaustive. Antunes 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, regarding the nature of life, the human condition, politics, and every other subject that can be unearthed under the sun. 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.
Ersi Sotiropoulos – Greece – Only two writers have previously received the Nobel Prize for Literature, Giorgos Seferis (1963) and Odysseus Elytis (1979). The two writers had little in common beyond the fact that they both wrote poetry. Their thematic concerns and preoccupations remained distinctly severed. Where Seferis works were infused with the experiences of wandering and exile, the status of transition and being in transit, while nostalgically celebrating the rich glorious history of Greece, and is considered one of the great Hellenic poets, who was celebrated not only in his native and complicated Greece, but highly regarded internationally. In turn, Odysseus Elytis (the Sun-Drinking Poet) in turn celebrated the Greek tradition of poetry but reject the rational of modernism (which Seferis embraced) and in turn incorporated surrealism into the Hellenic traditions of poetry, which gifted Elytis a clearsighted, spiritually pure form poetry, unencumbered by reason and adherence to rational forms and instead embraced free association to grasp the palpability of reality and unearth the unconsciousness of our perspective. Ersi Sotiropoulos in turn is a cosmopolitan writer who celebrates the rich and textured Hellenic culture, traditions, and mythology, while taking a far international stance with her writings. Where Giorgos Seferis is seen as the Greek Modernist and Odysseus Elytis the sun-drenched Greek surrealist; Ersi Sotiropoulos is unapologetically the avant-garde postmodernist, which can clearly be seen through her famous novel: “Zigzag Through the Bitter Orange Trees,” which refuses to follow any linear notion of development, and instead creates a farce of gallows humour to encapsulate a dramatic narrative that revolves around four different characters, whose connections are indirect and whose interactions can be absurd and allows the characters to invent themselves for one another. While “Landscape with Dogs,” are more glittering shards of glass on the verge of shattering further, as they reflect the shallow illusionary notions of civility that exist in intimate and interpersonal relationships. While her most recent novel: “What’s Left of the Night,” envisions the three days the great Greek poet C.F. Cavafy spent in Paris, where the poet came into his own not only as a poet, but as an individual whose sexuality where out of step with the socially moral structure of the time. Throughout her work, Ersi Sotiropoulos deconstructs the long-held ideals of rationalism and inherent unity of human identity, and instead provides the alternative that human spirit and identify is a matter of relativism.  Ersi Sotiropoulos has also grappled with the complexities of the contemporary times, such as the Age of Austerity in her novel “Eva,” (untranslated in English) which recounts the titular character leaving a Christmas Eve party to discover the desolation, hardship, and transparent desperation of Athens after the Great Recession which shook Greece not only to its financial core, but its social, political, and moral core, showcasing a society whose bankruptcy was not limited to financial institutions.
Tomas Venclova – Lithuania – Since the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in still early months of 2022, the entirety of Eastern Europe has been put on edge, often teetering with trepidation and anxiety of what their neighboring nation and former ideological occupier is planning, and where might they fit within those plans, as Ukraine battles (and surprisingly) seems to often turn the tide against Russia and its increasingly aggressive and unlawful annexation (if more aptly described as invasion). The poetry of Tomas Venclova’s, occupies a rather public sphere of discourse and intellectual discussion, and is perhaps therefore one of the most influential Lithuanian writers who found rewarding success abroad, free from the Soviet censorship and ideological literary demands for conformity and political praise. This is also where Tomas Venclova’s deviates from the notion of Lithuanian literature, which maintains a rural perspective as the unifying notion of national identity, and instead embraces an individualistic perspective that is considered in broader notions European in scope, where the individual and the natural world are discussed in equal measures with a shared destiny. The natural world is not a pristine primeval refuge and sanctuary, but a space of equal concern and consideration. Thankfully in turn, Tomas Venclova is not a overtly tiresome and experimental poet, rather clarity and metric integrity, which ensures the poets moral depths are on full display as they address the oppression of unrestrained totalitarianism, but also the wasteland that is left smoldering in the wake of its fall, but within the desolation and the destitute, there exists in a variety of forms, figures, shapes and entities, hope, that otherwise unbreakable human trait, which operates as mythical guiding light forward, but also the tangible toil of the hard work to rebuild, but for something better and greater. This is where Tomas Venclova thrives, by dissecting and contemplating the continued conundrums of existential ponderings of the human condition, much in the fashion his contemporaries and influences have, which include Joseph Brodsky and Czesław Miłosz, which means that Tomas Venclova continues the great tradition of a European poetry that is aptly concerned with the ability to make sense of the ephemeral, ethereal, and intangible sensations of life. Now in his late 80’s, it is difficult to discern if Tomas Venclova will receive an acknowledgement with the Nobel Prize for Literature, but if it he does it’s an award to a long standing tradition of great poetry, which includes such previous winner as: Joseph Brodsky, Czesław Miłosz, and even Wisława Szymborska; but can also be framed as a political gesture (in the lightest sense of the term) opposing pro-Soviet nostalgia.
Ana Blandiana – Romania – Ana Blandiana is perhaps one of Romania’s greatest working poets and one of their most important contemporary writers. Since her initial literary aspirations, Blandiana was noted for being opponent of Nicolae Ceaușescu and his Soviet endorsed totalitarian regime. Of all the former Soviet Union satellite states, Ceaușescu’s Romania was noted for being peculiarly oppressive, whereby the dictator’s presence was projected and propagated on loop into public life. Language became the most recognizable civil servant the totalitarian rule, employed unapologetically to subvert, control, and manipulate the citizenry, which made writers and poets, perhaps the greatest opponents to Nicolae Ceaușescu, and why he hated them so much. Ana Blandiana, understood early on that the employment and abuse of language was critical to repress society, but also reclaiming and redefining language would be critical in possessing a state of liberty. Ironically or perhaps in perfect with tune with this sense of liberty and reclamation of language, Ana Blandiana does not write lyrical epics, producing a torrent of words and images to protest or push back; rather, Blandiana employees an understated lyricism which seeks to engage and promote silence. In this if Ceaușescu’s dictatorship sought to fill space and silence with misused language to subject the the populace, Ana Blandiana sought to reject the subjection by reclaiming silence, reflection, and interpersonal awareness, in this where nothing is stated, an entire new reality can or though can be suggested. The notion of thought beyond control, is any dictatorships worst nightmare. Through concise and generalized language and images, Ana Blandiana refreshes reality with a new bent and understanding, encouraging (if not demanding) reader participation in order to grasp the contents of the poem, and the intended meaning. In turn, Ana Blandiana is an accomplished rhetorician, providing, structures, framing, and scaffolding to arguments, providing alternatives to their apparent solutions, and inventorying their continued and reverberating consequences.  Ana Blandiana is a poet of the highest order, both for civil engagement but also expansive and infinitesimal metaphysical preoccupations, both of which orbit language and the interception of silence.
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.
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 journeys, 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.
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 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 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 turned monkish prophet, László 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 statement, trading his books like postmodern currency. His works stuck home for them: he is 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 enjoyment. 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, László Krasznahorkai 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 advise all against speaking in such absolute terms, as the Swedish Academy has proven time and time again, they do not enjoy being predictable or complacent. Though I truly do think that its merely a matter of when for László Krasznahorkai, there is no point in denying the postmodern master of the apocalypse.
Dacia Maraini – Italy – There is a certain stereotype of machismo when one considers Italian culture. It’s perplexing paradox of paradigms, on one hand there is the severe, resolute, and ancient (though dwindling) catholic church, whose puritanical patriarchy graces the country like rusted iron chain; then there is the climate and natural landscape, which demands relief by the sea, and rather than showcasing an austerity for restraint and virtue, it’s a market of exposed flesh; and finally that cosmopolitan world, one of expressive emotions and dreams in luxury, but impeccability in dress can always be found; through it all, however, there is an overarching male sense of dominance. Even the Italian writer, Dacia Maraini is framed in the context of the masculine, when she was originally introduced as a companion to the great post-war Italian writer Alberto Moravia, and then a novelist, playwright, and essayist in her own right. As a writer, it comes as no surprise that Dacia Maraini has spent the entirety of her literary career, examining the social structure that oppress women, be it marriage or social pitfalls and the subjection of having to work as a prostitute. In each scene and time, Dacia Maraini seeks to critically examine the implications of how society views and treats women within the society. In this, Maraini examines the individuals place within the collective, but also the marginalized on the fringe edges. Throughout it all, Dacia Maraini frames her narratives as her women protagonists and characters in relation to power, men, society, and cultural traditions as well as virtues, which can be observed in her plays which includes: “Dialogue Between a Prostitute & Her Client,” as well as “Mary Stuart,” but also in her critically acclaimed novels such as: “The Silent Duchess,” which has been described as a cinematic novel, for its realistic portrayal of the excessive luxury and wealth of the 18th Century aristocracy of the times, but also the impoverished state of the lower class (the peasantry or rather everyone else). The novel details the crippling defeats and subservience expected of a woman of the time, but also of one woman’s harrowing journey to reclaim a sense of self, agency, and voice. There is no questioning Dacia Maraini is one of the most important female postwar writers of her generation, whose scathing literary critiques are full of acerbic qualities that examine the social virtues, perspectives, and attitudes of the day, and finds them outdated and priggish, which also decrying with irony the dissatisfaction of women within society and their own struggles but are ill equipped to initiate any substantial change for themselves. It is difficult to imagine any writer who maintains an urgent and socially conscious engagement through literary endeavors.
Dag Solstad – Norway – As many writers do in their youth, 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. 
Sylvie Germain – France – French literature is just as magnanimous and rich in history as the English literature. Where the English language pantheon boasts William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, the Brontë’s (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) and so many more greats; the French delight in boasting Honoré de Balzac, Voltaire, Guy de Maupassant, George Sand, Emile Zola, Charles Baudelaire, and Marcel Proust. The two countries producing equal giants of world literature and revolutionary literary voices. Sylvie Germain is one of those unique voices in contemporary French literature. Where J.M.G Le Clezio wrote with a sense of lyrical anthropological adventure, and Patrick Modiano excavated memory and collective amnesia (or neglectful recollection) and buried secrets in their relation to the Occupation and other moral ambiguous moments of contemporary history; Sylvie Germain is an accomplished writer of varying novels tied together with their lyrical qualities and at times fantastical elements, as well as their biting violence which ravage through her works and breed a sense of personal salvation. In one such novel “The Medusa Child,” a child’s idyllic childhood ends when a beast enters her room and engages in a secret affair with the child, which is sealed under the threat and promise of violence, if she were to confess or broadcast the happenings. Yet as the assaults continue, and the child withdraws further into herself, she resolves herself to become an even worst monster to combat the beast. “The Medusa Child,” is renowned for its rich metaphorical language. the use of language as the reflection and ability to understand, contextualize, and categorize experience within a vernacular cognitive understanding, but the novel recounts Sylvie Germain’s ability unleash a torrent of unholy refuse and brutal onslaught of tragic sin and in turn provide the inoculation of salvation through growth, development, and a personal baptism of resistance. It should come as no surprise that many of Sylvie Germain’s novels carry the elements of tragedy and horror within them. Woman are murdered; children are abandoned or routinely raped; people fall through the continued cracks of society and find in the refuse, waste, and abandoned both the cast outs of society, but also the redemptive power of alienation and solitude as consolation. Though her novels are noted for their sense of off-kilter fantasia like elements, Sylvie Germain’s rich metaphorical and imagistic language becomes a unifying foundation. Sylvia Germain is that unique French writer whose preoccupations are both metaphysical, philosophical, and slightly out of the touch with the realities of the world, yet her richness and textured literary language is captivating.
Ryszard Krynicki – Poland – A contemporary of the late Adam Zagajewski, Ryszard Krynicki also belongs to the literary movement and generation aptly called: Generation ’68; in reference to the political movement of the late sixties and early seventies of the Twentieth Century. The early poetry of Ryszard Krynicki is noted for its accumulative and pointed imagery, reflecting the meaninglessness, the danger, the oppression, and the uncertainty of the time. Krynicki’s poetry was depicted as hostile, and threatening, a wasteland of corruption, which took its toll of the everyday individual, in the most exact and taxing of manners, slowly stripping them of their dignity, their humanity, and their freedoms. The ‘narrators,’ or ‘protagonists,’ of his poetry often remark at the incomprehensibility of their realities, an unknowing inclination, a bewildered disorientation, and an attempt to revolt against the falsehoods of ideology and communist: “new speak.” Due to his open disregard and dissent against the reigning political movement of the time, Ryszard Krynicki was censored and forbidden from publishing. This did not stop his literary output or his outright refusal to abide by the communist rule of the time, which was slowly beginning to erode, implosion now: certain. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the abandonment of the communist ideology, and a newfound sense of independence, the perspective of Eastern Europe began to change. Some Eastern European countries failed to get a ride on the economic train, which was passing through, while others such as Poland, Czechia, a unified Germany, and Estonia quickly took advantage of the newfound freedom. The poetry of Ryszard Krynicki also changed into a different direction, moving away from the multifaceted postmodern baroque poetry of the communist era, Krynicki took short poetic discussions, reminiscent of haikus, where instead of seeking political autonomy, freedom, and social liberty, they are reminiscent of a spiritual pilgrimage.
Sjon – Iceland – Sjon is perhaps best known as the rockstar writer of Iceland, which is endearingly precise considering the writers known collaboration with Björk (Iceland’s most famous musical export). If it is one thing that Sjon and Björk have in common (besides employing mononym’s as professional identities), the two share a unreserved and explorative style with boundaries and experimentation, finding harmonic and symphonic compositions, while striking euphonic and cacophonic notes with equal measure. Sjon first debuted as a poet, whose work were noted for a revised surrealism, after which the poet turned lyricist collaborated extensively with Björk and the then Sugarcubes, Novels, however, proved to be the greatest success for Sjon, both as recognition as a writer outside of collaborations with Björk, but as a literary talent from the Nordic nation. With the publication of his successful short novel “The Blue Fox,” which would go on to receive the Nordic Council Prize for Literature and was remarked as being a poignant, lyrical, and postmodern fairytale. “The Blue Fox,” became a catalyst for Sjon as: “The Whispering Muse,” and “From the Mouth of the Whale,” soon followed. “From the Mouth of the Whale,” is set in the year 1635 and envisions the times with bleak superstitious, barbaric acts of ignorance, fear and loathing as normal aspects of life, and as for the enlightened, they are to be exiled, small consolation as it evades death, which is the life of the main character, Jónas Pálmason, a poet and enlightened individual and self-taught healer, who bears witness to a world of poverty, ignorance and cruelty. In turn “The Whispering Muse,” of contemporary history, which combined the seafaring tales with ancient classical Greek mythology. In each novel, Sjon showcased himself as a master postmodernist writer with a penchant for lyricism (“The Blue Fox,” has a light graceful touch), and revisioning Greek mythology or introducing fairytale elements into his work. Subsequent publications share little interest with the fairytale perspectives and motifs employed by “The Blue Fox.” “CoDex: 1962 A Trilogy,” is a postmodern trilogy compromising a love story, crime story, and a science fiction story, but in Sjon’s capable literary pen become mere superficial descriptive pieces then true descriptions. The work(s) are playful and expansive in its meandering exploration of western civilization, perspective, and ideals. It’s a stylistically complex series of short novels that pastiche different elements and writing styles. Yet as Sjon states the novels are all attempts at a dying man attempting to find a place for himself within the grand narrative of human history. “Red Milk,” in turn was a disturbing social study in regard to white supremacy, tracing the story of a Nazi sympathizer whose attempts at inciting a fascist revolution in the mid-20th Century. The novel is explicitly antifascist in scope, which is timely considering the rampant rise of far-right ideological sympathies and often violent outbursts. Though I think Sjon is a good writer, I do find his work to be on the lighter side in many elements. My preference would always go towards Gyrðir Elíasson to receive the award, but I don’t think that Sjon can be discredited as a writer.
Viivi Luik – Estonia – One of the most cherished and enduring writers of contemporary Estonian literature, who is often categorized with the formative 1960’s Generation of Estonia literature, which is often defined for the writer’s modernist and existentialist perspective. These writers came of age when the scars of World War II still linger and the absurdist realities of the Soviet Union’s totalitarian were daily components of life, which led to thematic concerns of authenticity, freedom of thought, will and choice, and the anxiety of existence, to populate their works. Luik began publishing at a relatively young age (18). Her collection “A Holiday of Clouds,” was noted for being highly developed and mature and contributed to the changing direction of Estonian literature at the time. Often noted as a poetic canary, Viivi Luik’s poetry and literary production has retained a thematic abreast of changing social and political norms within Estonia, which can also be reflected in the personal and private moments of the individual, and the subtle changes of heart. This chameleon like flexibility, nimble measure, and undying sense of musicality, ensures that Viivi Luik remains a continued and relevant poetic force with Estonian literature, eschewing being irrelevancy and stagnation. Luik employees’ poetic forms that reflect and refract personal observations, private moments, intimate thoughts, into the greater realm of public and universal discourse, through the metaphors and lens of the natural world, landscape, and other external forces. Luik’s poetic voice is regarded for its ability to encompass the broad breadth in which everyone inhabits, but experiences in a uniquely personalized way. Beyond her main output in poetry, Viivi Luik has published three lyrically intense novels which only one has been published in English, “The Beauty of History,” as well as collections of essays. Viivi Luik’s translation and exposure into the English language has been lacking, with only one novel being translated and her poetry being introduced in anthologies of Estonian poetry. Regardless, Viivi Luik is regarded as one of the most important poets of the 60’s Generation alongside the late Jaan Kaplinski.
Pascal Quignard – France – Patrick Modiano’s work is comprised of novels cycling through oblivion, amnesia, and obscurity to achieve opaque clarity in obfuscation, which is delivered in a literary language of straightforward though elusive simplicity. The otherwise light mists of obstruction, all the while lacking corporeal form to provide obstruction. Therefore, Modiano is not regarded as an overly complex stylist, but an accomplished thematic writer. On the contrary, Pascal Quignard is a writer of complexity, whose work is known for its uncompromising baroque lushness, and for its predilection for crossing between literary genre, fiction, essay, literary criticism, academic treatises, and a rhetorician’s indulgences. Quignard takes great pleasure being unbendable and uncompromising in his otherwise dense, arcane complexities, which readers will either enjoy being swept away in his brilliant, padded sentences and paragraphs, riddled with such an intensity in verbiage; or they will be crushed beneath the monumental weight, finding it suffocating, arrogant, and self-pleasing in its own reflecting consummation. Beyond the maximalist, ornate, and ostentatiousness of the prose, Pascal Quignard’s literary concerns are universal, personal and at times primordial in their preoccupation, whereby the writer always takes an otherwise, academic air when approaching the subjects. For example, “The Hatred of Music,” takes an essayists approach to the very nature of music, by discussing its rudimentary form of being sound. Through fragments of thoughts, observations and listening, Quignard revels in music as one of his principal obsessions of his life, and a frequent thematic preoccupation in his literary works, until 1994, when Quignard renounced any further or future musical endeavors. In “The Hatred of Music,” Quignard traces the historical components of music and its compelling powerful force, which thrives within the symphonies of sounds and their competing cacophonic dirges. In turn “Roving Shadows,” proves Pascal Quignard is a writer of expansive erudite elegance, as “Roving Shadows,” is an untamable onslaught of literary ambition, being the first non-fiction oriented book to win the Prix Goncourt in some sixty years at the time; the book itself is a meditation and rumination on the joyful acts of writing and pleasures of reading, but extends these acts to further relationships with sex and death, the very limitless preoccupations of literary discussion, as we slip into the Freudian purview. Though Quignard takes the acts beyond the concern of the inevitable in death and instinctual desire for propagation seeking eternity in sex and finds further correlations between reading and writing as they link both mankind’s animal and artistic predispositions, finding continued evidence in primal sources and universal cultural motifs. “Roving Shadows,” proved that Pascal Quignard was a serious cultural institution and thinker in his own right, not just limited to writing essays and novels, but instead provide critical analysis and assessments on far broader subjects. As for his novels, Pascal Quignard ensures they in turn are saturated with his signature baroque style and maintain a striking semblance towards discussing his preoccupations with history, the human condition, the soundtrack of our lives through musical composition and the presence of sound. In “Mysterious Solidarities,” the translator Claire Methuen returns to her hometown for a family wedding, where her personal history reshapes and bubbles up from the past, causing a newfound obsession to reclaim and relive youth. The novel is praised for its dramatic intensity, its exuberant encompassing language, the intermingling of characters voices, and for claiming and envisioning the austere landscape of the Breton coast. As a writer Pascal Quignard recalls that almost arcane and archaic image of the writer as a thinker and academic in turn, not just content for scribbling and mythmaking, but a cultural surveyor in turn. Pascal Quignard is a truly marvelous literary talent, almost a one-man band, whose work vibrates with a cultural appreciation so amiss in today’s world, but also self-convinced of its own importance. Regardless, Quignard’s work overflows with the erudite Aquarian sense of enlightenment, through a torrent of lush baroque prose, readers are bound to either be swaddled within the excess of scholarly splendor or exiled into the wastes of alienation.
Jon Fosse – Norway – Often considered a successor of Ibsen and Beckett—if only because of a critically acclaimed career as a playwright—Jon Fosse is one of the most important poets of the later 20th Century and early 21st Century. Fosse is exceptionally contrary to the dramatists and writers he is often compared to. He lack’s Beckett’s cynical sense of humor, whose characters at one-point merciless teetering over the edge of oblivion, to being the comedians who laugh in the face of the nonsense and absurdity of their plight and the abyss which surround them. While the psychological realism of Ibsen can be seen, but there are very little deep dives into the characters psychology. Fosse deconstructs the theatre and strips the dialogue back to an ebb and flow narrative, the acts of push and pull, give and take. One may seek to describe Jon Fosse as one of those postmodern experimentalists, but Fosse eschews (if not outrightly is disgusted by) the metafictional maximalism, which is the hallmark of today’s cutting edge dramatic works. Fosse declines to participate in any literary work that attempts to define or codify the social consciousness of the time, calling such work didactic and soulless. In lieu of all of this, Jon Fosse is considered the luminous darkness, a writer of a particular personal form and landscape, one that is bleak with few characterizing features, the main component being the famous Norwegian fjords; shingle beaches; the low overcast sky stitched grey over an endless grey coast. It is here that the individual faces an abstract unease, an existential dread. Through his well-regarded languid poetic idiomatic dialogue of his dramatic works, which have translated exceptionally well into rhythmic repetitive metronomic prose which lap at the shingled shoreline of his otherworldly landscapes. Fosse’s language is considered a focal point of the writer’s ability, long winding sentences employee repetition continually, creating a layered orbital like experience, where the reader slips into the gentle waves and is carried through the at times bewildering impressionism and psychological expressionism of the characters as they drift through the narrative. “Aliss at the Fire,” drifts further and further back in time; while in Fosse’s “Trilogy,” (“Wakefulness,” “Olav’s Dream,” “Weariness,”) time loops throughout the novels, while being linear and circular in operation. Through repetition and languid language which follows exact metronomic cues, readers of Jon Fosse will slip into his rhythmic language and be swept out to sea within the narrative, out to the shipwreck. So are the components of Jon Fosse’s literary theory: flotsam and jetsam.
Zsuzsa Takács – Hungary – the “doyenne of contemporary Hungarian Poetry,” as described by World Literature Today; though Zsuzsa Takács is often overlooked by comparison 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. 
Durs Grünbein – Germany – Few writers are referred to as having herald from the former “East Germany,’ – and if they are, it is commonly 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 communist state, and under the totalitarian 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 an East German poet, it was unification that brought Durs Grünbein his immediate poetic and literary achievement, providing him the environment to envision and participate in a new complete 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 than 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.
Lyudmila Petrushevskaya – Russia – The fairytale is a timeless genre. They are stories and fables that have become immemorial and timeless. They are pulled from the antic, from trunks, and forgotten drawers and chests, whereby they are inherited by a new generation of new listeners and readers.  The stories of Lyudmila Petrushevskaya carry the atmosphere of fairytales. They are dark pearls strung along on an onyx chain. Each one a glistening, gleaming, inky tear of unfortunate events, and circumstances that depict desperate individuals in despairing situations. During the Soviet Era, Petrushevskaya was censored and prohibited from publishing her stories and novels. Her works were and are not political in nature. They do not encourage revolt or rebellion, promote any predilection towards political machinations or maneuvering. 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. Instead Petrushevskaya did the complete opposite: she described the reality of Soviet life with fairytale acuity: unhappy marriages, childhood poverty, disparity in wealth, and inhumane living conditions. There was no praise and no ideological fanaticism or Soviet sycophancy. There were no proletariat ideal worker toiling away for the greater good, though there were worker toiling (then drinking), but it was to make the minimal wage, which allotted them the funds to purchase the scraps and brad rationed out with bureaucratic stinginess. The inspiration for the narratives of Lyudmila Petrushevskaya come from the Russian people themselves, 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 each of her narratives, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya does not just merely describe or objectively listen the rotating stories of the Russian people, their recollections of disillusioned futures, disgruntled marriages, and disgraceful jobs. The solace that Petrushevskaya offers is coated in the black licorice glaze of biting irony.
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 Şükrü 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.
Pierre Michon – France – There are writers of cerebral complexity and intangible depths, who write in fine-tuned and ethereal prose. Pierre Michon is one such writer, whose writings conjure to mind the lost, forlorn, and obscure elements of history. Michon does not freely conjure up worlds or characters with carefree perspectives. No, Michon maintains a meticulous requirement to curate scraps and otherwise bits and pieces to flesh out an imagined narrative; or perhaps a revisionist idea of what could have been. In this, Michon adds further layers of complex prose, riddled with a sense of ostentatious pretense to create prose structures that are dense and unforgiving for the uninitiated or those with a wandering mind. Reading Pierre Michon would best be described as an exercise, whose prose is difficult to burrow into and whose work though structurally and linguistically impressive, remains aloof and standoffish, which denies any effortless notion of penetration. Still, as in the case of architecture, despite its uncompromising and niche forms, facades, and exterior, there is apprehension in its exactitude and loyalty to the authors own artistic vision. This would inevitably explain why Pierre Michon and his work is always regarded with cult notoriety. His short novels “Abbots,” for instance plumes the viscerally and spirituality of language as it chronicles the medieval impressions of three Benedictine abbots. Matters of the spiritual and the material are equally tussled with, along with the hardships of daily life; in turn “Winter Mythologies,” though a spiritual relation, through its equal obsession with delving into the complexities and vastness of existence with all its contradictions between the material palpability and the soaring imagination of spirituality and faith, the prose reveals the authors evocative predilections for metaphor and incantation bringing forth a continued sense of incarnation of otherness with the lacking comprehension of the times, Michon crafts an almost winter bleached fishbone understanding of our ancient and mythologically forgotten history, where saints were canonized; faith was not just a matter of perspective but necessary resource for survival; and life ever fleeting. Pierre Michon is reminiscent of some of the late modernist writers (think Samuel Beckett or Claude Simon) whose work can be an exercise of excessive self-display with smug sense of self-satisfaction. Yet for readers who enjoy, linguistically enriched narratives heralding from the obscure, the artistic, and the personal, Pierre Michon is certainly a writer which will sate their appetites. As for the Swedish Academy, they have often come to the conclusion that the personal and provincial can have rippling effects if not the mirror from the microcosm regarding the universal, which may be where the niche and luxurious language mastery of Pierre Michon may exist in contention.
Henrik Nordbrandt – Denmark – The poetry of Henrik Nordbrandt was described to me by Bror Axel Dehn as a marriage between classical lyrical traditions with a childlike perspective. For years, Inger Christensen was considered a serious contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Christensen was a marvel of Danish poetry, whose themes were universal in scope and perspective: death, love, fear, powerlessness, and their impact on the human condition, which she mulled over in her unique and individualistic in nature. Yet via time and waiting, Inger Christensen passed without winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, in turn Henrik Nordbrandt is considered the best candidate of the Danish language for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Nordbrandt’s poetry pays homage to the notion of traveling and transit, as the poet has spent much of his poetic career traveling and has resided in the Mediterranean for much of his adult life and has gone so far as to publish a Turkish cookbook. The concept of travel is a shifting perspective and theme which moves from arrivals to departures, absence, and emptiness, company, and companionship, and of course life and death. Travel and transit is not just a realm of the physical preoccupation either, as transit and crossings can take place within the psychological world, unconscious realms, and the metaphysical landscape. The language of Henrik Nordbrandt is equally as playful, fluid, and paradoxical in his poetry, often using contrary images to reflect on the often competing and contrary image of the human condition and experience. Despite the playful use of language, and the ever clear and almost childlike enjoyment of perspective, beneath the surface, there is an undercurrent of seriousness and melancholy as it provides commentary on the human condition. 
Guy Goffette - France – Contemporary French poetry cycles through the continues nature of being conceptual or abstract in nature. Revolving around the self-reflective convincement of its own self-importance. An otherwise postmodern form of poetry, one referencing the organic and chaotic thought process of the poet, who in turn provides commentary on that very nature, while taking on more existential concerns regarding questionable views on reality and the inherent meaninglessness of existence. Guy Goffette, who is described as the heir to the French symbolist poet Verlaine, due to his unapologetic and unabashed lyrical poetry. Guy Goffette rejects the deconstructive theories used to reconstruct the forms and ideas of poetry in favour of more refined and lyrically intense poems that hark back to the Symbolist and Decadent poets, whose lush lyricism became the hallmark of opulence and literary style, before the clinical and bleached postmodern perspectives begun to take hold. Though little has been translated into English, Guy Goffette has been described as one of the most important French language poets currently at work in the contemporary era. One of his few translations into the English language, “Charlestown Blues,” provides a brief overview of his poetic work, with engrossing lyricism, and metaphorical preoccupations that mercurially change in their perspective and scope when reviewed or observed from another or new vantage point. Guy Goffette is a poet that brings forth and heralds back to the grand and great literary and poetic traditions of the past, the ones we have since shed and disregarded as outdated, antiquated, or pompous in their scope and pretense. In doing so, however, Goffette is able to showcase how rich and succulent these forms are within an area lacking in such colour, opulence, and metaphorical life. Guy Goffette truly remarks and beckons forth an old age era of poetry stepped in the richness of decadence; but Goffette’s poetry is not scholarly or dry in its rendition but transformed and vitalized with the admiration of the contemporary age regarding the old masters. In addition to his poetry, Guy Goffette has written short fiction which reimagines the lives of historical figures, such as Paul Verlaine and the bold colourist and painter Pierre Bonnard. In a world of fractured and fragmented postmodern proclamations, the pure humble lyrical engagement of Guy Goffette is a welcome reprieve.
Botho Strauß – Germany – Playwrights are a unique breed within the literary world. They are more tangible and materialistic then the novelist or the poet, though in the same vein as the poet rely heavily on the abilities and limitations of language and must further contest with the limitations of the moving parts of their work, such as the stage and actors. On the other hand, playwrights enjoy the ability to have their work become more concrete, more immediate, and visually viewed for their readers and their viewers. Despite this, playwrights are a rare breed among the Nobel Prize for Literature, they’re oeuvre is also supplemented with poetry, or novels as in the case of Samuel Beckett and Peter Handke; while others such as Elfriede Jelinek are renowned and recognized for their plays and works for theatre, as their use of linguistic gymnastics and ingenuity is more aptly observed within the world of the stage. Then there are others such as Jon Fosse who have made their name within the literary world for their work on stage, but whose main literary pursuit has always been the novel. Botho Strauß is a playwright who falls into the same category as Samuel Beckett and Peter Handke, his pursuit has been working in the theatre, but his literary work is supplemented with novels and essays. Botho Strauß’s literary work concerns the alienation of the individual lost in the anonymity and desolation of the modern world. Out there adrift and aimless, the contemporary man is disenfranchised and disposed from the reality of real human connection and belonging and is reduced to a state of discontent. This is aptly observed in his most well-known play: “The Young Man,” which displays a young man alienated and adrift in the modern world, whose encounters are riddled without any serious connection and are ruminated on by the character who seeks to understand their place within the social world, while finding a place without it. This urban disenfranchisement and displacement of the individual lost within the cacophonous concrete encased society appear to be the preoccupations of Botho Strauß, who has gained a warm reception in the English language (warmer than his initial debut), where the bleakness of his play “Big and Small,” was lukewarmly applauded as it critically assed the overt materialism and consumerist perspective of the day with an eye for the pessimistically absurd. Botho Strauß is considered one of the most foremost dramatists and playwrights of contemporary German literature; much like Peter Handke and Elfirede Jelinek, just less controversial.
Claudio Magris – Italy – In the same fashion as the late Roberto Calasso, Claudio Magris is a polemist, whose work is essay based then narrative or poetry or drama. Perhaps most famous for his travelogue and historiographical account “Danube,” where Magris traces the famous European river from its wellspring to its eventual end, and through every country, town, countryside, culture, language, and writer who who heralds from the region, Claudio Magris pays special attention to each. “Danube,” is as much a historical travelogue as it was a literary exploration. Other works include “Snapshots,” brief essayistic accounts and observations from the controversial to the personal. “Journeying,” is yet another collection of travel essays by one of the most renowned and remarkable Italian language observers and writers, “Journeying,” accounts the impressions, observations, and thoughts Magris recorded through his travels, transforming the travelogue form further into a scholarly approach. Claudio Magris would be a unique choice for the Nobel Prize for Literature, a writer of essayistic approach, though precedence can be argued in favour of Magris with such Laureates as Svetlana Alexievich who is often viewed as a journalist and historian, and Bertrand Russell who was a mathematician and a philosopher.
Miljenko Jergović – Bosnian | Croatian – Ivo Andrić is always described as a Yugoslavian writer, perhaps due to the fact that the writer came to prominence in the now absolved and fractured state of the Soviet Era, but also because his life and work do not easily fit within the established boundaries of Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia, though Andrić is often claimed by Serbian literature as their own, while remaining a controversial and contentious literary figure throughout out Croatia until the turn of the 21st Century; while the Bosnian’s resent the writers negative treatment and portrayal of Muslim’s in his work. After the disintegration of the former Soviet State of Yugoslavia, the Balkan’s have remained a contested and ethnically contentious region, which came to boil during the Yugoslav Wars and subsequent Bosnian Genocide. Despite the clear distinctions and ethnic conflict of the region, there still remains a somewhat sense of fluidity between them, as in the case of the Balkan writer, Miljenko Jergović, who is often described as a Bosnian writer as well as Croatian in equal turn. Regardless of national categorization, Miljenko Jergović remains a writer devoted to the history of the Balkans, with particular survey and analysis to the Yugoslav Wars, which subsequently destroyed the once great ‘multiethnic socialist state,’ of Europe. Jergović have retained a historical relevance to them, which include the novel: “Ruta Tannenbaum,” which describes the region between the World Wars, and the rise of Fascism and Nazi Germany. The novel found inspiration from the short life of Lea Deutsch, a child actress who was once known as the “Shirley Temple of Yugoslavia,” adorable and charming, who was a casualty of the holocaust, though by some divine mercy perhaps, was spared the fate of Auschwitz when she died on the cattle car to the death camp. Her mother and brother, were not as fortunate and died in the camp. The novel contains the poignancy of tragedy and loss of innocence, while also being a historical reckoning for the compliant Croatians who adopted Fascism within the Balkans. “Mama Leone,” remains a personal favourite of Miljenko Jergović’s work, the short story collection is divided into two parks. The first recounts the young protagonist also named Miljenko, and his experiences growing up in the ethnically diverse land of the then Yugoslavia. Favorite recollections include his infatuation with a German Shepherd named Donna, his daydreams of getting into his toybox and racing away to America, but also the unfortunate encounters with the casualness of cruelty as mercy, when his grandmother drowns newborn kittens. The second half of the short stories recount with brutal honest, though the objective lens of a third person narration, the dissolution of the Yugoslavia, the linguistic and cultural divisions, and the geographical dislocation of political severance. The chronicle of personal memory and the larger context of social and geopolitical upheaval, dislocation, and change are masterfully handled in the hands of Miljenko Jergović, who in turn is a great chronicler of the tumultuous Balkan region, with all of its diversity and equal complexity.  
Asia & the Indo-Subcontinent—

