The Birdcage Archives

Sunday 27 August 2023

– XIX –

Beware of ex-smokers. They are firebrand converts, who will persecute, preach, and propagate with such zealotry, one is left in awe at the relentless rabid fervor they display in their pursuit of converting others to abandon the temptation of cigarettes and walk the fields of an unencumbered righteous healthy lifestyle.

Friday 25 August 2023

Nobel Prize in Literature 2023 Speculation List


Mia Couto – Mozambique – The revolution needs its poems, is how Mia Couto ended up involved with the Mozambique Liberation Front (or Frelimo). Some otherwise juniour poems were published in a magazine, which provided the basis for Couto's literary talents, providing a young Couto to cement his involvement with the liberation front. It was an odd position to be in, one in which Mia Couto was ostensibly aware. As a child of migrants from Portugal, Mia Couto was aware of his privilege of being white in an African nation, and yet, never viewed himself as being separate or above his neighbours and countrymen. Couto's parents ensured that he socialized and integrated with the country and its locals, never once segregated or removed from them. In this regard for Mia Couto, Mozambique is not postcolonial or colonial, but home and family, which are important distinction. The revolution needs its poems, and since then Mia Couto has been the most renowned and distinct chronicler of Mozambique. His literary career intwined with the nation's history and independence, celebrating all its antiheros and ordinary people who are swept up in the macro chaos of the world, which includes violence, isolation, and modernity, which creates the possibility for rifts in reality to form, which become the hallmarks of Couto's writing. The otherworldly, the magical, and supernatural, are ubiquitous elements to the African reality, stemming from superstition, witchcraft, religious practices, and folklore. Stylistically, language is one of the most noticeable features of Mia Couto's renown, having infused a distinct Mozambican flare into the Portuguese, evolving the colonial language into one which is no longer overseeing a colony, but adapting to its new independence. Couto's first foray into prose and short stories, presented this evolved Portuguese, which caused as significant stir both in Mozambique and Portugal. This hybridization and transfusion of cultures and identities mercurially shifting in the linguistic realms. This is why Mia Couto is often referred to as the 'smuggler writer.' The ability to 'borrow,' or 'smuggle,' words and meanings from other languages and transplant them into a new cultural or linguistic context expands languages potential and capability, while refreshing both an interaction with language and reality, while invigorating another perspective. In a world continually obsessed with fracturing and compartmentalizing everything into specific pre-defined elements of authenticity, Mia Couto becomes the necessary example to show that a writer is a medium of possibilities and experiences, coalescing the imagined into narratives and stories beyond ones own lived experience, but still be able to recount the significance of the events with gravitas and empathy. A writer who has continually faced challenges of 'authenticity,' over his lacking credentials as an Africa, Couto admirably revolts against the charges of appropriation and petty identity politics, all the while embracing literature's ability to coalesce what may be viewed as distinct and divisive identities that compete and are beyond compatibility, into one simple concept of the singular human condition, in all its kaleidoscope like wonder.

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,” an account and reportage of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose appointment was to bring to light and reconcile the political abuses under the previous apartheid regime in South Africa. "Country of My Skull," recounts the hearings conducted by the commission, but also its own follies and public scandals (As any political commission will inevitably have). "Country of My Skull," is not entirely a nonfiction account of the commissions hearings, the often disturbing and violent testimonies by witnesses, but also the inherent sense of collective guilt, responsibility, and anguish felt by the Afrikaners who were now greeted with the entirety of the horrors committed by the previous system, and who in turn suffered because of it. "Country of My Skull," is a panoramic account, straddling the political and the personal, finding a country divided between scorched earth policies and segregation, uncomfortably working towards a common future.

Boubacar Boris Diop – Senegal – 2021 was the year in which African and migratory literature took centre stage of the literary community. 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 recipient for 2022. As a Neustadt Prize Winner, Boubacar Boris Diop is in great company and his Neustadt win should only strengthen the writer's 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 an 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 and the French language.

