The Birdcage Archives

Sunday, 29 January 2023

– XII –

Those who dispense advise so easily don’t give good advice. They’re only providing commentary.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Welcome to the Rubber Room

Hello Gentle Reader,

The term ‘Rubber Room,’ conjures images of institutional padded rooms, whose purpose is punitive in nature. Literature, film, television have promoted the image of a white institutional windowless room covered in protective padding as the defining hallmark of incarceration in a psychiatric facility. Be it “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” or “Girl Interrupted,” or “The Green Mile,” these rooms are cast in a menacing light. Their sole purpose is to be penal even grossly vindictive. From this image the connotations of “Chill Out Room,” “Quiet Room,” “Seclusion Room,” “Time Out Room,” and “Rubber Room,” summons an isolative cell where one is tossed into to go mad. The image is associative of the restraint and isolation of psychiatric penal detention as both application and an inherent prescription of instructional treatment. Insanity can be inherited and curated. Yet the term ‘Rubber Room,’ has gained a new associative meaning, specifically in the New York City Department of Education.

While searching the archives of This American Life, I stumbled across an episode from February 2008 called: “Human Resources,” where the program investigates the strange world of institutions who hold immeasurable authority and power over individuals lives. This is why the episode is so aptly named: ‘Human Resources.’ My personal and professional disdain exhibited and harbored towards the profession of human resources is well documented and known. Recently, I called it a profession lacking in both character and form, an empire whose foundational elements are so vague they are alchemical in spirit while being completely nonexistent. Yet, the episode of This American Life starts with a prologue where Ira Glass talks with a veteran Human Resources administrator, who Ira Glass classified as a human resources ‘executioner’. This administrator held the position of being a coordinator of employee’s severance and termination from the company. A bit of background: it was the cusp of the new millennium and the novelty of the internet boom had waned and the economic repercussions from 9/11 had settled, and this human resources administrator was tasked with reducing a large cell centre workforce During a period of 5-6 years, this administrator had the unfortunate task of being the professional who informed employees that the organization was severing their employment. In a twisted fate of corporate irony during the end of the process the administrator himself was terminated. The administrator describes the process with palpable tension. Entering a nondescript office building, the atmosphere tense and uncomfortable, and as you walk by these rows of cubicles the eyes of employees follow you with apprehension and suspicion. In short something is up. Much like the butcher casually strolling through the chicken coop, so does this administrator, with the understanding the coop is being culled. At Ira Glass’s request, the administrator walks him through the process of being severed, simulating the conversation of being terminated. A consummate professional the administrator spoke low, soft, and went through an established speech. There was no blame, no argumentative components, no aggressive tactics, just a level and soft explanation of the situation followed by a review of what is described as a generous and fair severance package.

The administrator in question is a consummate professional. Who despite his chosen profession, remains amicable, even empathetic in his discussion regarding his time as being a human resources executioner--which it should be noted he took no enjoyment in, as the administrator went so far as to describe it a very depressing period of his professional career. This episode of This American Life then turned towards the main element of the episode, the supposed “Rubber Rooms,” used by the New York City Department of Education to hold and house teachers who have been accused of professional misconduct. Like a penitentiary or holding cell, the teachers find themselves in an indiscriminate office building with rooms and chairs. It is here they spend their days doing nothing. Of course, some read, some play cards, some sleep, while others visit and talk. Yet through the interviews with numerous individuals who found themselves remanded into these Rubber Rooms, seating arrangements took on a greater meaning. New initiates are oriented regarding the proprietary nature of a chair. Seating became the sole patch of earth one could stake out and claim as their own. In the process establishing a pecking order. A social structure within the amorphous purgatory of the Rubber Room.

The Rubber Rooms deployed by the New York City Department of Education, have been satirized and mocked via a variety of different mediums, including political cartoons and “The Simpsons.” Yet I listened to this episode with a combination of pity and disgust. The teachers who were being remanded into these facilities each had their own story. Some obviously engaged in inappropriate conduct, such as losing their temper and throwing a chair against a blackboard. Others had more human moments of indiscretion, such as letting a cuss word slip out when talking with a colleague in earshot of students. Then there were others whose reasons were pettier in form, as in the case of one teacher who said she had a personality conflict with the school principal. Regardless of the reason or the severity of their act each educator found themselves placed in a situation which became increasingly Kafkaesque in nature. As the existence of Rubber Rooms became more ubiquitous and infamous, a documentary was later filmed and made regarding their existence. The film itself revealed a education system which no longer seeks to facilitate or inspire or nurture education as a value, or lifelong learning as a principle. Instead, it reveals an anarchist state of social depravation, which is further condoned and promoted by willfully breaking the spirit and professional souls of educators. If school is the foundation of a function society. Then then New York City Department of Education reveals a system in ruin beyond repair.