Yi Mun-yol – (South) Korea – There is no exaggeration that Yi Mun-yol is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed Korean writers of the last quarter of the 20th Century, with this success spilling over into the 21st. Since his initial debut at the age of 30, Mun-yol was regarded as a commanding presence on the literary scene, and what has since followed, is nothing short of a remarkable literary giant, whose work are not only critically acclaimed, but also enjoyed by the reading public, which has grown as Mun-yol’s work has been translated into 21 languages. Thematically there are two literary preoccupations and tendencies of Yi Mun-yol’s work, the first being a allegorical perspective of Korean society that traces the ways in which various individuals lives (contemporary, historical, and mythological/legendary) are shaped, governed, and even dominated by ideology and power, including in particular, which is described as a critical assessment of liberalism versus authoritarian control; or traditional cultural values against modern and changing values or foreign influences influencing modern decisions or a change in virtue. This tendency is described as a critical assessment and critique of placing to much faith in any ideology, faith, belief or theory within any context of human history, be it religious doctrine or political ideology. The second tendency is found in Yi Mun-yol’s more epic novels focusing on more fictionalized interior worlds, fixating on the authors childhood which has formed his worldview. This will inevitably include the wealth of his father, whose privilege and status were all abandoned when his father threw support behind the Communist North during the Korean War, abandoning the family, which saw them not only suffer poverty, but also social stigma, and political police surveillance. Yi Mun-yol is an epicist in scope and spirit, his bibliography is an abundance of diversity, narratives, stories, and forms. “Son of a Man,” is epic and allegorical in scope, recounting the complex relationship between God and humanity through the eyes of two characters who are doubtful of the Jewish and Christian worldviews. The novel is split into two different narratives, the first being a detective story seeking to uncover the murder of a former theology student; while the second narrative stream is the manuscript written by the murder victim, detailing the complex and cruel relationship between God and humanity. “Son of a Man,” was viewed as both an introduction to comparative religious studies in (South) Korea, as well as criticism of how religious organizations (specifically Protestant Christian churches) in (South) Korea took advantage of their vulnerable parishioners for their own economic gains. “Son of a Man,” only provides a glimpse of the diversity and breadth of Yi Mun-yol’s literary output, and his intellectually curiosities and their relevance not only in (South) Korea, but within the larger literary context.