Kwame Dawes – Ghana/Jamaica – Born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica, Kwame Dawes is one of the most important Afro-Caribbean poets at work today, whose work not only encapsulates and shares this experience, but is also generous in detailing the human experience shared by all. Kwame Dawes poetry is renowned for its sense of rhythm, and the poets' readings are praised for the hypnotic rhythm, the poet becoming not just the drafter and scribbler of the work, but also the enchanter, realising the words from the private pages of the book and into the public realm, rhythmically released and consumed with appreciative airs. The grand dame of Jamaican poetry, Lorna Goodison, describes Dawes work as "multidimensional," in scope, with an ability to move beyond geographical placement—the sense of migration and transplantation—and the ability to be at ease in a variety of cultural settings, with language, regardless of it lacking a physical nature, provides the surrogacy of home and sanctuary. Language is refuge. It should come as no surprise that Kwame Dawes does not view poetry as a solitary pursuit, or an act undertaken through pure leisure, but is a form with a social conscious and in turn consequence. Righting inequalities, protesting injustice, and paying remembrance and homage to past trauma, Dawes treats poetry as a both a social service and protestation against cruelty. In Kwame Dawes hands, poetry is emancipated from the singular and insular shadow of the poet, and finds resounding purpose in providing commentary on social issues. Beyond poetry, Kwame Dawes has published two novels and a collection of short stories, in addition to critical analysis of reggae music and a academic work reviewing the revolutionary music, message, and life of Bob Marley.

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 earlier when Abdulrazak Gurnah won the award.

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, having received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021, it is now doubtful that the great Kenyan Titan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o will be considered for contention in the future. 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.

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 reliant on “The Famished Road,” with academics routinely fixated on as a critical text for postcolonial literary theory. 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 beyond "The Famished Road," Ben Okri remains 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.

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 refined 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.

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.

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.

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 in her apartment, entombing herself in solitary confinement and isolation. From there, the external world and revolution and Angola Civil War meld into the Ludo's personal universe, whose existence is now confined within four walls, which ironically she slowly begins to document them in turn. "A General Theory of Oblivion," dances shifts between historical context and the personal narratives taking place within them. José Eduardo Agualusa's new short story collection in English "A Practical Guide of Levitation," showcases Eduardo Agualusa as a consummate master of the shorter form, capable of blending the surreal, fantastic, and uniquely African sense of the magical, while experimenting with language and having a delightful sense for the humorous. 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.

Middle East & North Africa

Shahrnush Parsipur – Iran – There is a sense the world has certainly moved off-kilter with clear divisions and staunchly extreme ideological and inflexible allegiances establishing encampments. A reactionary far right cling to the most baseline (but also inverted) principles of morality; and a far left that has spiraled into self-indulgence double speak, hypocritical and righteously dogmatic. In a twist of irony, both sides engage in equal part censorship—and censorship is censorship regardless of the rationale. On one side, there's the censorship of books to preserve the innocent and sanctity of children, shielding them from perverse notions or (what is being deeded) explicitly sexual content. While the other side engages in rewriting and alteration of text that is deemed offensive or insensitive or outstep with today's polite sensibilities, and therefore should be altered to be more inclusive and less offensive; and as an added bonus, if an individual disagrees with their stances, their rationale, their objectives and the methods in which to obtain them, they in turn are censored and smeared. Neither campaign has it right. As usual the one stops readers, students, and individuals from embracing their curiosity and engaging in learning; instead sewing their eyes shut and blinding them to realities and ideas, by prohibiting intellectual curiosity. While the other has completely abandoned the basic tenements of the enlightenment that spurred revolution, reform, and democracy, open discourse, dissention, debate, and the exchange of ideas. The simple humanistic principles and any semblance of civil understanding have all but dissipated. Sadly, writers have been initiated to this treatment for some time. Be it they wrote a piece of satire or criticism; they have found themselves quartered or on the rack or tortured; then their books were burned; then they were imprisoned and interrogated; then their work was banned from publication; then their work was published but with exceptions of text removed or heavily edited. Writing has always been a subversive act, one with no allegiance. Great writing retains a particular quality and uncompromising potion for the truth and for the basic principles of intellectual freedom in all forms. Being offended is not the equivalent to moral superiority. Its pitiful in its attempts to parade as pious. The Iranian writer, Shahrnush Parsipur understands the weight of words, the power of literature, and the provocation of thought (let alone inspiring or encouraging thoughts). As a writer, Parsipur has weathered a significant amount of demagoguery, persecution, and criticism both from the former Iranian Shah and later the authoritarian Islamic Republic, complete with its religious morality police. Shahrnush Parsipur is that dangerous kind of writer, one with revolutionary spirit, who has been imprisoned four times, censored beyond count, had her works pulled from circulation and refused publication; and yet she still writes. Shahrnush Parsipur's work is unapologetic in its emboldened and stark discussions of the female condition, one which is routinely thumbed down in Islamic societies. In the novel "Women Without Men," Shahrnush Parsipur wrote about the challenges women face and their attempts at etching out any existence independently from men. Suffering awaits them but so does companionship and spiritual transformation. Parsipur's characters rebel and criticize traditional cultural values that promote and maintain institutionalized sexual oppression. The memoir, however, "Kissing the Sword," is Shahrnush Parsipur at her most observant and relevant. "Kissing the Sword," is a prison memoir, detailing the years in which Parsipur was incarcerated for her writings. A brutal account of the culture, inhumanity, and the surreal absurdity of the situation. the life of a political prisoner is continuously baffling. The nights filled with unceremonious gunfire of executions; while the days Parsipur spars with the prison officials over the Islamic doctrine of women wearing headscarves in compliance with the Quaran. "Kissing the Sword," remains a poignant testament to safeguarding the basic freedoms of expression, thought, discourse, and speech. The very principles which seem to be under attack in the western hemisphere, which for years had considered itself a bastion and safe haven for such principles.