The issue I took with the Rubber Rooms was not to critique the hollowed out remains of the New York City Department of Education; it was an immediate revulsion directed towards the profession of human resources. The very same profession veiling itself in the vague nebulous vagrancy of a defined profession. Though it cloaks itself with the corporate trends and buzz words, remaining indefinite in shape and character, just a superficial profession teetering on the point of irrelevancy. Yet perhaps the only anchor point of human resources is the entrenched understanding that the profession and business unit exist to be the heart of labour relations. In essence that corporate bridge between the corporation and the employee. In essence the faceless and soulless conglomerate and the individual employee, whereby it operates as the mediator between the two’s interests, ensuring fair play and compliance with pertinent employment and labour laws. It comes as no surprise that employee’s distrust and loath human resources, who as a function of the corporation will enact resolutions which are considered corporate centric. Such resolutions cannot be found as fault to a profession, however. Loyalty is an act all parties will subscribe to in order to maintain their position. This function also means that human resources is involved in the severance of employees from the organization, as previously mentioned in the prologue of this episode of This American Life. Business textbooks list the functions of human resources as: recruitment, onboarding, training and learning development, labour relations, and facilitation of employee exit. Then the endorsement and utilization of Rubber Rooms as a form of remand facility and detention centre for teachers who have allegedly engaged in a form of professional misconduct, becomes a distorted and disturbing Beckettian stage displaying just how absurd and disturbed the human resources profession is.

The description of these Rubber Rooms is best summarized as some absurd hellscape from within a Beckett play. Yet, they become thorough examples of the incompetence exhibited by the human resources profession. The establishment of Rubber Rooms and the complacent acceptance of their utilization shows a profession that has no professional interest in operating within its own vague mandate and maintain one of its own professional principles. It’s an insult to imagine that these educated professionals are left to languish in some bureaucratic exile, where they fill their days with nothing. The whole concept is absurd. I can’t imagine what defense or rationale could be provided to justify this practice. As a citizen of New York City, I would be appalled, I would be disgusted that an institution would engage in this kind of unprofessional practice, while keeping these educated professionals on the payroll, and paying them to do nothing. These are qualified educational professionals, whose talents and education could be redeployed or exercises in a variety of other measures. Yet instead, they are paid a salary to do nothing, to engage in nothing. All I can think is what a waste. A waste of public funds and a waste of such professional talent, who are left to languish in some penal purgatory. What is most infuriating through this entire process is viewed as normal. When This American Life asked a high-ranking labour relations representative from the Department of Education about the Rubber Rooms deployment as a solution, the representative appeared to shrug the question off and encourage an endorsement of the term: Reassignment Centre. Regardless of what semantic spin one wants to put on these institutionalized bull pens of nothingness, they are a disgrace to the professionals detained within those buildings and should be considered a blight and embarrassment to the human resources profession.

The Rubber Rooms remain an example of what is truly rotten at the core of human resources as a profession and should provide the corporate world with enough stock to evaluate what value and benefit such as a business unit brings to the organization. If any organization is looking for a special breed of leech like professional capable of syphoning funds from the organization while enacting Kafkaesque and Beckettian bureaucratic solutions to labour relations issues, then yes keep human resources on your payroll and in your organizational chart. While in turn the revelation of the Rubber Rooms and their continued utilization (now remotely with the rise of the pandemic), only affirms a deep-seated disgust and outrage against a profession whose qualities and functions were always in question prior.