Hiromi Itō – Japan – One of the most important contemporary Japanese poets, Hiromi Itō came on to the literary scene with the force of a tsunami with her sensational debut in the late 70’s, with its free-spirited and shamanistic feminist perspective. Throughout her literary career, Hiromi Itō has expanded her literary purview from her initial poetic dissertations on feminist topics: the relationship between the sexes and motherhood; to the unique oral traditions of the Native American traditions; to the rise of pop ballads in the 60’s; to the botanical life cycle in its relation to the seasons; which has the literary critic Nobuaki Tochigi has referred to Hiromi Itō as a omnivorous poet, “[who] can transmit and transform a variety of literary legacies.” Yet, the cadence, tone, and voice of Hiromi Itō is distinctively her own, with her poetry maintaining a sense of movement and transit in her work, roaming both figuratively and in a physical sense, with Hiromi Itō moving from her native Tokyo to Poland, back to Kumamoto, before settling into California, though routinely visits Kumamoto. One of Hiromi Itō’s most renowned and famous poems is the narrative poem: “Wild Grass on the Riverbank,” which is said to be the most representative work of the author, and the trans-national perspective she seeks to embody in her work, complete with numerous international influences. “Wild Grass on the Riverbank,” can be read a simple allegory of a mother and her children who shuttle between landscapes, one being the riverbank (representative of Kumamoto) and the wasteland (representative of southern California), which brings further nuance between the sexual tension between two fathers, and their two distinct lifestyles. Surrealism enters the poem, when these two father figures are both dead and have been autopsied accordingly but manage to be reanimated on occasion and by the season. Feminist tones continue from there, when the mother’s hatred is aimed at these figures, and she cuts a penis off lamenting that it will grow back. The poem harkens back to themes of feminism and motherhood, routinely being intertwined with the male sex. “Wild Grass on the Riverbank,” should not be underestimated as some poetic pastoral praise, rather it’s a complex narrative of sex, motherhood, femininity, and a sense of place, all wrapped up in the complex, surreal, and unapologetic poetic voice of Hiromi Itō. In addition to being an accomplished poet, Hiromi Itō has written novellas, both of which were nominated for the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, as well as collections of essays which are regarded for their insightful curiosity, sensual language, and critical assessments, while being an accomplished translator. Her studies of Buddhism such as her essay “The Heart Sutra Explained,” is particularly renowned for her analysis of the sutra and the meaning to Itō on a personal level as well as sociological level.
Ouyang Jianghe - China - Throughout the 20th Century Chinese poetry has changed with the shifting cultural and political turmoil that has impacted the country. After the Chinese Civil war and the Chinese Communist Revolution, poetry became a indoctrinating psalms of the people, propagating the propaganda and prescribed perspectives of the recent ideological victory. By the mid-20th century, the poem once again shifted its direction into the opaque modern or 'misty school,' of poetry, with such famous poets as: Bei Dao and Duo Duo, who were considered the new voices of Chinese poetry. These poets were nonetheless criticized by their conservative predecessors, who viewed them as obscure and politically dubious (meaning they did not accept the yoke of the Communist ideology), but they were loved by the public, even though the government sought to censor and sanction them. The Misty Poets, however, could not be emblazoned as the torch bearers of the new poetic perspective of China forever. After the calls for democratic reform failed, a new brand and breed of poets took place, often referred to as: "The Post-Obscure Poets." These poets changed the direction of Chinese poetry once again, focusing not on obscurity to provide commentary on politics, but rather to reflect the aesthetic perspective of the new reality, and fixated on the beauty of language over political change or commentary. Politics is still discussed, but in a language that is refined to evade censorship, and politics is no longer the focal point or subject of choice; having since been replaced by reflection and contemplation, no longer motivated by inducing political change. Ouyang Jianghe is a post-obscure poet, who engages in aesthetic and cross-cultural exchanges with writers from across the world; and whose poetry reflects on both Chinese heritage, philosophy, and culture, as well as western philosophy and thought. Through complex language Ouyang Jianghe has become a stalwart defender of poetry, refuting the notion that it has no place within the current literary canon of Chinese Literature. Through cross-cultural exchanges, rumination and reflection, Ouyang Jianghe has carved out his poetic career as being one that is true to form, subject, history, and contemporary concern.