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.

Sonallah Ibrahim – Egypt – Naguib Mahfouz remains the only Arabic language writer to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature. A giant of 20th Century literature, Mahfouz's work will ultimately survive the test of time, with comparisons of the author's literary legacy and output on par with Charles Dickens and Honoré de Balzac. In other words, Mahfouz was a chronicler of the times and era; the "Cairo Trilogy," remains an impressive testament to modern Arabic literature. Mahfouz's influence and cast shadow aside, Arabic literature sustained a modest but impassioned renaissance of writers, such as the poets Adunis and Mahmoud Darwish, but also astounding prose writers as in the case of the late Nawal El Saadawi, Bahaa Taher, and the marvelous fabulist Ibrahim al-Koni. Sonallah Ibrahim is another giant of Arabic literature heralding from Egypt, a writer whose reputation resides on thoroughly engaging and palpable historical novels, set within turning and tipping points of historical transformation. "The Turban and the Hat," exploring the modern conflicts between the Arabic world and the Western Hemisphere. Told from the perspective of the famous Somali-Egyptian scholar Al-Jabarti, the novel chronicles Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion and occupation of Egypt. The novel, much like Al-Jabarti's famous living chronicles, histories, and biographies of the time, recounts the extraordinary times, the clash of cultures and the introduction of new ideas into Egyptian society. Sonallah Ibrahim proves himself to be a studious scholar, carefully reconstructing and curating the time and place of Egypt during the times, providing a refreshing perspective, while being able to dissect the burgeoning conflicts between Egypt and the Western World. Sonallah Ibrahim is also renowned for being an engaged writer, an open dissenter, Ibrahim refused the Arabic Novel award and in one acceptance speech chose to only publicly criticize the previous Mubarak regime, but lambasted their complete incompetence on a social, political, economic and moral level. Sonallah Ibrahim's debut novel "That Smell and Notes from Prison," is unapologetically a political novel and a deeply personal one, detailing Sonallah Ibrahim's own experience as a political captive. Consisting of a recent political prisoner whose release leaves him dejected and alienated. Though interested in recording and documenting his experiences in prison, what follows are digressions in wandering the neighbourhood, spying on neighbours, revisiting old lovers, and marveling at the rampant changes in society, where citizens are less concerned with pushing back against foreign influence and politics, but enthralled in capitalism, consumerism and film stars. "That Smell and Notes from Prison," was a condescend human comedy of Nasser's Egypt already in collapse. Sonallah Ibrahim remains a writer devoted and committed to the basic principles of the human condition, the foundational ideas of freedom both politically and individually, but is tempered with realistic expectations. As the previous Arab Spring erupted into a force of channelled anger, Sonallah Ibrahim admired its force, but saw inevitable pitfalls, a lack of unity, a lack of coherent messaging, a purpose driven leader. The Arab Spring ultimately dwindled and exhausted itself. The winds of revolution dissipated. Sonallah Ibrahim is an engaged and committed writer of Egyptian society and history, understanding its paradoxical complexities that evade straightforward categorization and comprehension.