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

M. Mary

If you would like listen to that episode of This American Life, please see the following link: 

This American Life: Human Resources


Monday, 16 January 2023

Ronald Blythe, Dies Aged 100

Hello Gentle Reader,

The English countryside remains one of the most pastoral and romanticized landscapes in the world, becoming an infinite fountain of inspiration. One can only wonder how many roses have been endowed with odes adoration and tossed at lovers’ feet; how many daisies confessed the love me not and endured the love me; or how many trees have shaded poets, haunted painters, inspired scientists, or assaulted mathematicians. The English countryside remains the ideal. The portrait of pastoral perfection. It exists in cinematic nostalgic tinted dreams which is affirmed through such cinematic portrayals as the Dens in “All Creatures Great and Small,” or the picturesque, lush detail in “Downton Abbey,” and affirmed by many literary adaptions of Jane Austen or the Brontës. The most recent adaption of “Jane Eyre,” in 2011, provides wonderful homage to the windswept moors so beloved by Emily Brontë. The English countryside remains an eternal remark of beauty, an image, dream, and ideal ascended into the heavenly principles of the idyllic. Many writers have provided reflections and commentary on the English countryside, affirming its status as impeachable beauty, including W.G. Sebald, Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf, and of course the remarkable farmer and nature writer John Lewis-Stempel. Yet, sadly amongst them is the overlooked sleeping green giant of Ronald Blythe, whose career was formulated around the English countryside and nature, and in turn celebrated it. Though Blythe wrote fiction including the novel “A Treasonable Growth,” a collection of short stories, Blythe preferred to think of himself as a poet and an essayist above all else. His crowning achievement “Akenfield,” remains a classic and quintessential book celebrating English rural and village life and has vastly overshadowed all of Ronald Blythe’s other achievements. His columns and reflections deserve special attention though as they are perhaps most representative of Blythe’s work, grasping the full potential of essay as prose for art form and exploration, rather than academic edicts, or didactics. Perhaps unfortunately his later work was published by smaller independent presses, who valued his insight and personal form, while larger publishers were more interested in reissuing his earlier works, especially “Akenfield.” In addition to his literary career and prodigious column writing, Ronald Blythe was an editor, curator, and reference librarian. All in all, not to bad for a man whose formal education ended when he was 14 years old, but a love reading, voracious unquenchable hunger for the written word and a tutelage in the sanctuary of nature, provided him all the material he needed to fashion himself a literary corner. It didn’t of course hurt that Blythe came into company and tutorship of some of the more bohemian writers and artists of the 20th Century, including an aged EM Forster. More interestingly, he had a one-night stand with the famous poet of apprehension Patricia Highsmith, and the two had a mutual acquaintanceship during Highsmith’s stay in the English country. Future nature writers such as the rugged Robert Macfarlane and environmentally conscious Roger Deakins came to befriend Ronald Blythe. Despite all of this, Ronald Blythe remains an intensely private figure. One whose relationships were never gossiped about or hinted in his work.

As a writer, Ronald Blythe remains a singular vision of the rural English countrymen writer. One whose preoccupation for the natural landscapes is both at odds with the increasingly urbanized world, and yet completely celebratory in what maybe mistakenly defined as simple living. An admiration for the natural and celebration of the mundane remain noteworthy and are in need of a greater audience. Truly a marvelous giant of quiet and passionate literature.

Rest in Peace Ronald Blythe.

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

M. Mary

I must say, I look forward to finding your work in the near future and reading it with anticipation and pleasure.

For further reading, please see this wonderful article by The Guardian, and two wonderful celebrations by the BBC and The Daily Mail

The Guardian: Ronald Blythe Obituary

BBC: Suffolk nature writer Ronald Blythe dies aged 100

The Daily Mail: Beloved Author of Akenfield Ronald Blythe Celebrates his 100th birthday and appeals for the world to 'slow down'