Li Ang – Taiwan – Defiance is a necessity. In the context of martial or totalitarian or authoritarian or oppressive climate, defiance is a necessity. For Li Ang, this was true when Taiwan was governed by strict military martial law from the 1960’s into the 1990’s, at which point the country developed a multi-party system. Yet during the forty years of military rule, for Li Ang, defiance was a necessity, whereby Li Ang was a support oppositional stance. Ang’s writings were known for their vicious and violent stances, often with pugnacious or repugnant tones, and explicitly feminist perspectives vivisecting the brutish oppression being exercised against women. For Li Ang, this was all in support of the dissident movement of Taiwan, which promoted greater autonomy (politically and otherwise) and democratic institutions. These institutions were eventually instituted; yet Li Ang’s work gained notoriety for its unapologetic feminine violence within her work, which sparingly unleashes a vicious tirade of criticism against the favouring patricidal systems of the time. This includes the famous story: “The Butcher’s Wife,” which recounts the story of the brutality a local pig-butcher leverages against his new young. The more his poor new wife screams and protests, the more inclined, and perverse enjoyment he gets from it. Further issues arise from the neighbours who gossip and disapprove of the racket she makes, her screams unappreciated. Their lack of alarm, even disregard of the scrams, set the scene for a frightening and disturbing story. All of which seeks to critically disparage the notion that women are supposed to be tolerant of their husbands above everything else, never protest, and accept the cruelty as a part of their reality. What follows of course is the horrific madness and slaughter of the butcher by his wife, who fallen victim to the cruelty leveraged against her slips into delirious madness and takes penance and revenge against her husband. “The Butchers Wife,” was a catalyst upon publication, being sensationally devoured by readers, while causing widespread outrage. Now it is considered a landmark of both feminist literature and world literature. Yet, this al paved the way for critics to disparage Li Ang, as being excessively dark, vicious, and lacking in merit due to the excessive violence. The ‘dark cloud,’ that follows Li Ang’s work does retain some merit, but as Regardless, the transgressive nature of Li Ang’s work, depicting a violent and patriarchal society, which inevitably means that Li Ang did not fit into the politically correct pandering, rather like the Austrian Elfriede Jelinek, Li Ang employees’ violent motifs to dissect the political and the contemporary misogynistic perspectives. 