Agi Mishol – Israel – Poetry once soared on lofty wings. Impenetrable and indifferent, they provided commentary on the metaphysical, the conundrums of the cosmos, the eternal beauty and wonder of the natural landscape. All of it of course drifted over the heads of the working class, serfdom, and peasantry. Clouds that drift by or fields of daffodils. The telltale signs of the frills of romanticism. Paltry trifle sentiments. The otherwise concerns of bygone eras and poetic forms alienated and dissuaded readers from engagement. Thankfully poetry began its own evolution alongside rapid social upwelling. Poetry, however, has gradually declined to becoming an esoteric literary form, reserved for very niche readers. At worst, it has become a reduced form, routinely cheapened and neglected. In a manner compared to panning for gold, great poets exist as endangered species in the world. Thankfully they are no longer barricaded in the ivory tower, but exist within the everyday and mundane. They can be found at the local pub and beer halls, riding the subway, and feeding the birds in the park. This does not mean they do not contemplate or observe the human condition; or are lost in memory; or contemplating death as more of a metaphor, before it becomes a shadow and companion. Great poets move within the palpable and relatable realities of the everyday, and through these images transcend into the deeper and hidden complexities of daily existence. Agi Mishol is one such poet, who continually finds the spiritual ubiquitously entangled with everyday life. Daily life is full of images, metaphors, and modes of expression in which people are able to transfuse a sense of greater purpose into the otherwise anemic and lifeless. Mishol's poems travel with a direction of explorative curiosity and are filled with a sense of humour. In the poem "Geese," through hindsight, Mishol absolves her former math teacher of his insults and embraces his demeaning vision of her future. Death has claimed him and all his impossible math equations; while Mishol embraces her life, relishing in hats and birds, who may or may not fly backwards. The gentle humour that Agi Mishol employs throughout the poem tames what would otherwise be by resentment and instead embraces the peculiar nature of how life turned out for the better, free from equations and superiority of maths, where Mishol can enjoy geese and hats without distortion. The sense of approachability, a generous scope of accessibility, are the hallmarks of Agi Mishol, who writes with the calloused understanding of life and experience. There is no sagacity or pontificating, but an appreciation for life in all its miraculous wonders, its ironic twists and gallows humour, there is a continued sense of enjoyment, a thirst and love for life. Being an Israeli writer will inevitably mean politics will be leveraged against Agi Mishol. What are her stances on Palestine? What of the settlements? What of the recent undercutting reforms instituted by the government to undermine and essentially cage the judicial system? Despite the desire for affirmative responses or endorsements, Mishol approaches the subject with a sly slant, never endorsing any position and remaining elusive to the subject. Through everyday joys and sorrows, Agi Mishol creates poetry that is approachable, accessible, and truly generous in form. Any poet who imbues their work with wonder, finds dignity in the everyday, and of course weaves a sense of humour with an ironic streak into their work, is certainly one of the best at work in the world.

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.

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.

David Grossman – Israel – Of the few Nobel Prize for Literature prizes that were shared, 1966 between Nelly Sachs and Shmuel Yosef Agnon is perhaps the most apt, revealing the complex nature of Israeli literature moving forward. As Nelly Sachs lamented: Shmuel Yosef Agnon wrote about the future and destiny of Israel as the Jewish state; while she was the songbird to mourn and preserve the memories of the horrors of the Holocaust. Since achieving recognition as a state, Israel has always existed in an otherwise tense arrangement with its neighbours, and never failing to produce its own homegrown political issues, as is the current state with recent reforms politicizing the judiciary and limiting its agency as an institution, further encumbering it to political whims. Then there are the usual skirmishes and battles between Israel and Palestine, with considerable controversy surrounding the West Bank. Over the last half century, three Israeli writers came to the forefront as accomplished writers and formidable public intellectuals: A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, and David Grossman. Of the three, Amos Oz was always considered the favourite to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, his politics were favourable, his writing masterful, and he was often positioned to be Israel's public conscience. Both Amos Oz and A. B. Yehoshua have both died, relatively recently, which nullifies their opportunity to be considered for the prize. Amos Oz, was often considered the favourite to win the award due to his otherwise polite politics; David Grossman is in every way, Amos Oz's match on literary terms, and politics—Grossman, one could argue, was even more politically engaged then Amos Oz. Of course, the Swedish Academy retains their position that the Nobel Prize in Literature is not interested or bothered with politics (Peter Handke and Mo Yan obvious examples), but Israel (much like China) politics and literature are not always separate. David Grossman's literary work and political activism are often overlap and lace in with each other. Grossman's literary output retains a strong sociopolitical engagement, Gross is a writer maintains a continued pulse check on Israeli society and its moral consciousness, its historical placement, and the everyday suffering. Recent accolades and awards presented to David Grossman include "The Man Booker International Prize," the "Israel Prize," as well as an elected fellowship to the Royal Literature Society. Grossman maintains remarkable attention to the Jewish experience leading 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. Recent articles penned by David Grossman regarding the nefarious judicial reforms in Israel.