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

Charles Simic, Dies Aged 84

Hello Gentle Reader,
Charles Simic was a singular lyrical poet, who was renowned for his refined and precise poetry. His epiphanic and concentrated poems were laced with his signature gallows humour. This dark sense of the absurd is credited to coming from Simic’s upbringing throughout the 20th Century, which includes the uncomfortably unified Yugoslavia (Charles Simic, is biographically defined as Serbian born American), and the Second World War. Simic would arrive in the United States at the age of 15 and didn’t begin to write in his adoptive language of English until he was in his twenties. It is perhaps due to this dual upbringing—a mere juxtaposition of perspectives and reality—which made Charles Simic such a singular and independent poet, one whose poetry encompassed not only historical resonance, violence, irony, and gallows humour with a penchant for the absurd, but also a consummate poetic stylist of deadpan delivery and a precision in language, which as the Griffin Poetry Prize judges stated: “[ . . . ] should never be mistaken for simplicity.” Charles Simic proved to be a singular visionary poet in contemporary American poetry, one whose fractured dichotomy of voices blended in both harmony and cacophony with equal measure. Simic would go on to receive the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for his poetry collection: “The World Doesn’t End: Prose Poems,” he was a previous finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 and 1987. Simic was prolific as he was renowned, with the rare gift of being able to maintain a high standard of quality in conjunction with prodigious production. Simic was also a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant. In addition to his poetry, he was an accomplished translator and curator of such marvelous writers into the English language, including Vasko Popa and Tomaž Šalamun. The past five or more years, Nobel Speculation had Charles Simic ranked high as a potential laureate. Recent speculation theorized there were internal discussions of weight between Louise Glück and Charles Simic. It wouldn’t be surprising if that were the case. Both poets are staunchly independent in both vision and execution. Louise Glück is austere and private, etching the personal through the prism of experience into the universal; while Charles Simic was expansive in view, vision, and articulation, his poetry encompassed the macro and the profound profanity of the eternal experience of the human condition, while providing commentary on both the personal and the mundane. They shared a similar use of language though deviated in application, with Glück being austere and steely in strict adherence to trim and exact poetry etched into eternity; while Simic ensured language was precise enough to become the borehole burrowing into time, entering the endless and infinite. To add to Simic’s distinguished literary career as accomplished and prizewinning poet, Charles Simic was a renowned university professor, essayist, and contributor to magazines, being an equally refined critic. Truly the literary world mourns an extraordinary poet, whose singular and independent vision truly was his own.
Rest in Peace Charles Simic.
Thank-you for Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
M. Mary 

Thursday, 5 January 2023

The Nobel Prize in Literature Nominations 1972

Hello Gentle Reader,

The 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to the German author Heinrich Böll:

"For his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature."

Böll was one of the most important Post-World War II German writers of the 20th Century. Born in 1917, Heinrich Böll's upbringing was tainted and framed by the backdrop of war, ruin, and exhaustion. He was raised in a catholic and pacifist family, who resisted and opposed the thuggish and dangerous ideals of the Nazis, where Böll refused to join the Hitler Youth in the 1930s. Nonetheless he was conscripted into the German army (Wehrmacht) regardless during the Second World War, and would serve the tail end of the war in a prisoner-of-warm camp. Heinrich Böll's experiences during the war, his religious convictions, and his pacifist views are the defining and influential components of his literary career. As a writer, Heinrich Böll is renowned for being a scrutinizer in grappling with Germany's recent history, especially that of the Nazi era, as the atrocities and human rights violations became public knowledge, such as the horrors of the holocaust and other state sanctioned and approved programs of eugenics, genocide, fascist violence, and the corruption of the national soul. This inevitably meant that Heinrich Böll was a controversial writer for the German people. As Post-War Germany was split between the democratic West Germany and the Soviet satellite state East Germany (the German Democratic Republic), the inevitable consequences of a polarized post-war landscape. Yet for the German people, how does one come to terms and reconcile the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis. As a writer Heinrich Böll wrote and worked to come to terms with the rubble, ruin, and aftermath of the Second World War and how the horrors of the war need to be tended too, preserving the memory and expressing both the profound existential guilt felt by the German people. Rather then let the horrors of the Second World War fall into silence and covered in the dust of taboo, Heinrich Böll took on the mantel of national conscience in order to curate the memorialisation of the Second World War's atrocities, grappling with the guilt, grief, suffering and regret of German society, and working towards reconciliation and remediation of this past through atonement. Heinrich Böll is one of the most important and venerated writers of his generation.

Through the late 1960's and into the 1970's, the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Prize for Literature had begun to mature in its mandate, as some of the greatest laureates and writers of the time were being recognized with the Nobel. Of course, controversy follows all Nobels in some capacity or another. The 1970 and 1971 Nobels were initially politically controversial in nature, but have since become recognized as standing recognition of both great poetry and literary as historically relevant, palpable and conscious. The Nobel Prize for Literature, is routinely criticized for its snubs, which includes classics such as Leo Tolstoy, James Joyce, and Vladimir Nabokov, and more contemporary writers such as: Adunis, Inger Christensen, and Philip Larkin. Perhaps the biggest challenge the Swedish Academy faces when it comes to the Nobel Prize in Literature, is not necessarily finding a worthy laureate, it’s a matter of agreeing on one. As the records for the Nobel Prize in Literature are released and available for public review, trends can be discerned from the findings. Including perpetual Nobel bridesmaids such as: W.H. Auden and Andre Malraux, who despite continued nominations and advocacy, were ultimately denied the Nobel Prize in Literature. As Jorge Luis Borges lamented: "Not granting me the Nobel Prize has become a Scandinavian tradition; since I was born, they have not been granting it to me." In 1972 W.H Auden received the most nominations for the prize with 10 nominations, and Andre Malraux received 6 nominations for the award. Furthermore, this was the 23rd year Malraux would be nominated for the prize.