K. Satchidanandan – India (Malayalam language) – Regarded as one of the modernizing forces of Malayalam poetry, K. Satchidanandan is a giant of Indian literature and evocative pioneer of Malayalam literature. Satchidanandan literary bibliography is diverse, consisting of essays, reviews, travelogues, prose pieces, and of course his famous literary occupation poetry, and in turn has become a pillar and literary institution in his own right, advocating for a dismantling of the social caste system; a proponent of distribution of free software; all the while being an active advocate for environmental and human rights. What catapults K. Satchidanandan’s poetry into the wider readership is the global influence that Satchidanandan actively welcomed and sought and brought in, which provided new perspectives and visionary elements in which one can employee language to transform and reshape the relationship to reality. It is for these reasons that K. Satchidanandan’s poetry reaches beyond the India and has found readership and interest within the greater world. As one critic pointed, the poetry of K. Satchidanandan is that of a poet on a continued journey avoiding the pitfalls of statism and continues to find new poetic expressions of the human experience and condition. The early of poetry of K. Satchidanandan was noted for their experimental bent pushing towards the Daliesque and surrealism in form; while later poems have taken more sobering contemplations which have traces of nuanced narrativity, irony, and philosophical thought, while also taking the time to introduce socio-political concerns and elements to his poetry which seek to inspire social progress, change and development. 

Xi Xi – Hong Kong (China) – Perhaps one of the most remarkable writers of Hong Kong, Xi Xi has been neglected in English language, to an almost criminal degree. The only acknowledgement this titan of Hong Kong literature has received from the English language speaking world was the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature in 2019, and yet remains under translated. Regardless, in her home city of Hong Kong, Xi Xi is one of the most renowned and riveting literary voices. In nominating Xi Xi for the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, Dr. Tammy Lai-Ming Ho, commented on the often-overlooked state of Hong Kong’s literature. The city itself is more renowned for being the democratic sanctuary from the communist mainland (though that is now questionable in part thanks to the aggressive actions taken by mainland China in suppressing and control the otherwise semi-sovereign city), as well as a sector that revolved around commerce and finance. Literature and cultural significance are rarely mentioned. Dr. Lai-Ming Ho, notes that Hong Long literature is often neglected and placed in a secondary position, when up against its neighbors of China, Korea, and Japan. Yet the literary perspective and character of the city’s literature is potently unique, and nowhere else is this observed then in Xi Xi’s work. Dr. Lai-Ming Ho specifically comments on Xi Xi’s poetry, as it provides the vessel in which the city’s characters and narratives are distilled through. At once insignificant allegories, observations or anecdotes become commentaries on the citizens, stories, and cultural makeup of the city. A microcosm of stories and intertwined lives.  Perhaps it’s the understated perspective of Xi Xi that is endearing. By disregarding the grand statements, pompous proclamations, and pretentious parades, Xi Xi can give weight to the character of the city, through intimate portraits and observations which are not burdened by needless pageantry. Xi Xi’s literary output goes beyond poetry, her short stories and prose are more recognized and studied in Hong Kong. They vary in form and subject matter, from the realistic to the surreal or magical realistic in scope. Regardless of form or structure, Xi Xi remains enthralled and devoted to the city she has called home. Her literary work remains poignantly concerned with the challenges the city and its citizens face, as well as the dreams which weaves themselves through its neighbourhoods, apartment blocks, and narrow streets.
Yōko Ogawa – Japan – Explicitly neglected in the English language, Yōko Ogawa, has found greater success, appreciation, and of course translation, in the French language. Her most recent novels have already been translated into French. For example, Instantanés d'Ambre (“Amber Snapshots,”) was published originally in Japan in 2015 and then translated and published in French in 2018. While her most recent novel Petites boîtes (“Small Boxes,”) was originally published in 2019 in Japan has been just been published at the beginning of 2022 in French. On the contrary, Ogawa remains a stranger in the English language, somewhat of an outsider tucked away. Though there was roaring appreciation when Ogawa was nominated for the International Booker Prize in 2020 for her novel: “The Memory Police,” which despite being published decades prior, became a literary parable of the pandemic, providing fictional empathy and palpability of how the world changed under health mandates and orders that challenged our steadfast comprehension and understanding of reality, which by then had started to exist only in memoriam. The topical comparison between the surreal dystopian totalitarian world depicted in “The Memory Police,” perhaps thwarted Ogawa’s chances of winning the International Booker Prize. The judges most likely shied away from wanting to appear to topical or cliché to provide a literary message or understanding with regards to the pandemic. After that, acknowledgement of Ogawa’s work remained quiet once more. It is widely regarded as fact, the reason Yōko Ogawa is not appreciated more in English, is because Ogawa is not an apostle of Haruki Murakami. No Ogawa exists outside of Murkamai’s bloated ego and vague shadow. As a writer, Yōko Ogawa is nuanced, depicting a world that is grotesque, decaying, macabre, and concealing violent undercurrents that course through societies veiled sense of civility. Violence, in turn is not always exaggerated, forceful, or explosive. It can be subtle, slow, and progressive, accumulating with gradual but measured devastating precision, whose malice is routinely ordinary as its mundane. Ogawa’s literary themes orbit around memory, loss, absence, abandonment, refuge, and the violent undercurrents of modern society. Her scenes are claustrophobic and closed in, becoming both sanctuary and suffocating. Whereas Haruki Murakami’s work takes place in dreamscapes, surreal realms, and employee magical realism romps; Ogawa remains preoccupied with the intrapersonal environments, the psychological, the muted and quiet, with landscapes that are on surface value normal, but slanted with subtleties of the grotesque or off-kilter situations become present, all the while being closed off or intimate in scope. Yōko Ogawa’s literary language has been described as blanc in French media, pared down, bleached of rhetoric, ethos, and pathos, to instead present a narrative through subtle penetrating lyrism, to describe or detail a story completely uninterested in presenting explicit commentary or social criticism. Instead, Yōko Ogawa fixates on the impermanent impressions of the psychology of the characters. Ogawa has received endorsement and acknowledgement by fellow countrymen and 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’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 the experiences of a greater society, especially the initial cracks which slowly expand over time, becoming 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. 
Bei Dao – China – Bei Dao 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.
Moon Chung-hee – (South) Korea – Is considered by many as one of the most important Postwar Poets. Which is a unique assessment as Moon Chung-hee’s poetry is not concerned with the bloodshed, destruction, and carnage of war, and the suffering that ripples and radiates from that epicenter, which then leads to the distinction that Moon Chung-hee is named the most important Female Postwar Poet. This sadly denotes the inclination and institutions that a poet’s gender is a defining feature of how their work is to be analyzed and viewed within the larger canon. Sadly, this immediately recalls the notion that Moon Chung-hee is expected to write about domestic and cottage like poems, riddled with love and heart break, commentary on family life and service to the husband, among other traditionally defined feminine preoccupations. Femininity and female gender are a preoccupation within Moon Chung-hee’s work, it is neither denied, neglected, or concealed, femininity and a woman’s perspective are inevitably going to be influencing viewpoints and informed within her work; yet it is not forcefully applied or installed under the masculine perspective. For Moon Chung-hee femininity is not fragile, frail, or delicate in nature. Rather, it is a paradox of turmoil and bliss. It is the spirit of fire and quiet rebellion. It is resilient and powerful but treated as sensitive and vulnerable. In the works of Moon Chung-hee the feminine is not degraded or patronized by the forms of poetry that demeans itself by discussing the usual tropes of love, longing, and heartache, these kitschy and cliché perspectives are readily abandoned in favour of more astute and crystalline observations, reflected in a straightforward poetic style. The poetry of Moon Chung-hee dances in the dual nature of itself like fire, in one notion it heats the home, cooks and brings comforting warmth, while in the next it burns the home down and spreads destruction without prejudice, consuming everything in its path. 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.
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.
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 China, Can Xue is regarded as controversial and dissents away from the main literary circle of the country. Xue’s 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 any political interpretation of her works. Instead, Can Xue, explains her work is more a literary experiment, which explores the author herself as a subject. This means as one pulls the layers of the abstract, unconventional, surreal and visceral imagery, narrative, and situations back, in 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 unconscious realm 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, paradox forms, eschewed logic, and as noted above an abstract and surreal contest, 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 manner that is fluid and not confined with conventional thought or scholarly study, 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. If the Swedish Academy is looking for an unconventional and unyielding writer who is devoted with undeniable lunacy and originality, then Can Xue is that writer.
Ranjit Hoskote – India (English language) – India is a large and diverse nation on a geographical, regional, cultural, and linguistic level. Hindi is the commonly spoken language of the national, followed by English, and then Bengali. Despite being a large and diverse country, with the second largest population in the world, sadly Indian literature is either grossly under translated, or writers choose to specifically write in English to ensure they gain a wide and dispersed readership.  Despite writing in English, Ranjit Hoskote’s poetry does not carry the shadow of precedence that a lot of English language poetry pulls behind it, giving homage to the great poets of the past. No, Ranjit Hoskote’s poetry carves a sphere and place in poetry that is entirely his own and does not recognize or pay unnecessary tribute to those of the past. Hoskote’s work is intellectually informed; dynamic and technical with each poetic form utilized; textually appealing and succulent; all the while being aesthetically concerned with the cultural preoccupations, and the exploration of the poetic image at hand, to provide an overview and commentary on the human condition. His themes, images, and poetic preoccupations are diverse, eclectic, and extensive. When reviewing and referencing his poetry, Ranjit Hoskote wrote that his poetry cannot be summarized or reviewed in the context of the logical or regional lens, as the border between global and provincial concerns have blurred, and the bounds that maintained these two concerns as separate are now melding into more universal themes and concerns that touch and influence all human destines regardless of their location on the map. In his latest collection of poetry, “Hunchprose,” Ranjit Hoskote tackles the universal question of what defines and separates the notion of what makes us ‘human,’? How is our civilized concerns now sweeping our barbaric past to the back corners of our history, where they are to be neglected and shunned. Where does the notion of home exist within a world in crisis both climate, genocidal, pestilence and beleaguered with inequality. Ranjit Hoskote soars overhead and reviews these events, these slow moving extinctual movements as they weave themes into the existential consciousness of the human predicament today and becomes a urgent testament by the author of how these crisis will inevitably change the nature of human destiny.
Shuntaro Tanikawa – Japan – Postwar Japanese literature is regarded as a turning point in the nations literary style, sensibilities, and thematic concerns and preoccupations. The great Japense writers of the 20th Century: Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata, and Yukio Mishima, straddled the transition of Imperial Japan and Postwar Japan; Mishima in particular took this straddling perspective seriously, as he ended his life in a theatrical fashion, which remains a persistent topic of discussion when referring to author. The true masters of period were undoubtfully Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata, and the young and extremely talented though tortured Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. Kawabata in particular had a masterful classical sense of writing, with graceful impressionistic beauty that was psychologically penetrating. What followed in their wake, was new writers, including socially transgressive writers such as Kenzaburō Ōe, whose work matured into more introspective narrative in the traditional ‘I-Novel.’ What followed was the dissociation and alienation of Haruki Murakami, whose contemporary libido crazed spaghetti fetishists disengaged lonely men, became Japan’s main literary export for decades. Despite their differences, these writers share one common attribute: their chosen literary mode of expression is prose. Japanese poetry has is not as well received or as appreciated in translation, when compared to the novelists and short story writers. Yet, the grandfather of the postwar poem, Shuntaro Tanikawa, is by and large the most beloved and admired Japanese poet, who now at 90 years old, continues to inspire and nourishing the Japanese literary landscape. If postwar Japanese literary is to be envisioned and understood through the lens of Mishima, then postwar Japanese literature was sour, grim, and consuming in an almost humiliated burning rage from their loss during World War II. Shuntaro Tanikawa in turn embodied and introduced a renewed sense of hope and optimism, by fixating on the future. By removing the bullets in the stanzas; washing away the bitterness and resentment of shame; and purged his literary perspective of the blood-soaked propaganda infused literature; Shuntaro Tanikawa nurtured the notion of hope, future, possibility, and opportunity to reach out and achieve. These ideas and perspectives gradually changed the nations perspective and literary momentum forward; of course, the radiation burns, the sacrifice, the proud history, and cultural institutions are remembered and recognized with due respect, but not within an excess of adulation. There is no writer in the Japanese canon who has altered or changed the literary course quite like Shuntaro Tanikawa, whose devotion and pursuit and fixation on hope and optimism, reinvigorated and breathed new life into a nation, who went forth and found purpose and meaning in the world. In this regard, it is difficult to imagine a writer as deserving as Shuntaro Tanikawa, whose work truly sought to be for benefit of mankind.