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.

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.

Ghassan Zaqtan - Palestine – There is no shortage of richness to Arabic language poetry, and though Adunis is considered chief amongst them, Palestine has found often found itself rallied around its poets as spokesman and bard to the rest of the world, with the most prominent poet being, Mahmoud Darwish, whose poetry became the narrative of Palestine's struggle, presenting the ordinary difficulties of the Palestine people, who are times lost within the geopolitical dispute. Friend and colleague of Darwish and perhaps even successor, is the accomplished and talented poet, Ghassan Zaqtan. I recall reading an article that when it comes to Palestian literature that gradually everything got harder to escape the confines of their disputed land. Novels would be confiscated or haphazardly lost, so they got smaller, until they became stories. Until stories began to gain the attention of guards also became contraband. Poetry, however, poetry could be concealed, at worst it could be recited into memory in order to be transmitted and disseminated beyond their borders. Poetry becomes the correspondence of air. That otherwise feathered creature, who is released and takes flight on wings hope and carrying prayers. Unfortunately for Ghassan Zaqtan, sociopolitical situations will inevitably be woven and laced through all of his poems, both by experience and by geographical context. How these subjects are dealt with, however, is what makes Zaqtan an accomplished poet. Metaphor, lyricism, language, image, personal experience, these become the foundations, lodestones, and modes in which the politically is discussed. Personal memory and experience become forms of social and political activism. Memory is vital for Zaqtan's poetry, as Palestine's history and location are increasingly eroded, so to is memory of place and in turn identity. Poetry is the most expressive method to ignite, kindle, and maintain the memory of people who are under the impression they have no home and no future. The Griffen Poetry Prize jury praised Ghassan Zaqtan's poetry collection: " Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me," for being encompassing in shape and form; palpable and kneaded into the earth, experience, and landscape of the Palestian people, which is translated and provides a new perspective, a new narrative to the situation.

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.

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.


Gyrðir Elíasson – Iceland – Iceland is the nation of sagas. Timeless epics. For such a small nation, it is overflowing with an abundantly rich and fulfilling literary heritage and culture. The first Icelandic writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Halldór Laxness, maintained the Icelandic literary tradition of epic sagas, who brought the extraordinary Norse heroic narrative of the medieval into the 20th Century, complete with an engagement with social passions, the moral undercurrents of the human condition, the political questions of the time, and the reproachful ideals of the century, always finding their way into his magnificent mammoth novels, which exploded with his narrative mastery and humour. There is no wonder that the then Swedish Academy compared Halldór Laxness to such granite writers as Cervantes, Tolstoy, and Zola. Halldór Laxness works were panoramic by nature, encompassing the grandness of the macro and the exterior, facing the eternal questions of the human condition and its predisposition for producing unequal and unrelentless suffering. The contemporary Icelandic poet and writer, Gyrðir Elíasson, is the stark antithesis to the majestic monolithic Halldór Laxness. Where Laxness was the singular visionary mountain; Gyrðir Elíasson is the encasement of the exquisitely ethereal, whereby the ordinary elevated to the extraordinary. Gyrðir Elíasson’s prose is noted for its elliptical qualities, written with a sense of causality and detail, the at times surreal and dreamscape invades the relatively ordinary world. Elíasson’s narratives and poems are regarded for their casual and neutral language, details are layered with excerpt care. The addition of new details or introducing surreal, dreamscape, or nightmarish elements infuse the narratives with tension and unease. Yet the narratives do not end with a bang or climatic spectacle but skirt the recesses of evanescence that are as haunting in scope as they are in spirit: tealights drifting on a pond indifferent to the starry sky, while reflecting it in vision and scope; the nighttime rebellion and vandalism of a piano; an anxious spring caught off guard by the silver glint of the harvesting scythe freshly sharpened, a reminder of autumns shadow. Gyrðir Elíasson is a writer who would best be described as an imagist in spirit and scope. Elíasson’s short stories and poems are renowned for their condensed features of being impressionistic and existing within a state of fleeting transience. It is perhaps due to his formal nature as a poet, which makes Elíasson such an accomplish prose stylist, relying on image, language, and inflective tension to propel his narratives, which take on a more interior approach in narrative, encompassing the private, personal, and intrapersonal realm. No story, novel, or poem contains an element of sentimentality or other foolish romanticism entrapments. Elíasson’s 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 water colours 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 superficial. 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.