In total 101 writers were suggested for the prize in 1972, which was higher then the previous two years (1971 had 91 writers; 1970 had 77 writers), but was still shy of eclipsing the 104 writers of nominated in 1969. Those nominated for this year's award included future laureates:

Patrick White – 1973                                       William Golding - 1983
Evyind Johnson – 1974                                    Claude Simon - 1985
Harry Martinson – 1974                                   Nadine Gordimer - 1991
Eugenio Montale – 1975                                  Günter Grass - 1999
Saul Bellow – 1976                                          V.S. Naipual – 2001
Odysseas Elytis – 1979                                    Doris Lessing - 2007
Elias Canetti – 1981                                        

Henrich Böll the laureate for 1972, received a total of 8 nominations, making him the second most nominated writer behind W.H Auden. Curiously, Günter Grass received 4 nominations as did Patrick White. 1972 also marked the first time many future winners would be nominated for the award, which included the aforementioned Doris Lessing, who once recalled the infamous story of a how member of the Swedish Academy informer her that she would never receive the prize. It also includes many perennial candidates who like W.H. Auden and Andrea Malraux would be considered Nobel bridesmaids. This included a young Philip Roth and Norman Mailer. Yet only five women were nominated for the prize in 1972:

Nadine Gordimer
Doris Lessing
Astrid Lindgren
Marie Under
Anna Seghers

Of the five women nominated, two of them would eventually receive the prize. The Estonian poet Marie Under would die in 1980. The German writer and memoirist Anna Seghers would die in 1983. Astrid Lindgren, however, proved to be a curious nomination. It is common knowledge that Astrid Lindgren was debated and discussed within the Swedish Academy for many years, with her supporters in the academy being Knut Ahnlund and Lars Gyllensten, and her detractors being Artur Lundkvist and Erik Lönnroth. Yet, 1972 would mark the first time Lindgren was nominated for the prize by four German academics, which began to affirm that Lindgren was being considered as a serious writer of truth, morality, humanistic vision, and pathos, who was able to deliver and discuss these existential questions with children, through accessible and deep narratives. In addition to her widely acclaimed and successful work in children's literature, Astrid Lindgren was an accomplished essayist, whose articles shaped and changed public opinion, advocated for policy changes or initiatives, and was a voice of progressive conscious within Sweden.

Once again two members of the Swedish Academy: Evyind Johnson and Harry Martinson were been nominated for the award, by another member of the academy and former laureate Pär Lagerkvist, proves to raise further questions and apprehensive responses from the academy itself, with Artur Lundkvist providing concern and forewarning to the notion. Pär Lagerkvist was a renowned 20th Century Swedish writer, known for his striking work in moralist fiction, exploring the complex nature of good and evil through such works as "The Dwarf," and "Barabbas." Despite using Christian motifs, symbols, and figures, Lagerkvist did not subscribe to promoting or spreading a specific indoctrinating Christian message, rather he explored the complexities of the nature of altruism and good against the shadow of evil and immoral actions. When Lagerkvist was awarded the prize in 1951, there was little to no controversy despite him being a member of the Swedish Academy. Time and circumstance may have played to the lack of controversy and criticism, as Europe still found itself recuperating from the Second World War, and the Nobel Prize for Literature was still gaining momentum in becoming the event that is today. By the 1970's however the winds have already changed and Artur Lundkvist cautioned the inward-looking perspective some members of the Swedish Academy were taking with the prize, which included Pär Lagerkvist who nominated by Evying Johnson and Harry Martinson for the 1972 prize. As Lundkvist states [rough translation]:

"It is not only highly respectable but almost inevitable that Mr. Lagerkvist, as a former Swedish Nobel laureate within the Academy, in this way insists on yet another Nobel Prize for an academy colleague. But in its ultimate consequence it involves the prospect of recurring rewards to academy members, and that is something that, in my view, should be avoided. [. . .] My opinion is that one should think very carefully before awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature to a Swede at all, and that in the current situation there is a special reason why this does not happen." 