Wang Xiaoni – China – Often classified as a Misty Poet alongside Bei Dao, Duo Duo, and Yang Lian; 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 reforms, 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.

Duong Thu Huong – Vietnam – By far one of the most accessible and critically acclaimed (in the Western hemisphere) writer heralding from Vietnam, Duong Thu Huong came to critical prominence during the 1980’s when she spoke out against corruption within the Central Communist Party, which of course within an oppressive regime, did not end well for Duong Thu Huong, who found herself persecuted from the government, which inevitably included imprisonment, and eventually exile. Duong Thu Huong’s bibliography is known for blending both the personal and political, there is a thick omnipresent historical and biographical element within her work. Political division, disruption, and oppression are the hallmarks of Duong Thu Huong’s biography, from the Vietnam War onto the Communist State. Yet, the experiences of the Vietnam War became the first defining phase of her political and ideological allegiance. Volunteering as a entertainer during the war, Duong Thu Huong sought to drown out the bombs of the American’s, while tending the wounded and burying the dead in turn. Of all the volunteers, only three survived. After the war, Duong Thu Huong worked as a talented screen writer, but her observations of the corruption, abuse, and injustices now being committed by the government had spurred her to become more critical of its operations and moral authority. By the mid 80’s Duong Thu Huong had begun to draft critical work of the Vietnamese Government and its incompetent corruption. When Duong Thu Huong published “Beyond Illusions,” and “Paradise of the Blind,” the otherwise ‘veiled,’ criticism could no longer be ignored by the government, who took swift action against the writer, which led Duong Thu Huong to become a recognizable and interested face in both French and English language translation. In “Novel Without a Name,” Duong Thu Huong wrote a campaigning antiwar novel, which questioned the removal of capitalists and democratic promoters from the country, as well as the Vietnam War itself, which all led to economic disaster. All of this without surprise led to persecution under the communist governments decree, which pushed Duong Thu Huong into exile into France. Thu Huong’s later literary work distanced itself from the immediate war and social perspective and became more intensely focused on internal conflicts, though politics remained in allegorical sense. There can be no denying that Duong Thu Huong is perhaps the best known Vietnamese writer within the western world, this partially due to the fact that Duong Thu Huong is a dissident writer, which inevitably means politics will be viewed in this same context.
Amitav Ghosh – India (English Language) – One of the most important English language writers heralding from the Indo-Subcontinent, Amitav Ghosh’s novels are critically acclaimed, praised, and beloved by readers. AN epicist in scale and scope, Ghosh’s work is known for tracing and surveying the rich and colourfully spiced history of the Indo-Subcontinent. Amitav Ghosh’s “Ibis Trilogy,” recounts the India under colonial rule of India, including the Opium Trade of the East India Tracing Company, between India and China; the trafficking of ‘Coolies,’ (poor labourers) from India to Mauritius. The novel traves how colonialism had ultimately charged the chartered course of the world; how it introduced new concepts and thoughts, but also sought out to ensure oppression was instituted for economic gain. The ‘Ibis Trilogy,’ is a epicist novel in scale and scope, with a marvelous and diverse cast of characters, complete with introductions and treatises written on such linguistic changes taking place at the time, in order to increase communication between parties. As a writer Amitav Ghosh is known for his technically well-crafted novels that have been thoroughly researched in order to provide historical context and understanding of the time. Ghosh is not just a writer of finely researched and tuned fiction, he is often a credible author with numerous collections of essays, treatises, and non-fiction work also published. “In An Antique Land,” is a work of ethnography and anthropological study, which continues to defy the usual literary categorization and taxonomies that have been developed to filter and understand how the work is to operate within the literary canon. Yet, “In An Antique Land,” continues to defy any immediate summarization, as it chameleonically camouflages itself with numerous genres, thoughts, and tropes, from narrative, travelogue, autobiography, and historical and ethnographic account. For his essays and his novels, Amitav Ghosh has been described as one of the most important thinkers of the current generation. Ghosh’s novels provide a well-researched account of historical events and colonial overview; while essays further explore these issues and explores theses further with an academic intention and scholarly attitude, which is neither pompous nor arrogant, buy thoughtful and once again thoroughly researched.
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.     
Wang Anyi – China – Eileen Chang was considered the literary jewel and darling of Shanghai before the Chinese Civil War, the Communist victory and the subsequent Cultural Revolution and the eventual takeover of the Communist Party of China. Chang’s novels were known for their fashionable tastes, while also riddled with literary sensibilities. By the 1950s, Eileen Chang had left China, and would later settle in the United States, where she became a recluse and died alone in her home in 1995. Wang Anyi is often compared to her cosmopolitan predecessor, Eileen Chang, because both writers have written fervently and devotedly about Shanghai. Eileen Chang escaped The Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong, while Wang Any came of age in it, where she was forcefully removed from Shanghai and sent to the rural China for ‘re-education.’ These early experiences impacted the writers’ literary perspectives, as she was not granted permission to return to Shanghai until the late 1970’s, at which point her literary career began to take hold. Initially, Wang Any wrote about the day-to-day lives of the people she imagined, disregarding the overtly socially influenced and politically fabricated themes demanded by the Communist Part of China. By writing about the everyday and the common place, Anyi was able to avoid censors or political repercussions. Until was not until she was granted permission to attention the International Iowa’s Writers Workshop, that her literary work grappled with more engaged perspectives of the China novel, and wrote with a more socially engaged attributes, which led to controversy and discussion. Though not politically inflammatory in nature which would provoke the ire and consequence of the Communist Party. Anyi did challenge social and conventional taboos such as carnal love and homosexuality (in a platonic format). Despite her prolific output and writing, Wang Anyi is most recognized for her novel: “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow,” in the English literary world. 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. “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow,” is a prime example of Wang Anyi’s literary preoccupations and themes: the attention to urban life in Shanghai riddled with brutal destinies, long lines, dead end jobs, futile waiting, and indomitable jostling and rudeness of the anonymity of the urbanized world.
Hwang Sok-yong – (South) Korea – Hwan Sok-yong observed the tragedies and realities of 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 political 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 and 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 20th 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 2017, 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, 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 intuitive 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 (such as 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 linguistic skins, 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 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.
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 individual’s 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.
Patricia Grace – New Zealand – Reconciliation of colonialism is becoming a more potent movement within the world, especially for postcolonial nations whose indigenous populations are demanding recognition, apologies, and reconciliatory action regarding the mistreatment, abuse, and otherwise cultural genocide which took place during colonial rule. This has been made explicatory clear in Canada as of late, as unmarked graves have been discovered at the sites of former residential schools filled with children. Patricia Grave is one of the most prominent voices at work in New Zealand literature, and who brought the Māori perspective to the literary stage. The advocacy of bringing new perspectives or more native perspectives to literature have an exemplary cause of Patricia Grace who early on recognized that when children read books that mirrored or reflected them or their circumstances and identity, they were often more engaged with the work, and saw themselves as not just sidestepped or uninteresting characters in someone else’s story, but worthy and memorable protagonists. Patricia Grace has been one of those exceptional writers who embodies both culture and values without maintaining or holding resentment or viciously pontificating against the former established institution. Instead, Grace writes with the sole intention of telling the stories, lives, and experiences from the Māori perspective, and highlights their culture and history. In 2008 Patricia Grace was nominated and won the Neustadt Prize, which only cements the importance and acknowledgement that Patricia Grace is a worldly author who brings a holistic approach to literature as it seeks to identity and include all cultures and peoples within the literary canon, while refuting any high-handed moral superiority attitude in its delivery.
South America & Latin America; with the Caribbean –

Rodrigo Rey Rosa – Guatemala – Often referred to as one of the greatest writers heralding from Central America. Rodrigo Rey Rosa is renowned for his mastery of enigmatic and precise prose, which captivate readers and describe the acute visions of everyday life and reality of violence of Guatemala. Some of the premise of Rey Rosa’s stories include: a boy who tests the existence of God by killing a canary; a writer pens letters describing a mercurial city; a woman shoplifts books under the adoring eyes of the owner. This is the world of Rodrigo Rey Rosa, one of the master writers of the post-Boom generation, who the late Roberto Bolaño praised as being “[. . .] the most rigorous writer of my generation, the most transparent, the one who knows best how to weaves his stories, and the most luminous of all.” In a fashion similar to his contemporary, Roberto Bolaño, Rodrigo Rey Rosa is a writer of rootlessness with a more global perspective, which works contrary to the previous Boom Generation, whose mythologizing of their homelands ensured they remained encapsulated to in order to retain their unique culture and beauty, while place them on the global literary map. Unsurprisingly, future generations have taken a more global and postmodern influences in their literary approach and perspective, revolting, and moving further away from the previous magical realism and myth making of the Boom Generation. Rodrigo Rey Rosa is renowned for his unadorned and pristine prose, which moves in contrast the enriched Baroque style of the previous Boom writers; the academic world in particular has shown interest and appreciation for Rey Rosa’s descriptions of violence, which move beyond the purely political, but encompass moral, spiritual and environmental forms as well. Though Guatemala is a frequent landscape and setting within many of Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s novels and short stories; much like the authors cosmopolitan travels and glob trotting appreciation, his work also traverses the world, which includes New York, India, and Africa. Rodrigo Rey Rosa is one of those exciting humanistic authors from Central America, who has taken a global perspective and position regarding the human condition, and though his work views the species and human race as inherently violent (which is why it populates his work with such prolific expertise), he still presents the narrative as cautionary and as a reflection, a encouragement to do better, capitalizing on the human potential for humanism and hope. 

Lorna Goodison – Jamaica – If there is a Grande Dame of Jamaican Literature, Lorna Goodison would certainly be coronated as the writer who encompasses the rich, colourful and beautiful world of the Caribbean, while also acknowledging the nations roots in slavery, diaspora, and displacement. This can be seen in the continued reference of the tamarind tree—which is featured heavily in the “Tamarind Season,”—which has found itself transplanted from Africa into the Caribbean, where it thrives. This becomes the metaphor of the diaspora and roots of enslavement of the Jamaican people, who found themselves removed from their homes and shipwrecked into slavery on foreign lands. Yet, with tenacity, grit, and an unbreakable steadfast spirit, where exile becomes an adopted and then native home.  In turn, contemporary harsh realities are rejuvenated with a newfound beauty, often denied, or depraved within a cityscape of little besides layer upon layer of depravity. Yet where no garden exists or roses bloom, other essential herbs are cultivated and are named roses all the same. Every growth of necessity is renamed a rose, shattering illusions of singular vision of beauty or paradise. These moments are in line with the poetic attributes of Lorna Goodison, whose poetry vibrates with the contrasts of hope and despair, which plays out in the real theatre of the mundane and domestic, where Goodison proves her merit, sprinkling salt and beauty within the landscape of home and garden, whereby the daily rituals in all their commonplace practice become transformative. Visually, the works of Lorna Goodison are rich, stunning, and impassioned, which comes from Goodison’s formal training in the visual arts, with some of her paintings gracing the covers of her poetry collections. For Goodison pen and paint brush are never far and can be interchangeable in how they influence each other, as in the case of the leftovers of a painting, become the seeds of a poetic composition. Recently, Lorna Goodison was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2019, on the advice of Poet Laureate Simon Armitage. Armitage praised Lorna Goodison for her enchanting socially aware poetry that remain firmly loyal and rooted in the Caribbean, mulling over its past, observing its present, and dreaming of its density.
Patrick Chamoiseau – Martinique | France – Literature of the diaspora, the former colonized, and the displaced is entering an age of reckoning recognition and golden appreciation. Where Abdulrazak Gurnah was recognized for his work tackling themes of postcolonial displacement, trauma, and the refugee displaced in a postcolonial and evolving world; then Patrick Chamoiseau is a writer who captures a new sense of cultural identity, reclaiming a former colony into a new nation of independent culture and thought, complete with a developed and nuanced local flavour and colour, which celebrates the native components of the land, its transplanted aspects, and its colonial heritage and creates a new cultural sensibility and identity that is independent from its former colonial parental figure. Patrick Chamoiseau was originally considered a cultural rebel. During his youth, French was the language of success, the social and political elite, the education system, cultural exhibitions, and the required tongue for commerce. The common Creole language of the streets, homes, and the people was considered incompatible with the rest of the world, and Martinique despite its virtual independence became even more dependent on France. Yet, just like a young Patrick Chamoiseau, there was increasing interest in developing and celebrating a unique Martinique identity, specific to the nation, free from French adulteration, which included promoting the Creole language. By the late 1970’s, Patrick Chamoiseau was being noticed as a noteworthy writer and cultural critic, who was quickly identified with the Creolite Movement. Chamoiseau’s literary output is noted for the authors blend of French and Creole, playfully pulling from both languages to show a continued range and possibility of the two languages. Chamoiseau’s literary themes are expected: postcolonial realities, racism, international capitalism, racism and ethnic discrimination, and the haunting past of colonial rule, which creates a potent stew for the writer to ladle a variety of novels exploring how these combined elements, though independent in initial thought, have immediate recognizable influences on one another, especially in instituting ethnic discriminatory practices and oppressive social structures and systems. By socially and politically aligning his literary positions with the downtrodden, the underdog, and the socially forgotten, Patrick Chamoiseau is often seen as a writer and advocate of the Third World and the socially misrepresented, a title one can be sure Patrick Chamoiseau is proud to be distinguished with. Yet, for its literary and linguistic zeal and caliber should be considered more then substantial to be considered one of the most innovative writers of the Caribbean, and one of the most independent and creative French language writers currently at work.

Cesar Aira – Argentina – There is no denying (and can be no denying) that Cesar Aira is perhaps one of the most important writers to come from the Southern Hemisphere. A contemporary of the needed revolutionary Roberto Bolano, Cesar Aira forged his own remarkably literary path with his engaging “flight forward,” technique, which circumvents editing or rewriting, by improvising another way out of the dreaded literary corners, writers are bound to write themselves into. This “flight forward,” or freewheeling expression, has made Cesar Aira one of the original writers, whose continued momentum of fictional narratives is legendary in its production, whereby the writer produces two to three short novels in a calendar year. In addition to his liberated writing format, Cesar Aira has showcased himself to being one of the most accomplished postmodern genre inclusive writers at work, revealing in the legacy of surrealism and dadaism in equal fashion, while also slipping into historical fiction, satire, gothic, ghost stories, science fiction and so on. This has all lead to Cesar Aira being classified as one of the most inventive and avant-garde writers currently at working, whose machine-like production is a marvel, with each novel showcasing the hallmarks of Cesar Aira’s unique style. There are detractors and critics, however, who have noted that this continue flight forward and all of its fanciful artfulness, is nothing but a postmodern gimmick employed by a writer, who now exploits it to otherwise repetitive measures. Regardless of the stance an individual takes regarding the quality of production, Cesar Aira remains one of the most invigorating and important writers from Argentina, a truly unique literary voice and vision with no competitor at this time.
Nancy Morejón – Cuba – The politics of revolution, the studies of race through a historical and political lens, the post-revolutionary reality, and the feminine perspective, are all attributes and critical assessments assigned to the Cuban poet, Nancy Morejón, who has remained on the Island nation since the revolution, is indeed a Post-Revolutionary poet, and the vast majority Morejón’s poetry provides commentary of the Afro-Cuban culture, history, and perspective within the island nation, including a history rooted in diaspora and slavery. The spirit of the post-revolutionary period of Cuba cannot be avoided, which Nancy Morejón is unapologetic about. Yet Morejón’s poetry despite running in the winds of post-revolutionary times and society, should not be considered political inclined and more importantly an endorsement; rather Morejón’s poetry sail on the transitional and transformative experiences and dreams of the post-revolutionary period and what it meant for Cuba as a nation. In this sense, such poetry should be reviewed and understood within a temporal context. As a contributing poet to the greater tapestry and colour of Caribbean literature and Latin American literature at large, Nancy Morejón explicitly deals with historical roots of slavery within the Caribbean, and the cause for liberation and freedom. One of Morejón’s famous poems: Mujer Negra, or (“Black Woman,”) is a emblematic poem concerned with the history of displacement forged by the condition and context of race, which inevitably saw the forced transplantation of many African’s to the Caribbean, but is not a poem of resignation but a battle cry of resistance and rebellion, about drudgery and life. “Black Woman,” has an eye for the epicist in poetry, recounting one individual as the echoing tuning fork for a generational encompassing history. While the poetic sibling Amo a mi amo “I love my master,” is far more introspective in scope, looking inward to the psychological reparations of indentured slavery has on the following generations, well into the contemporary era, how its warped traditions, literature, perspective, and is marked with an infectious global reach, which again is met with violent resistance. All of this makes Nancy Morejón one of the Caribbean’s most socially in tuned poets, who in her own words, has recognized poetry is a form of social communication, which makes Nancy Morejón a lively poet of the highest caliber, whose work is regarded for its highly refined lyricism, intimate spiritual nature, reconciliation of the past, celebration of the freedom, all within the rich colourful languages and cultural diversity and traditions of the Caribbean.    
Tomás González – Columbia – There can be no denying that Columbian literature has been eclipsed and overshadowed by the late Gabriel García Márquez, who pushed South & Latin America to the forefront with magical realism, and suddenly the enter Western literary world is reviewing the southern continent under a glaring fascination of exoticism, complete with formal experimentation, and allegorical labyrinths of narratives. The post-boom writers have moved away from these forebearers, preferring less allegorical premises in which to meditate and contemplate their subjects. The post-boom writers and the more dissenting voices were openly critical of the Boom Generation for being elitist in their perspective, and pandering to the western tradition and readers, while neglecting the readership of their own countries. The new generation which found its most prominent voice in Roberto Bolaño moved away from the fantastical allegory of the previous generation and sought shape and craft narratives that the everyday reader would be able to understand, and characters they could empathize with. One of these post-boom writers is the Colombian writer Tomás González, who is only now just beginning to gain a foothold I the English language. One of Tomás González’s novels is the multifaceted psychological portrait: “The Storm,” which is a hallmark of the authors style, showcasing his ability encapsulate an entire history and world within a single microcosm of psychological processing that is not bound or confined by the rules of time or space. The novel recounts through twenty-six hours, the ordeal of a family, their personal histories, their trials and tribulations, their petty competitions, their slips into sanity. The novel echoes with the chorus of a Greek tragedy played out within the ethereal realm of the psychologically fractured and distressing. Tomás González is a writer of quiet masterpieces, of fiction that is both compelling and beautiful and is now beginning to be consumed and appreciated in the English language. There is no doubt that Tomás González has been one of the best kept literary secrets of the Southern Hemisphere. 
Elena Poniatowska – México – Elena Poniatowska is often lumped together with the greatest writers of the 20th Century of the Southern Hemisphere, with the likes of Nobel Laureates: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Octavio Paz, along with Carlos Fuentes, Sergio Pitol, and Fernando del Paso. Some of these writers were directly involved with the Latin American Boom (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Carlos Fuentes) Elena Poniatowska would not be considered a subscriber or acolyte in the same fashion as Isabel Allende. No, Poniatowska is a journalist first with a strong streak in political, social, and cultural criticism. This continued interest in the disenfranchised of Mexican society, the otherwise poor, impoverished, uneducated or of limited social standing, are continually in her focus with righteous pen in hand. She is most famous for her reportage and collage non-fiction work: “Massacre in Mexico,” which recounts through reportage, testimony, and witnessed events the horrors that took place at Plaza de las Tres Culturas, where unarmed civilians demonstrated and protested the hosting of the 1968 Olympics being hosted in Mexico City. The demonstrators themselves wanted to call attention to the inequality and impoverishment of the city. The military inevitably opened fire killed an undetermined number of people. This became known as the Tlatelolco Massacre. There is always an ironic twist with advocates who voice their discontent and unleash criticism against the inequalities prevalent in society or seek to raise the position of the lower social classes, when in fact these advocates herald from exceptionally privileged backgrounds. Elena Poniatowska is no different. Poniatowska was born in Paris, France to a fortunate family. Her father was Prince Jean Joseph Evremond Sperry Poniatowski; thus, making Elena Poniatowska a princess, where she is often referred to as the ‘Rouge Princess,’ where she disregarded any notion of aristocratic behavior expected of her, concerning herself with the blight and issues of the common people. Poniatowska’s initial career in journalism was not noted remarkable, or even remotely concerned with the issues she viewed with strength and vigor. No instead, Elena Poniatowska was to oversee and write the lifestyle and society column, which she did with satire and facetious disingenuity.  Then came “Massacre in Mexico,” and Elena Poniatowska was finally taken seriously as both a journalist and commentator on sociopolitical affairs. It is in this regard that one can assess that Elena Poniatowska is not a ‘purely,’ literary writer, one who does not explicitly dedicate themselves to either poetry or prose, and just makes their living from journalism. No, Poniatowska maintained an otherwise pragmatic perspective when it came to writing, believing that all written work must have a purpose, or provide insight into palpable affairs. This apparently made the late Carlos Fuentes comment: “Look at poor little Poni! There she goes in her beat-up VW Bug, on her way to interview the head of the slaughterhouse.” – Despite not being a strictly literary writer, Elena Poniatowska received the Cervantes Prize in 2013, and is considered an important writer within the Spanish language, whose social and political commentary and criticism is respected. I do wonder her chances of receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, after Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015, who is regarded as a journalist and historian, who has traced the social and political destinies of the Soviet and Post-Soviet individual. Regardless, Elena Poniatowska’s commitment to reporting, recording, documenting, and disseminating the events, attitudes, perspectives, and atrocities that take place around her are admirable, as they become the accounts and chronicles for future generations. They will provide that palpable perspective that statistical evidence cannot convey.
Raúl Zurita – Chile – Chilean poetry is a highbrow form, which is appreciated and respected by the reading public of Chile. Great Chilean poets include Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, and Nicanor Parra are always considered the finest stock, along with Raúl Zurita, who remains the nations greatest poetic voice. Raúl Zurita’s early poetic influences were unfortunately shaped by political context. At the age of 22 and during the early onslaught of Pinochet’s gaining control, Zurita was detained among thousands of others, where he was tortured. This proved to a traumatizing experience for the poet, who for years afterwards would be haunted by the situation, as it inflected every aspect of his life, and would be the basis of his monumental poetic trilogy which protested and defied the dictatorship. The poetry of Raúl Zurita is pulling oneself out of the abyss; struggling from the depths of madness to reclaim language, speech, to communicate once again with someone, anyone about the situation at hand, and so was his debut poetry collection: “Purgatory,” a reclaiming of language in a world gone mad. The subsequent collections of Zurita’s poetry: “Anteparadise,” and “La Vida nueva,” complete his trilogy, which became a cacophonous collage of competing and inconsequential forms that at first glance appear to have no shared meaning or theme, but slowly the images, the concerns, the situations, and the poems align in constellation like format, creating through individual stars a poetic collage that provides not only an overview of the dictatorship of Pinochet’s dictatorship, but also the unyielding resistance, life, and love that existed within such terrible times. Regardless of the terrors, horrors, and atrocities taking place during the dictatorship Zurita’s poetry sought to speak, give voice, and resound language in a vibrant kaleidoscope of speech to provide a reflection of life lived in a dichotomous and cacophonous chorus of joy and suffering. After the fall of Pinochet’s dictatorship, Raúl Zurita has continued to publish further poetry, which have become world renowned, not just for their experimentation and characteristically unique perspective that is Zurita, one that is plural and universal, while maintaining the reminder that it channels through the singular mind, hand, and pen that is the poet.
Maryse Condé - Guadeloupe – Maryse Condé is a writer of dual worlds, heralding from the colonial world and then becoming an acute scholar of the postcolonial experience. In awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to Abdulrazak Gurnah last year, the Swedish Academy has begun the process of acknowledging the postcolonial literary perspective within the world, as the rippling effects of colonialism pulsating today. Where in some places and areas the aftershocks remain palpable and raw, more so than others. Maryse Condé is best defined as an academic expert on the consequences of colonialism in the Caribbean. Condé had a privileged upbringing. Her parents were autonomous and educated, which encouraged the young writer and academic to explore the richness of literature. in 70’s Condé obtained her masters and doctorate in comparative literature from the Université de Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle); before this though, the author had taught, traveled, and explored the wider world such as, the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Ghana (where she would be deported for political reasons), and Senegal. She would later teach in French and Parisian universities before moving onto Columbia, UCLA, and the University of California, Berkley. Maryse Condé found literary success with her novel: “Ségou,” a historical novel taking place in the Bambara Empire of Mali and destroys the previously held prejudices that Africa was but a land of tribal barbarianism, completely untouched by the civil structures of Europe and the west. The novel also explores the events which will eventually reshape the world, including the propagation of Islam, the burgeoning horror of the slave trade, and the colonial carving of a continent. As a writer, Maryse Condé has paid great attention to the relation and heritage of the Caribbean and the African, encapsulating the diaspora of the two all the while celebrating the unique cultural identities of both. As a Caribbean writer, Condé has been exceptionally distant from literary movements, such as Négritude and Créolité, which has ensured she remains literary independence and agency, allowing her to explore race, culture, and identity across geography and historical periods, such as the Bambara Empire as well as the Massachusetts Salem witch trials, with the first accused Tituba. Maryse Condé’s later works are more autobiographical and introspective, revisioning a biography of her maternal grandmother, while another recounted Condé’s childhood experiences.
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.
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. 