Jon Fosse – Norway – One of the most important playwrights of the last century and early 21st century; Jon Fosse was at one point the most performed living playwright in the world. Often described as an inheritor of Henrik Ibsen; theatrically related to Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett, and acquainted with Harold Pinter. Yet, Jon Fosse was an absolute 180 to all of the dramatists and playwrights before him. Henrik Ibsen was a modernist playwright and lodestone to realism entering the stage as a serious dramatic consideration. Samuel Beckett, remains famous for his theatre of the absurd, those minimalist, strange and comedically uncomfortable dramas, which once again revolutionized the theatrically world by converting and twisting the normal conventions of theatre into a new masterpiece that were often mistaken for nihilistic in their revelry of the absurd suspended above the abyss. All the while, Harold Pinter is considered a distant disciple of Beckett, Pinter inevitably moved in a very theatrical direction. Where Beckett stripped the theatre into the absurd scaffolding, Pinter's work and characters are barricaded themselves in fortifications of dialogue upon dialogue, trying conceal and hide away from the lurking violence, menace, and threats within the claustrophobic and closed rooms, where the walls slowly begin to close in. Jon Fosse rowed out in a different direction. Beyond Ibsen's dollhouse; the abyss and apocalyptic netherworlds of Beckett; Pinter's closed room dramas. Rowing out further and further, Jon Fosse crafted himself a purgatory landscape, complete with fjords, shingled beaches, dark seas, grey overcast skies, small wooden houses with characters lost in thought, memory, history. Even the sun wears down melancholically. All of it is wrapped up in a forlorn indefinable and opaque mysticism. In the play "Summers Day," Jon Fosse recounts the complexities of love, memory, and unknowable loss, while contorting time in a flexible layered reality, occupying the same space. The trope of love, the romantic idyll of summer love, is inverted into an anxious existential meditation. It is a play of regret eternity, frozen in hindsight. Fosse reveals that within a single house and a single incident, the trajectory of one's life changes and is lost in the shipwreck, whereby the characters are washed upon shore, shipwrecked and stranded in a state of fatalism. Jon Fosse's plays are renowned for embracing space and silence. The dialogue, language, and narrative, are recognized for their frustratingly contemplative language, their slowed paced, their sparse rhythmic dialogue. Though Fosse gained international recognition with his dramatic works, Jon Fosse maintains that his first literary endeavours and ventures were novels and prose. Since retiring from writing dramatic works, Jon Fosse has entered a prolific career as a novelist and prose writer with his monumental Septology series "The Other Name: Septology I-11," "I Is Another: Septology III-V," "A New Name: Septology VI – VII." Jon Fosse's Trilogy of novellas: "Wakefulness," "Olav's Dream," and "Weariness," won the Nordic Council's Literature Prize, and revolved around the desperate accounts of a young couple Asle and the pregnant Alida, as they search for accommodation in the Norwegian city of Bjørgvin. Orphaned and cast out, these two unfortunate souls are unable to find warmth or hospitality within the city. The narrative of Alse and Alida, is reminiscent of that of Joseph and Mary, but only on a superficial level. Fosse turns this journey into another treatise on space and silence. Jon Fosse's prose is perhaps his most defining feature. Reminiscent of the sound of lapping waves, rolling in and ceding out. This tidal framework of rhythmic back and forth; push and pull; drift and sway; are the telltale signs of Jon Fosse's prose. Often described as minimalist in nature, due to the fact that Fosse eschews the conventional elements of plot, and barely sketches out any defining features of landscape or place, and characters have limited defining physical characteristics. Even names are often interchangeable throughout Fosse's work. Alse, has many different incarnations. Still, the defining feature of Jon Fosse is his lapping language, tidal, and consistent, hypnotic in its rolling and rocking embrace. Fosse is not a writer that one rushes through, he is a writer for an ideal reader who is delighted in slipping into his work, being lulled between the back-and-forth rhythm of language, and understanding the prose in that lunar and tidal dance. When it comes to Jon Fosse, I think it comes down to a matter of when not if he'll receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. though, I am hesitant to being to assured in that perspective as well, as Adunis for decades has been considered an assured and more then deserving Laureate, but the Swedish Academy have routinely thumbed their nose at him. Regardless, there is no dramatist or prose writer, who embraces such languid and profound language as Jon Fosse. Truly a one of kind.