When Evyind Johnson and Harry Martinson shared the prize in 1974, Artur Lundkvist's concern became prediction, as outrage poured in at how the academy could be so arrogant as to award its own members the prize. Lundkvist was wise enough to caution and discourage the academy from awarding its own members and colleagues, but also took into consideration further allegations of bias if Nordic (more specifically) Swedish writers routinely received the award. After the debacle of 1974 award, it would another 37 years before another Swedish writer would receive the prize, Tomas Tranströmer, whose award was heralded as recognition of one of the most important Swedish language poets of the time. A true poetic master of harmony and metaphor. With Lundkvist's forewarning about awarding academy members, it will be interesting to see what the deliberations looked liked for 1974, and if the academy was truly unified behind its decision, and if Evyind Johnson and Harry Martinson protested the decision as members of the academy.

The shortlist for the 1972 Nobel prize in Literature was as follows:

Heinrich Böll
Patrick White
Eugenio Montale
Günter Grass

There were discussions about sharing the prize between Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass in 1972, which is astounding considering Günter Grass was only 45 years old at the time, but had already published his foundational forming Danzing Trilogy ("The Tin Drum," "Cat and Mouse," and "Dog Days,"). It was decided not split the award between the two writers, as shared awards lead to the optics and speculation that neither writer was capable enough of receiving the award on their own merit. In essence a shared award cheapens the prize for both writers. The then Permanent Secretary Karl Ragnar Gierow did not feel that Grass completely comparable to Heinrich Böll. Though both writers wrote extensively about the postwar landscape of Germany, they both deviated in how to discuss it. Böll was a recognized pacifist, who became the moral compass and consciences for German society after the Second World War in order to prevent the atrocities from becoming taboo subject matter. Whereas Günter Grass is credited for being a major writer to introduce magical realism into European literature. His black fables incorporated fantastical imagery and scenarios into his work, which became a catalyst for German language literature in the 20th Century, marking both departure and new beginnings. Yet in 1972, the decision was to award the more statesmen Heinrich Böll. Günter Grass would wait a further 27 years before receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Curiously, all of the shortlisted writers for the year 1972 would go on to receive the prize. The Australian master Patrick White (who is ranked amongst some of the great late modernist and early postmodernists writers, such as Vladimir Nabokov and Samuel Beckett) would go on to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973. Artur Lundkvist would be his champion in 1972, who openly admitted he would prefer to have seen White take the prize over Böll. The great Italian poet Eugenio Montale also found himself shortlisted for 1972 and would go on to receive the prize in 1975. Montale's Nobel is often overlooked, but at the time he was a crowning statesman of Italian poetry, a chameleon who changed colour, texture, and spirit through the tumultuous decades of Italian history in the 20th Century, each time venturing onto a new poetic course.

As for the 1972, Nobel Prize in Literature, Heinrich Böll remains a well received laureate who in addition to aging well, remains known for his contributions for Post-War German language literature, and being a moralistic figure of Germany coming to terms with the atrocities committed during the Second World War. In addition to this Heinrich Böll remains an associate of future Nobel Laureates in Literature, including the shortlisted Günter Grass and Peter Handke. It is also clear during this time, as evident in the shortlist, the Swedish Academy began to take a 'long game,' approach to the prize, reviewing authors of great interest and taking a wait and see approach, reviewing their continued outputs. This has been a speculated fact about the Swedish Academy for ages, as it has been reported that Tomas Tranströmer was nominated for the prize from 1990 and until 2011 when he finally won the award. Even then though, the Swedish Academy may have been motivated to award him due to his advanced age and poor health, and it would have been considered a now or never award. Thankfully they made the right call. All of the writers on this year's shortlist had been nominated frequently before—Heinrich Böll only missed being nominated in 1971 and 1967—but with the publication of his now classic novel, "Group Portrait with Lady," proved to be a decisive factor in his laureateship.

The Nominations and archives for the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1972, prove that the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Prize have begun establish themselves as a curating body seeking to take a global approach to recognizing accomplished writers. Their mandate is broad, ambiguous, with often flawed execution and mixed results, but these new glimpses and insights into their workings, exemplify the tremendous amount of effort they put into their deliberations and discussion, and the otherwise impossible task they shoulder. Unsurprisingly, there is a bit of bureaucratic back and forth and procedural processes and protocols, but in all observing the academy come into to its own mandate during these contemporary years gives some insight into how the current assembled academy operates.

Thank you for Reading Gentle
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary