The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 29 September 2022

Remaining & Final Thoughts for the Nobel Prize in Literature 2022

Thank you to all of you Gentle Readers who had previously read my Nobel Speculation List.
There are a couple notes to make clear with the list, I do work extremely hard to fixate on less represented or unknown writers from regions who are interesting and I think are equally of deserving of the Nobel Prize for Literature, which means I try to limit English language writers from the list, which is why you do not see writers from the United States of America, United Kingdom, Ireland, or Canada on the list. However, there are minor instances to round out the numbers or provide more geographical area, which means I include Australia with Gerald Murnane, who is a singular visionary writer in his own right, who also has the literary merit and credentials to be seen as a Nobel worthy contender. Patricia Grace from New Zealand occupies that unique position of once again rounding out the numbers and geographical area, but Grace is also an indigenous author, and her novels are infused with this unique Māori perspective, but also showcases with startling starlight brilliance Patricia Grace’s writing capabilities, nuanced thought process, and commentary on the indigenous perspective in a postcolonial world. Furthermore, there is no denying that Indigenous literary voices are growing as important perspectives, who provide another viewpoint of colonialism and postcolonialism, while also employing traditional narrative components of oral storytelling, and cementing cultural legacies for future reference. There are many writers who are currently at work in this regard, such as Louise Erdrich, Joy Harjo, Thomas King, and Simon J. Ortiz, to name but a few.
My knowledge of Indian literature is very limited. India being a massive country with a diverse palate of cultures and languages. My limited understanding inevitably means that English language writers are always spotted first and foremost, and my research confirms, that English language writers are recognized and have great appeal due to the language. Though I do my best to advocate or bring to light less known writers (as the greatest fun with the Nobel Prize for Literature is expanding the reading purview), even I recognize there needs to be some semblance of reality, in how great of chance does a writer have at receiving the award, given the Swedish Academy’s current structure, which is why two English language Indian writers: Amitav Ghosh and Ranjit Hoskote, appear on the list.
Lorna Goodison, however, was more of a serendipitous accident. When initially compiling and organizing both of this year’s posts, I had begun to write about Lorna Goodison with the expectation she was going on the “Honourable Mentions,” Section of the initial list. Yet, as I was completing the finishing touches on this year’s speculation list, I happened to notice Lorna Goodison made her way onto this year’s speculation list, and rather than making an edit or excluding her from the list, I decided to keep the famous Jamaican poet on this year’s list, viewing Goodison as more then worthy and capable of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Therefore a few exceptions are made, but truly, I do not wish to saturate my Nobel Speculation List with the usual suspects for the Nobel Prize for Literature, who will inevitably flood and engulf the list. If readers or others are seeking companions for the usual suspects then as always, they should look elsewhere for other lists to find the usual continued perennial favourites being listed.
This year’s speculation list introduced 17 new writers. Of these 17 writers, 7 were female, while the remaining 10 were male. These 17 writers were spread out across the geographical areas, with three new writers to the African Continent; two writers to the North-Africa & Middle East; eight writers from Europe; 1 writer from Asia & the Indo-Subcontinent; and three writers from South America & Latin America with the Caribbean. Those writers are as follows:
Ananda Devi – Mauritius
Ayi Kwei Armah – Ghana
Breyten Breytenbach – South Africa
Sahar Khalifeh – Palestine
Ghassan Zagtan – Palestine
Pascal Quignard – France
Sylvie Germain – France
Eeva Tikka – Finland
Tomas Venclova – Lithuania
Vénus Khoury-Ghata – France
Amin Maalouf – France
Ivan Wernish – Czechia
Miljenko Jergovic – Bosnia
K. Satchidanandan – India
Patrick Chamoisseau - Martinique
Maryse Condé – Guadeloupe
Lorna Goodison – Jamaica
All writers included on the list are always by personal choice and interest. I maintain the thought process that every writer has equal opportunity to be considered as contention for the award. Though obviously, some writers, have better chances to take the award then others. Though when it comes to the Nobel Prize for Literature, there is no guarantee or certainty. The Swedish Academy has proven year after year that they are a fickle breed, whose tastes eb and flow with the moon, and as the internal Nobel Committees members begin to be shuffled out and replaced with a new member, their recommendations, personalities, and perspectives will inevitably influence and colour the Swedish Academy’s direction when it comes to their deliberations and decisions. Some writers are objective. Their reputation, their literary merit, their influential weight cannot be argued or ignored, and they just happen to charm enough members to agree to acknowledging them with the award. Previous laureates of that caliber include Doris Lessing (2007), Orhan Pamuk (2006), Alice Munro (2013), Mario Vargas Llosa (2010), J.M. Coetzee (2003). Then there are more obscure writers, such as Patrick Modiano (2014), Herta Müller (2009), Abdulrazak Gurnah (2021), Elfriede Jelinek (2004), and Imre Kertész (2002) who are brilliant in their obsessions, their absolute attention to deal and linguistic precision, and their relevance in the humanistic spirit.

—Maintaining ‘Literary,’ Objectivity—

After the events of August 12th, it is important to give comment to the atrocious stabbing of Salman Rushdie. I like everyone else, had thought that the business of the fatwa had reached its inevitable conclusion, having pissed itself out of its invigorated indignant fuel, and becoming nothing more than rhetoric of a toothless barking mad dog, or a declawed cat posturing. Rushdie himself had grown comfortable with the idea of getting on with the business of living a normal life, complete with the engaging in writing and teaching. The attack, however, shattered these notions, while also confirming the deepening reality of how freedom of speech, expression and thought are now routinely under attack, but not just limited to authoritarian states or dictatorships, but is increasingly under threat in countries who have strong and established democratic institutions. Rushdie’s stabbing is a reality check that writers across the world, including the otherwise free or intellectually sober, are increasingly under the attack both physical and rhetorically. For example, agreeing or disagreeing with J.K. Rowling’s views on certain subjects, does not warrant that a civil society should devolve and digress into a state of death threats. As Rushdie’s stabbing proves the fatwa which had finally been laid to rest as nothing more than a baseless empty threat, turned out to be a still smoldering point of contention with many indignant and depraved individuals willing to pick up the mantel and commit attempted murder.

The aftermath of the Salman Rushdie attack has placed many institutions in an otherwise uncomfortable position. Suddenly this crazed cancel culture and censorship promoting movement can see what exactly censorship looks like. What denying or circumventing the most elementary principle and cornerstone of freedom of thought looks like. The truth is, there is no cherry picking what views or perspectives are voiced or published. Censorship—selective censorship or self-censorship—is not compatible with any notion or idea of freedom of thought, expression, speech, or conscience. Any institution that promotes any form of censorship is one which has forsaken its principles for some new breed of ideological movement that supports totalitarian constraints and promotes a culture of stagnation and castration. A passive caricature lacking thought, ingenuity, creativity, or genius. What remains is a wasteland of falsified niceties and the disturbed belief that taking offense is equivalent to moral superiority, and provocation is a crime worthy of exile, or in the case of Rushdie, an eternal death. The attack of Salman Rushdie is more than just a heinous act, and cannot be limited to the perspective that its been ongoing for 30 years, it’s a harbinger and reminder of the fragile nature of the agency an individual has against the collective; the ability to dissent against the collective; the capability to form opinions, thoughts, and wonder without retaliation or retribution; to challenge established institutions and critically assess their merit; and in turn create, enrich, enliven the world with language and stories, for that is what writers do. As a teacher, individual, and writer, Salman Rushdie has been one of the most defining and influential speakers on the importance of freedom of speech and expression, but more importantly, the freedom to read, without undue influence by an external entity be it political, religious, social et cetera. As the world attempts to establish—or re-establish some institutional notion of truth—while grasping with the propagation of alternative facts in a post-truth environment riddled with disbelief as opposition is referred to as fake news—Salman Rushdie, has been a stalwart cornerstone of sober reminder that the basic democratic principles and dignity of these vandalized institutions, will be restored. Not by any statement or lecture or speech, but by the steadfast faith in which he continued to support these institutions, without faltering or failing to think they will return and overcome these challenges, as can be seen when Rushdie was due to give a lecture Chautauqua Institution on the topic of violence against writers.

The response to the attack has been powerful, complete with writers reading passages of Rushdie’s novels in public, as they once did in support and solidarity when Rushdie was forced into hiding in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Nobel Laureates, world renowned writers, and organizations such as PEN America, have been steadfast in their support of Rushdie and condemnation of the attack. The Académie Goncourt in turn released a statement supporting Salman Rushdie. Sadly, the Swedish Academy has so far, has remained silence on the attack, in a manner similar to their code of silence during the 1980’s, when it failed to condemn or speak out against the fatwa leveraged against Rushdie. It was only in 2016 did the Swedish Academy finally condemn the death sentence. In turn, some have seen the recent attack as confirmation and resounding reason as to why Salman Rushdie should receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Rushdie has been an active proponent for freedom of speech, expression, and reading since the controversial “Satanic Verses,” were first published. Rusdhie’s affirmation that when external forces that are either political, religious, or social in nature, demean or censor or ban or burn books or hide them from individuals or the public, they deny and deprive the individual and the public the right to read; the ability to engage; the capacity to learn; the agency to think. Rushdie’s defense of what should be viewed as a simple concept, suddenly took on profound moralist and existential dimensions. These defenses and Rushdie’s resilience in promoting these fundamental human rights can never be underestimated or undervalued. Yet, to advocate for Salman Rushdie to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, because of his defense of freedom of thought, expression, speech, conscience, and reading, diminishes the Nobel Prize for Literature, but more importantly, it cheapens the award for Salman Rushdie. If Salman Rushdie is to be considered for the Nobel Prize for Literature, it should be based on Rushdie’s literary work, which is rich and expansive. Rushdie’s reputation rests on his magnificent novels: “Midnights Children,” “Shame,” are modern classics of postmodernism, magical realism, and postcolonialism. Sadly, since the attack, “The Satanic Verses,” has once again become a novel of scandalous intrigue, though Rushdie commented of being proud of the text, and its complex structure, which have been eclipsed due to the fatwa. All literary criticism and evaluation are lost within the thicket of scandal and controversy.