Klaus Merz – Switzerland – For years the Francophone Swiss poet Philippe Jaccottet, was considered the most likely Swiss writer with the greatest opportunity to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Philippe Jaccottet was world renowned for his complex and beautiful poetry which explored the complexities of reality as both an observed palpable state and one filtered through subjective emotive individual responses, thereby reconciling the individual and human experience into expressed poetic terms. Philippe Jaccottet was an earthly elemental poet, one continued to explore the ineffable beauty and metaphysical mystery of the material world as perceived and experienced by the individual. Klaus Merz is a contemporary and countrymen of Philippe Jaccottet, and where the latter's literary direction occupied the space between natural appreciation and meditation on experience and perception, Klaus Merz's poetry is known for its detailed clockwork instrumentation, favouring precision and understatement. Merz's early poetry was noted for its concision and clarity, with initial poems being compared to haikus in their brevity. Despite the sensation of forewarning of Merz's poetry being described as practice pieces in concision, they reveal a sublime and mindful thinker, whose values of clarity are not metallic automations, though mechanically capable of imitating the motions of life, but lacking in soul and spirit. And though Klaus Merz is often endearingly referred to as the watchmaker poet, this only seeks to capitalize on Merz's poetry revealing subtlety designed and engineered schematics, a poet of the most detailed conscientiousness. Klaus Merz's finds poetic landscape and reflection through his native home of Aargau, Switzerland, one of the more northern cantons (governing district) of the nation, complete with its valleys, forests, meadows, streams, and pastures. These otherwise ordinary landscapes, are complete with their otherwise ordinary citizens: the farmers, teachers, bakers, train conductors, populate his poetry with ease. Despite the personal landscape and the locale, they too will give way ever so slightly, through light, image, or thought they Merz moves beyond the parochial and provincial into the metaphorical and metaphysical, contemplating the wider themes of the human condition. Klaus Merz described poetry as the act of dusting off a secret, all the while abandoning ostentatious ornamentation, relying instead on the precise ingenuity of language to provide meaning. For Klaus Merz, poetry is not obfuscation of reality but the encapsulation of the fleeting moment with crystalline preservation. These same literary language principles are applied to Klaus Merz's prose and dramatic writings. Reduction, concision, and clarity are the principles of Merz's work. In one of Merz's most famous novellas Jakob schläft ("Jacob Asleep") an entire life is distilled into 76 pages. Perhaps in a similar fashion to poets who can craft and shape prose, Klaus Merz proves to operate with equal exceptional form and language. Writers in the fashion of Klaus Merz are absolutely brilliant, with a striking command of language, but with a jeweler's eye for precision and a watchmaker's eye for utilitarian engineering, ensuring the intricacies of language remain hidden, while readers are left marveling at the exquisite craftsmanship of such eloquent and refined work. Klaus Merz is rightfully so dubbed the Swiss Watchmaker poet, an absolute treasure and master of the poetic understatement.