Adélia Prado – Brazil – If Louise Glück is the poet of austerity and severity, whose poems are the reminiscent of the first frost of the autumnal season, that finest filigree of ice lace veiling windows and glittering in frostbitten grass; then Adélia Prado would be best associated with the palpable scrutinizing and scorching season of summer. A season of a heat and ripening. The season of growth and bloom; but also, of hellfire exhaustion and capricious thundering storms. Adélia Prado is often called a late season blooming poet, coming to the reading and public attention in her forties, when she submitted a few poems to a well-known Brazilian poet and critic (Affonso Romano de Sant’Anna) who in turned passed the poems on to the Brazilian modernist poet master, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who in turn was bowled over by the poems. A private writer and day dreamer, Adélia Prado became one of the most lauded and respected poets of Brazil. The poetry of Adélia Prado is regarded for its sensualism in both spiritual and the physically carnal. A devote Catholic, Prado maintains a strict adherence to spiritual preoccupations going so far to state: “It’s the Soul That’s Erotic,” this inevitably means that the poems found within Prado’s work are not reminiscent of the stern and severe proverbs and hymns of the bible, but instead are the lively sensual poems that recount the dirty business of life, the ecstasy of soulful engagement, and the eroticism of spiritual fulfillment, all of which exists within the physical and material world, and experienced by the individual in matters that are often degraded or denounced by otherwise pious or puritanically pontificating. Adélia Prado’s poetry is not just limited to preoccupations of the soul, it takes account and influence of daily life, the concerns, and realities of being a woman, especially the realities and lives of the women of Brazil. Adélia Prado is a poet who finds in the quiet moments of daily life the divine and metaphysical come into view. Beauty is best observed and discovered within the quotidian, which is mistakenly overlooked or ignored as being charmless or lacking, where in the hands of Prado, the ubiquitous is the stage for the divine to interact with the mortal, where the pleasures of the world come into contact with one another, whereby the individual lives within two worlds both the spiritual yearning and connection with God, but also the realties and concerns of the material world. The celestial and the divine intersect within the mundane and the physical body. Through daily rituals, images, objects, and experiences the individual encounters the ecstasy of one’s connection the divine. Sexual and physical fulfillment become sacrilege in ritualistic vigor, while facilitating an intimacy of soul.
Carmen Boullosa – Mexico – Mexican literature has produced some of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, including the sun poet Ocatvio Paz, prolific chronicler Carlos Fuentes, the complex Sergio Pitol. These shadows have a lengthy reach over contemporary Mexican literature, having informed so many readers of their home country, complete with all of its complications both from colonialism and the ripping aftereffects after post-colonial world. In turn, Carmen Boullosa is perhaps one of the most important and critically acclaimed female writers of Mexican literature. Boullosa’s bibliography includes poetry prose, and dramatic works, each carrying critical feminist critical theories and historiographic analysis of Mexican history. Boullosa is highly recognized for her novels, which have received acclaim and criticism for their explicit and unapologetic feminist perspectives. As if revolting against the stifling, strict, and guilt-ridden intensity of the catholic chokehold of Mexico, Carmen Boullosa writes with impassion vigor regarding, love, eroticism, the body and the carnal pleasures of the body with all of its senses; in turn her novels are noted for their heightened emphasis on emotions, emotional gratification, and bewildering enjoyment of the moment and the pleasures of the earthly realm. Now regarded as one of the most important institutional writers of Mexican literature, it is prudent to be reminded of Carmen Boullosa’s literary beginnings in the swirling avant-garde literary scene of the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, where her raw and emotional use of language was striking, colourful, dangerous, and truly the act of playing (and breathing) fire. Her first novel, was a autobiographical evisceration of her formative and complicated personal life, complete with all the losses of childhood, which is not just limited to innocence and an immediate or protected understanding of the world, but the removal of the illusion of what the world was. Her later works (such as “Texas: The Great Theft,”) are more orchestral compositions, complete with different elements in their symphonic components melding together to create a euphonic and melodic whole, which have become the trademarks of Carmen Boullosa’s employment of language, the ability to root out its most intricate sense of melody and bring forth to create complex narratives of rhythmic language and narrative appeal.
There you have it Gentle Reader, the Nobel Speculation List for 2022. I’ll update concluding thoughts at a later date, complete with further review and overview of the data presented above. There are noticeable omissions and absentees from this year’s list, such as the great Syrian and revolutionary poet, Adunis, who now at the age of 92 years old, seems to be waning in the years left for the writer to be considered in contention. Personally, I think its egregious that Adunis has not received the award yet, and may not receive it. If the Nobel Prize for Literature is to be a literary award, there must come a time when the Swedish Academy must dislodge its head firmly from its ass, and get on with the business of being a literary award judging panel, which may mean accepting the caveat that even a medal must be bestowed upon a giant, regardless of how predictable the optics may appear. A recent survey, however, does show me that some other writers included on this year’s list are of equal advanced age, and will most likely be omitted next year in turn, as sad as it is to think that.
Until a later point Gentle Reader, for now, please enjoy the list. I will update this in the coming days with further concluding thoughts and commentary. Until then. M. Mary (August 15, 2022)


  1. Thank you for this list. It would be interesting if you could dedicate a special list, every year, to the nominees and the winners of the Struga Poetry Evenings (the old and the young poet), since authors as Tanikawa, Blandiana, Un, Atwood, Simic, Dao and Or are usually regarded as strong Nobel contenders. The two prizes at Struga are the most important achievements for poetry, after the Nobel.

    1. Hello,

      Admittedly, I am not the greatest reader of poetry. I do admire poets and even enjoy reading it here and there, but actual devotion and consumption of poetry on a regular basis, I have yet to do. I have heard about the Struga Poetry Evenings, but to be honest, have not paid to much attention to it. Yet, some truly exceptional poets have won the award, such as Transtromer, Adunis, and Shuntarō Tanikawa this year. I'll certainly make a more conscious effort to mointor the Struga Poetry Evenings, as they certainly value and recognize great poetic talent.

      Thank you so much.

      M. Mary

  2. RE: The Greek candidates
    Last April I happened to be among the spectators of the International Festival Ritratti di Poesia in Rome which was concluded with readings by Doris Kareva and Dimitris Lyacos (both available in youtube and Rai Cultura channels). It occurred to me then that Lyacos was part of your Nobel Prize list in one of the past years together with Ersi Sotiropoulos. Comparing the two Greek authors (and after some research) I am coming to the conclusion that - at least from my Italian perspective - Lyacos seems a more likely candidate. As of June 2023 in, I find 12 international editions for Sotiropoulos - for Lyacos I find 14. No new translations of Sotiropoulos have appeared in 2022, while of Lyacos’s there is a new Brazilian Edition (2023 by Relicario who also publish Anne Carson) and the Italian Edition published by Saggiatore (one of the most prestigious Italian publishers) - voted also among the best books in translation for 2022 by the Italian Association of Critics (published in Indiscreto Magazine). In addition, I have found out that Lyacos's new book (Until the Victim Becomes our Own) is scheduled to appear by Saggiatore in 2024. I see no forthcoming Editions for Sotiropoulos. Having said that, I fully understand that your selection of Sotiropoulos reflects her importance in the Greek letters as well as your personal taste.
    On the side, I have also researched a few other Greeks (poet Ganas, Karystiani, Michalopoulou etc.) but – alas – their international presence seems to be negligible.
    A propos, I wonder whether you are familiar with Chris Via/Leaf by Leaf youtube channel which contains wonderful analyses of contemporary works. Most of the authors you have selected in your past lists appear there (including Lyacos). The channel showcases, to my mind, in a rather balanced way, works of established reputation in the context of world literature, and might be worth a look.

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    1. Hello Mark,

      Thank you for reading and the kind words! This is very kind of you!

      M. Mary