If the Swedish Academy were to bestow the award on Salman Rushdie, it should be on the basis of his literary qualifications, which Rushdie has. Rushdie’s irrefutable defense of freedom of speech, expression, though and the democratic institution of equal reading, is not only honourable, its chivalrous and gallant. Yet, the goal of the Nobel Prize for Literature, should retain some sense of literary objectivity, where the award is based on literary qualifications first and foremost. Everything else is secondary.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, Ukrainian writers have taken on new roles, as both recorders of the events and atrocities; cultural and language custodians, seeking to preserve Ukrainian identity; then they must also be beacons of hope, capsules to remind and inspire soldiers and citizens what they are fighting for. the Ukrainian writer and poet Serhiy Zhadan, has been thrust into the spotlight as of late. A well-known agitator and resistor, Zhadan has been assaulted by Russian supporters for his opposition and criticism of the Crimean annexation in 2014 and has been an active dissenting voice against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, while organizing humanitarian aid for the Eastern Regions of Ukraine which have been hardest hit by Russia’s invasion. Of course, Zhadan’s political engagements and activism go beyond opposing Russia and its Soviet era nostalgia and aggressive tactics, but also include criticism and participation in protests at home in Ukraine, which includes the Orange Revolution in 2004. This inevitably means for Serhiy Zhadan literary pursuits and political engagement are not entirely separate engagements or activities. Yet, what is defining of Serhiy Zhadan’s literary work is his ability to capture and encapsulate the palpability of a region of Europe that is complex, divisive, and still engaging with its own complex past and often corruptible present.

Independence, for example, is an uncomfortable state to be in. Its jarring when social order, the norms, and everyday conventionality, are all usurped and uprooted. Suddenly there is no foundation, and the world takes an otherwise askew view of itself. In the rush of disruption and dismantlement, the foundation collapses in unison with everything else. The eastern sections of Ukraine are heavily industrialized, and often seen as the industrial spine and heartland of the former Soviet Union. The Luhanask region of Ukraine, was a Soviet stronghold within the country, throughout the 20th Century, and is salt and peppered with monuments of this past. This region in turn was the industrial heart and backbone of the Soviet system in turn, a place of economic prosperity and purpose. Now, however, it is a place of abandonment, displacement and disenfranchisement, an atmosphere Serhiy Zhadan captures within his novels. Serhiy Zhadan is able to provide an empathetic, though brutally honest understanding of the region and how it fits in within Ukraine, but also is weighted down by its Soviet affiliation and prosperity, and how the people within the region relate to their Ukrainian national identity in comparison to their Soviet past.

Yet, once again to advocate for Serhiy Zhadan to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature due to the events taking place in Ukraine with Russia’s invasion, again cheapens the award for Zhadan. If Serhiy Zhadan is to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, he should receive it on the grounds of his literary work. His novels which survey a complex, complicated region, which has been abandoned in the wake of independence, and suffers at the machinations of external forces, often with violent repercussions. His poetry of raw intensity, extraordinary palpability, and ability to excavate the past to scry the realities of the present cannot be overlooked. At the age of 45, I also think that Serhiy Zhadan is a bit young for the Nobel Prize for Literature. There is an expectation of further greatness when it comes to Serhiy Zhadan. 


—A Guessing Game of Personal Preference—

When it comes to speculating for the Nobel Prize for Literature, the greatest joy is always the discovery of new writers, whereby one can expand their reading. This is partly the greatest enjoyment of the Nobel Prize for Literature, when they move to awarding more obscure or unknown writers, who happen to be dazzling, daring, and just otherwise enjoyable. Which is what influences many of the personal decisions for my own speculation list, whereby I dredge and scour for unique writers, whose work I find interesting and are sadly under represented or unappreciated in the English language. Many of these writers, I fear, have very minimal chances winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, but that does not diminish either their work or the quality of it.

When I learned that the Finnish poet, Sirkka Turkka had died last October, I knew I wanted to find a new Finnish writer to include on this year’s list, as I had to omit the great Finnish (Swedish language) poet Tua Forsström, who was rightfully elected to the Swedish Academy of Chair No. 18. As a nation, Finland continues to fascinate me. Quiet and unassuming, scarcely populated, all the while being covered in primeval forests, lakes, and tundra. It’s a distinctly proud Nordic nation, with a unique culture and literature that is relatively unknown outside of its borders. Sofi Oksanen is perhaps the nation’s most famous literary export. Yet at the age of 45, Oksanen is still relatively young for the Nobel, and her works focus heavily on the recent history of Estonia and its Soviet Era oppression. Therefore, I decided to include a truly obscure (by English language standards) Finnish writer to the list. Eeva Tikka has no novel, short story collection, or poetry collection translated into English. A few of Tikka’s short stories have been translated into English via online publications (the now defunct Books From Finland), and they so far have been my only introduction into Tiika’s work as a writer.

Eeva Tikka writes with a light and gentle hand. Her prose is graceful and delicate, reminiscent of the finest watercolour paintings. The deepest colours bleeding forth and feathering out, gradually fading into the abstract of insinuation and silhouette. The slow burn of interior lives carefully blooming to showcase the complex and conflicting conundrum of the individual experience and reality, reflecting the divisions between established social constructs of moral acceptability, and the individuals resentment harbored towards facilitating them. A harvesters wisdom preaches patience, and when enacted with stoic resolve, reveals hesitation, and missed opportunities. Of course, Tikka is not without irony either, slyly mocking the cruelty of time, as in the case of a client confronting his psychologist as his childhood bully. Eeva Tikka’s literary language, however, has always been its foundation. The lyricism and pointillistic impressionism are always utilized to her advantage, with light sketching, Tikka is able to shadow enough nuance into a scene, to provide an understanding that something is amiss. Her characters are fully realized, with complexities and contradictions, and are treated with objective kindness. Eeva Tikka abandons sentimentality but does capture compassionate sense of rounded completeness of her characters, probing their interior lives and exterior relationships with a gardener’s attentive and affectionate care. Yet, a lack of international presence plays against Eeva Tikka, whose work has barely been exposed to English language readers; and Finnish is a complex language difficult to translate. Still, what little I have been able to read of Eeva Tikka has endeared me to her. Her prose is crystalline and lyrical, with a graceful sleight of hand, reminiscent of the slow transition of the seasons. Those few weeks or couple of days, of twilight time, that threshold and crossroads of seasonal changes. In the case of Tikka, one can’t help but feel the crispness of winter while sensing the budding pulse of spring beating beneath the frost. 

All of this being said, its doubtful Eeva Tikka may be in contention for the award. Her literary work has so far had limited reach and translation beyond Finland (to my knowledge), so it maybe difficult for the Swedish Academy to properly assess her work, even with Tua Forsström in their ranks having an understanding or overview of the Finnish literary scene. Regardless, Eeva Tikka remains a writer of personal preference and interest, regardless of her speculated chances. Furthermore, if she is nominated in some instance or another, be it by an invited qualified professor or institution, Laurate, or member of the Swedish Academy, the opportunity exists within the possible.  

Single out Eeva Tikka, only showcases that my speculation list provides proof of just how personal preference and interest is exercised when crafting the list. Of course, in addition to these otherwise personal eccentricities, there are otherwise more objective writers, who have been deemed by public opinion irrefutable and unimpeachable in their likeliness to win. Of course, the Swedish Academy doesn’t give a tinker’s cuss about public opinion, having established a lengthy track of record of award obscure writers, exceptionally talented writers, in addition to internationally applauded and recognized writers, all the while having a lengthy history of neglecting enduring and historically acclaimed writers. Despite this, the Swedish Academy silent, shrugging their shoulders with indifference. They’ll continue in their procession, awarding great writers, making questionable decisions, and missing the mark entirely. Perhaps out of all the Nobel Prize’s Literature and Peace, make the biggest and recognizable guffaws; but to be fair the science awards are free from impeachment. As in the case of the 1949 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, when the awarded was given to Antonio Egas Moniz, who was pioneering developer of the misguided psychosurgery: the lobotomy; though his admirer, William Freeman II was the one who evangelized and galvanized the procedure. So even though Bob Dylan did receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, at least he was not promoting and advocating for the mutilation of frontal lobes or other areas of the brain, which would go on to be described as the most misguided and barbaric practices of modern medicine.

As for this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, its difficult to form a clear picture or opinion of what direction the Swedish Academy may move in. For example, from 2016 – 2021, over the past six years four of the winners were English language winners: Bob Dylan (2016), Kazuo Ishigruo (2017), Louise Glück (2020), Abdulrazak Gurnah (2021); while Olga Tokarczuk (2018) and Peter Handke (2019) wrote in Polish and German. This English language dominance has become disconcerting and disheartening. Though the Swedish Academy has often been viewed of taking a ‘Eurocentric,’ perspective with regards to literary tastes and laureates, yet the current trend shows great support towards the English language writers and authors. This years betting sites have remained quiet reading placing bets for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Only realizing an uneven list halfway through September. Last year, however, the favourite to win the Nobel Prize for Literature—at least according to the Bookies—was the French writer, Annie Ernaux.

Annie Ernaux is currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts within the English language, with much of her prolific memoirs and testaments being published. Her book “Happening,” gained further testimonial relevance when Roe v. Wade was turned over by the U.S Supreme Court. Her magnum opus “The Years,” was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2019. Annie Ernaux is regarded as one of the most expert practitioners of ‘Autofiction.’ The term is somewhat misapplied to Ernaux, who despite utilizing her own personal experiences within a narrative format, does not give way to self-indulgence. There’s measured calculation with Ernaux’s work, which does not censor or gentrify the subject matter, but rather puts into a frameable context to diminish gross sensationalism or misconstrued histrionics. The frank and even graphic depictions of sex and sexual relationships were Ernaux’s first literary discussions, but the way sexual relationships are viewed within a social, societal, and personal context is what separated Ernaux from the run of the mill sensationalist memoirist, who was out right their tell-all book. Annie Ernaux applies critical analysis to engage with outdated or at the time commonly held perspectives towards sexual relationships, abortion, pre-marital pregnancies, and how the female body was viewed within this social context. Ernaux proved herself to be not just scandalous in her handling of sensitive subjects, but a consummate social critic and scientist, tracing with palpable empathy moments of personal crisis. Her debut “Cleaned Out,” recounts the story of an unwanted pregnancy of a fictional girl, whose current situation is juxtaposed against her middleclass upbring. This immediate work catapulted Ernaux to the forefront of French literary scene, whereby the writer had begun a serious conversation regarding the social attitudes towards the women’s bodies and sexual relationships. “Do What They Say or Else,” another novel recounts the social changes of the 20th French society, through Anne who through her maturation from Middle School to High School, looses her innocence, but also finds her worldview changing from that of her parents, hardworking and decent working-class people, but their daughter in part to education moves to a different social standing, which becomes a bittersweet and alienating experience.

These early works, showcases Ernaux’s critical eye to the changing realities of French society during the 20th Century. Her masterpiece “The Years,” is exemplary in its ability to grasp the chorus of ‘we,’ cast adrift through all these extraordinary changes taking place throughout the 20th Century, from the victory of the World War II to the rise of consumerism. Her intimate works “A Man’s Place,” “A Woman’s Story,” “I Remain in Darkness,” are some of her most empathetically profound, tracing the personal and social biographies of her father and mother, their working-class backgrounds, and their bourgeois aspirations, but also her mother being lost to Alzheimer’s. Through intimate subject matter, Annie Ernaux traces the social inadequacies, consequences, and progression. Ernaux’s ability to maintain both a personal perspective and objective understanding allows her critically to assess the social realities of the day, and trace their gradual progression through the decades, where continued advancement both in medicine and technology brought on a whirl wind of changing social attitudes and realities. Ernaux’s ability to find and measure the pulse of social realities and changes provides a palpable study of the times, through observed and personal experience, Ernaux is able to empathetically gain an intimate understanding and relationship of the subject matter (even assessing it from a personal perspective in retrospect) without becoming clinical and cold but is able to maintain an objective overview of the experiences reviewed. Annie Ernaux remains palpable, empathetic, clinically scrutinizing of social developments, changes, and attitudes, providing an encapsulated sociological overture of the developments over the past century, both progressive hallmarks and the continued neglect.

This year the betting sites have listed the following writers of having the greatest chances of receiving this years Nobel Prize for Literature.

Michel Houellebecq                                                        Javier Marias
Salman Rushdie                                                              Mia Couto 
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o                                                         Nuruddin Farah
Stephen King                                                                   Can Xue
Annie Ernaux                                                                  Edna O'Brien
Garielle Lutz                                                                   Gerland Murnane
Pierre Michon                                                                  Homero Aridjis
Robert Coover                                                                 Karl Ove Knausgaard
Murakami Haruki                                                            Scholastique Mukasonga
Anne Carson                                                                    Yan Lianke 
Hélène Cixous                                                                  Boroth Stauss
Jamaica Kincaid                                                               Charles Simic      
Jon Fosse                                                                          Cormac McCarthy
Lyudmila Ulitskaya                                                          Hilary Mantel
Margaret Atwood                                                              Ko Un
Maryse Conde                                                                  Lionton Kwesi Johnson
Mircea Cărtărescu                                                            Marilynne Robinson
Nadas Peter                                                                      Xi Xi
Don DeLillo                                                                     Yu Hua
Dubravka Ugrešić                                                            Zoe Wicomb

With Abulrazak Gurnah receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, it appears unlikely for the Kenyan epicist and reconciliatory master Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o will receive the award this year, and now entering his mid-eighties it is concerning of whether or not Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o will receive the award in future, or will be one of the eternal Nobel understudies, waiting for call that will never come. The same can be said for Murakami Haruki, whose relevance and reputation now resides on previous outputs, as his most recent work has become caricature laden of his previous thematic concerns and preoccupations, showing no evolution or fermentation beyond what has become cliché. With the continued English language dominance over the past six years, it may not be Margaret Atwood’s years or Anne Carsons; further complications interrupt Jamaica Kincaid’s appeal, as Abulrazak Gurnah deal with themes of colonialism within a postcolonial context. This same context can be applied to Maryse Condé, whose work equally falls into the ‘postcolonial school,’ though from a new language lens of French. Due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine with Russia’s invasion, Lyudmila Ulitskaya may be considered out of the question. Despite being a merit able writer, the Swedish Academy may wish to avoid political discourse and criticism by awarding either a Russian language writer or a Ukrainian writer. The American postmodern novelist Don DeLillo and the French critic and philosopher Hélène Cixous are both in their mid-80’s, which may rule them out of contention.

In turn, I do think that Mia Couto’s Nobel chances are raising year by year. There can be no denying that Mia Couto is one of the most original and important contemporary African writers currently working. In turn, the Norwegian Jon Fosse, may have retired from writing plays, he is still one of the Europe’s most prolific and beloved playwrights, whose work is still being on stages across the globe. In lieu of dramatic writings, Fosse has turned his attention to prose, publishing at a prolific pace and furthering his international reputation while cementing it. When it comes to Fosse and the Nobel Prize for Literature, I suspect it’s a matter of when, not if. In the case of Mircea Cărtărescu is a true master of articulating the surreal in lucid and flowing prose. Truly a contemporary master of prose, whose work of the profoundly dreamscape grapples with the inherent strangeness of the world. Mircea Cărtărescu is a modern master of vibrant, lush, and explosive prose, all engulfing and delirious in turn. Unfortunately, Javier Marías is out of the running having died earlier in September. Marias’s was a seismic shockwave in the literary world. Marias’s was an a truly singular writer, whose work was lush with language and its duplicity, which perhaps explains why espionage becomes a notable trope within his work. Yet it’s the absurd of the everyday, the baffling, and odd which truly enticed Javier Marías and who expertly crafted it, within his languishing and lengthy sentences, gently lapping further and further from the nexus of thought into far off contemplation and investigation. As with any great masterful practitioner of fiction, the readers castaway with these runoff ruminations with equal enjoyment and ease.

Yet the positioning of Michel Houellebecq and Pierre Michon is interesting, with a strong emphasis and interest in a French language writer being the most likely candidate for this year’s prize. Annie Ernaux and Hélène Cixous in turn are further down the list. As for the fore fronted French writers, Michel Houellebecq and Pierre Michon, could not be more distinct and oppositional in their styles. Michon’s literary work is complex, complicated, and explicitly dense; with archaeological curiosity unearths and inspects antiquated and esoteric stories, refining them into his fiction, without being an explicit historical writer. In turn, Michel Houellebecq is masterclass of the sardonic sting, whose work cause divisive opinions. Houellebecq is the writer who sails perilously to the abyss’s edge and pisses at it with vitriolic glee. Michel Houellebecq is renowned for writing about the ironic meaninglessness of contemporary society, grappling with the loneliness, alienation, social abandonment, and existential disaffectedness of the modern individual.

In addition to the betting sites, poet and twitterer Luis Panini, has shared numerous writers he thinks are deserving of the Nobel Prize for Literature. a smorgasbord of eclectic tastes, Panini’s concise citation and rationale for each writer is captivating. Some of the writers, Panini has named are:

The Spanish Poet, Olvido Garcia Valdes.
The Mexican novelists and essayist, Margo Glantz
The French novelists, Éric Chevillard
The postmodern Spanish Joycean writer, Julián Ríos
The French poet, Claire Malroux

Yet one of the writers who I found most touching that was mentioned by Luis Panini was the Quebecois Canadian writer, Jacques Poulin, whose novels are always a tonic. Poulin’s style is crystalline like a winter pond frozen and translucent but revealing previously unapproachable depths. As a writer, Poulin celebrates the everyday and commonplace by recounting characters habits and routines, but also probing their rich interior lives with matter-of-fact certainty. Cats and women slip into his novels with casual grace and charm, as do unpretentious conversations on books, damaged and abandoned individuals also find themselves tugged into the orbit, creating a strange motley crew of happenstance, which gradually becomes a patchwork quilt of a surrogate family (here’s to thinking about “Wild Cat,” and “Mister Blue.”). The recipes for Poulin’s success appear to be the calm, deliberate and natural pace of his novels, his characters realism, their habitual lives, and eccentricities, and of course that wry sense of humour can charm and lull all readers, like a cat purring contently while contemplating when to strike back. All of that said, Poulin is not a lightweight sentimentalist. Through daily rituals and their celebrations, the author provides rhetoric and ruminations on the nature of writing, the inherent human need to tell stories, the beauty and nuance of language, and the requirement of solitude; while delving into the nature of human connections, and our enduring capacity for attraction, love, and kinship. “Spring Tides,” by Poulin is a marvelous example of Poulin being a philosophical parabolist, who wrote with the lightest of touches only to devastate in the final pages. Jacques Poulin is an unimposing writer, which seems to be a rarity, a writer whose mark is invisible, but whose narratives of quiet reality, personal pains, and empathetic touching’s are not sentimental, but luminous of the ordinary features of the human condition, as the individual sails through life. To see that Luis Panini mentioned Jacques Poulin was endearing, and I personally found it rather heartwarming.

—The End—

As October 6th approaches its truly a blind man’s shell game as to who will receive the Nobel prize for Literature. Currently there is great confidence that a French language writer will be this years Nobel Laureate. Those suspicions and inclinations can only be confirmed on October 6th, when Mats Malm the current Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy comes forward announces the winner and the following citation, and then scuttling back, while (at least according to precedence) members of the Swedish Academy’s Nobel Committee (which Anders Olsson is chair) come forward to read from the lectern and take some questions from journalists.

Since the 2018 Scandal and Crisis, which was further complicated by the Pandemic in the previous two years, there has been a noticeable change in how the Swedish Academy delivers the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the subsequent atmosphere. The previous Permanent Secretaries (Horace Engdhal, Peter Englund and Sara Danius) delivered the announcement with statesmen chivalry, contained excitement, and regal grace. Each Permanent Secretary exited those grand white doors with the gold trim, into a small barricaded square where they were greeted by a room full of journalists, cameras and microphones, chandeliers of crystal hanging raining down. The scene is truly grand in scope and spectacle, and rightfully so. This set up is partially what grants the Nobel Prize for Literature such distinction. It’s framed within the realms of ‘exclusivity,’ based on our sociological and cultural conditioning of what grandeur looks like. When Horace Engdahl, Peter Englund, and Sara Danius read out the year’s Laureate, the room would either remain silent or erupt in jovial glee. There was often a palpable sense of welcomed surprise and delight, as seen in 2007 with Doris Lessing, 2011 with Tomas Tranströmer, 2013 with Alice Munro, 2015 with Svetlana Alexievich; while other writers such as 2014 Patrick Modiano, where silence reigned but curiosity was piqued. Despite each Permanent Secretary attending to their responsibilities of announcement differently, they each understood within the moment that the room orbited around them, but there is a sense of enjoyment in how they held court. Peter Englund practically bouncing up and down with excitement eager to answer questions and discuss; Horace Engdahl politely answering the questions with a measure pace ensuring sufficient answers were provided; and Sara Danius always poised and professional answering questions with a grace and charm, and never flustered as in the case when she found herself finding it difficult to pronounce Svetlana Alexievich’s name in English. Rather then getting frustrated Danius paused and rehearsed in her head before continuing. As 2015 was then Permanent Secretary Sara Danius’s debut, I found her handling of the entire affair professional and admirable.

Yet now Mats Malm skulks to a scantly populated room (I’m sure the Pandemic played a role in the few attendees), recites the laureates name, and then bows out into the shadow for Anders Olsson to climb to the pulpit like a discount preacher to deliver a lengthy sermon and then take questions from the few journalists in the room. It’s a god-awful affair. I am not sure if in the wake of the 2018 Scandal and Crisis that the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy took the ensuring power vacuum to usurp the previous public relations role of the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, or if by decree of the Nobel Foundation vested more authority into the Nobel Committee within the operations of the Swedish Academy, though I doubt it, as the Nobel Foundation always seemed more hands-off in approach, though they did express concerns to the Swedish Academy’s conduct during the crisis. No, the current power move by the Nobel Committee seems to be more an internal coup spearheaded Anders Olsson, who also happens to be Chair of the Nobel Committee and was the former pro-tempo Permanent Secretary. Ultimately, the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature appears to be an otherwise muted—even boring—affair, reminiscent of those tiresome and exhaustive childhood marathons where one is forced to endure the sermons of the legendarily dull, who continue to drone on and on with their endless decrees, peppered with pontifications of half-ass piety. Where Horace Engdal, Peter Englund, and Sara Danius enjoyed the affairs, moving with improvisation and spontaneous answering of the questions being posed to them; this dry lectureship delivery fails to inspire. Here’s hoping this current method of delivery and post-announcement interview and discussion will recede away and bring forth a few more dynamic and exciting procedure again.

With only a week away now, there is a sense of anticipation and growing excitement. since the 2018 Scandal and Crisis, there have been fewer and fewer leaks regarding who will win the Nobel Prize for Literature, which is evident in the betting sites produced odds, often going after regular writers who are seen as likely potential candidates, though some of them have since died (Javier Marias and Hilary Mantel) which disqualifies them from consideration as the award cannot be granted posthumously; exceptions have been applied in rare circumstances, when Laureates have died within days of the announcement or after the laureate has been announced.

As for expectations for next week’s announcement, it is recommended to take a tempered approach with no preconceived notion. There are, of course, great writers who have been deemed perennial candidates (Jon Fosse, Anne Carson, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Krasznahorkai László, Bei Dao), but as Adunis, Ivan Klima, and Milan Kundera provide exemplary testimony to, being a perennial candidate, even international literary sensation and genius, does not necessarily tip the scales in their favour, with Javier Marias, Amos Oz, and Antonio Tabucchi reminding us that death calls faster then the Swedish Academy. This all being said of course does not detract the awards delights, when the Swedish Academy decides to operate eccentrically and interesting, they often award truly unspoken and unknown writers of great intrigue (Herta Müller and Patrick Modiano), which always makes for an enjoyable new writer to discover and read. While other times, the Swedish Academy makes otherwise questionable choices or less compelling decisions. Yet, if I had to pick only five writers that I would be excited about receiving this year’s award—I would of course first argue that that is a difficult decision, which has so man variables involved in deciding who to pick, let alone change on a daily (even hourly) basis—yet that being said, I think the five writers that I would enjoy seeing receiving this years award are as follows (at least by today’s thinking):

Ogawa Yōko
Ersi Sotiropolous
Agi Mishol
Doris Kareva
Gyrðir Elíasson

Then of course, I want to add Fleur Jaeggy, which reminds me of Magdalena Tulli—truly marvelous writers!—then I am reminded of the elegant and eloquent Olga Sedakova who reminds me of the bewitchingly dark and fantastic Lyudmila Petrushevskaya; and then of course, I wonder about the exclusion on Jon Fosse and Annie Ernaux, I’ve enjoyed both of their works for very different reasons, Fosse always reminds me of a winter coastline with its low hanging overcast skies and foreboding though calm grey waters; while Annie Ernaux’s social cartograph via the personal context has truly mapped the ethnographic evolution of western (or more precisely French society) through the 20th Century; few writers are able to capture the ephemeral sensation of the passage of time quite like Ernaux.

As for Gyrðir Elíasson and Ogawa Yōko, they are truly interesting writers. Gyrðir Elíasson is a prolific writer in Iceland, with one collection of his renowned stories translated into English. Elíasson considers himself as a poet first and foremost, can easily be gleamed within his prose, his short stories showcase Elíasson masterful craftsmanship for condensed language and ability to provide tension through effective shading, colouring, and detail, which shadows the narratives with alien unease, the continual dread of the unknown. Ogawa Yōko, in turn has had limited appeal and exposure in the English language, which has only provided a scant overview of her diverse oeuvre; while in French, however, Ogawa has been widely translated and appreciated, providing an extensive understanding and overview of her bibliography. In English, Ogawa has been mistakenly marketed by misguided publishers as the female Murakami. Ogawa Yōko, is by far more grotesquely subtle and diverse in her thematic concerns and preoccupations. Whereas Murakami Haruki wrote about the alienation, isolation, of the solitary man in the modern post-capitalist society; Ogawa tackled themes of absence, memory, amnesia, dissociation, and the transient nature of existence, the grotesque macabre void of madness lurking just beneath the thin cellophane idea of reality. I suspect the Nobel Prize for literature would increase interest and translation of both of these writers into English, which would be a welcomed treat, as both are quite prolific.

Yet, when it comes to the Nobel Prize for Literature, there is always hope and a personal selfish desire for a surprise, an unknown, unaccounted for writer, who emerges from obscurity while the press and the world goes: “Who?” in unison. Nothing is more delightful than the Swedish Academy throwing caution to the wind and flipping the bird to external expectations.

Until October 6th Gentle Reader.

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

For Further Reading & Consideration—

David Remnick – “It’s Time For Salman Rushdie’s Nobel Prize,”
DW – "Salman Rushdie - Writing Under Death Threats," (Documentary)

Jeff Simon: "Restore the luster of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Give it to Salman Rushdie," 

Betting Sites: Betting Sites Odds 

Luis Paini on Twitter: 



  1. Thanks for all the posts on the Nobel. As I am new to Birdcage, you now have another loyal fan. Very excited already but even more so after reading your brilliant thoughts.

    1. Hello Scott, Thank you for reading and enjoying! Here's hoping for an exciting surprise for next week's Nobel Prize for Literature's announcement.

      M. Mary