Esther Kinsky – Germany – The spectrum of writers is infinite in the varying breeds that write. Some writers write to showcase how intelligent and clever they are. Their books become personal testaments to their own genius. Volumes upon volumes of preconceived notions of grandeur are churned out through scribbling pens lost in self-absorption and an individual convicted to their own delusions of self-importance. Other writers are formulaic. Depth is truly a paper thin. Esther Kinsky is neither. In the novels currently available by the German author, Kinsky proves to be only a medium for language. Both conduit and conductor. As an author, Kinsky is lost and hidden within an expressive and overflowing language that miraculously steers clear of any to all ostentatious entrapment. Readers who long and desire strong narratives, robust characters, and defined plot, will be routinely and continuously disappointed in Esther Kinsky's offerings. Narrative is minimal. Plot is questionable. Characters are sketched with vague non-descript. Language, observation, description, rumination, and lost in thought are the characteristics of Kinsky's work, providing thorough overviews and the language to describe the ubiquitous and majestic mundanity of the human existence. The novel "River," (expertly translated by Iain Galbraith – who like Kinsky is a poet, meaning author and translator share an appreciation and understanding of language) is a travelogue of rivers and memory. Watery landscapes are in abundance to the novel, where the unnamed narrator has completely cut herself from her life and been cast adrift down the river finding herself shipwrecked and aimlessly abandoned amongst the banks of the River Lea in a suburb of London. These embankments become refuge from the world, a place of discarded nomads and other rag tag displaced individuals. The narrator observers them with equal consideration, colouring the novel with beautiful observations of devote Jewish children lost within a world of orthodox principles, while simultaneously being confronted with the real world beyond their synagogues and doorsteps. A makeshift cat cemetery, complete with crosses and memorial of all the felines buried within the overgrowth and bushes. The novel is not just interested in the embankments of the River Lea, as many other rivers flow throughout the novel from the St. Lawrence (many discussions regarding dehumidifiers in the summer heat), to the Rhine with its factories and distant shore town, a cousin of sorts. Rivers become the arteries and veins of history. As Sebald concluded that history can be framed and understood by its landscapes, Esther Kinsky merely proves its so. The novel thrives of course not just on its itineration of all the rivers, but the welling and consuming nature of memory, bursting over the banks and washing through the narrator with relentless ease. "Rombo," frames itself through disaster, through a chorus of character voices reflecting on their lives, landscape, and futures after two earthquakes in Italy. Esther Kinsky is a pointillistic writer, where details are not anchors or assured natal points, but frayed ends splitting into further digressions. Kinsky's work are complex meditations regarding memory, landscape, history, trauma both experienced and inherited, and indentured sense of personhood regarding place and history; written in prose that is both lush and exquisite, however small Esther Kinsky's bibliography may be, it is more then compensated for with mastery of form and first-class craftsmanship.

Esad Babačić – Slovenia – Central Europe is a dark chest of still undiscovered literary treasures. A corner of the continent which understands the scars of history; a distrust of ideological stances; an unease with freedom; while still being steeped within a richness of custom and tradition; it is important to not overlook their generous humour, their ease with the deadpan, and experts use of irony. Some of the greatest writers have heralded from central Europe such as the granite and magnanimous Czesław Miłosz; the approachable and twinkling mischievous Wisława Szymborska; the esoteric encyclopedic postmodernist Olga Tokarczuk; the intensely surreal imagist and highly developed linguistic experimenter, Herta Müller. These are marvelous writers, who in turn bring a sense of gravitas and play to their literary subjects, exploring the weight of the human condition in a variety of forms, but also our relation to complex and complicated histories. What is perhaps enriching about these writers, is their lack of digression into solipsism, the new fashionable trend predominating so much of today's western or English language literature. These writers engage with the external and the historical (which is something so lacking in Western publishing). Esad Babačić is a Slovenian poet, whose poetic roots emerged during his time in a punk band (Via Ofenziva), who became the first band to cover a controversial World War II era song associated with the Nazis "Lilli Marlen." Obviously for perpetrating this, Esad Babačić suffered the full consequence of the Iron Curtain's well-known authoritarian treatment, where he was interrogated and tortured. Though punk inevitably declined as both musical and social movement, Esad Babačić's literary pursuits did not, and has published more than ten books of poetry and an essay collection. Thanks to a legacy and early start in punk, Babačić's poetry is noted for its abrupt directness, free of ostentatious detours or vague meanderings. Often compared to the American lowlife chronicler and sage, Charles Bukowski, who cynically survey life as a chore, a march to the grave; Esad Babačić is equally as gruff, getting to the point and heart of the matter with blunt force, leaving no room for meaningless deceptions. This is a poet of the streets, alleys, and bars, of a sense of squander and desperation, the same sense for survival. This is a cacophonic and demonic voice of rough and jagged edges. Curt, cut out, sharp, immediate, are all descriptions for Esad Babačić, whose poetry maintains a sense of palpability of the permeating emptiness in today's world. This sharp-tongued punk turned poet, has finally made is English debut from Dalkey Archive Press with: "Every Child is Beautiful When Born," but has been a renowned figure in Slovenian literature for the past forty years.

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 to 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 full-time 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 resurfaces in the present. In Eeva Tikka's short story collection Kahdesti kastettu ("Twice Christened,") explores the emotional resonances and responses of individuals who exist on both the literal and metaphorical fringes of society, in Tikka's renowned crystalline prose. The short form is where Tikka is at her most natural self. Her stories are lightly sketched, displaying shimmering colourful waters, while reflecting an inverted landscape, and never betraying the miraculous depths below. In one story a child and her fanatically evangelical eccentric father share a vision of an angel; while an old man lost in the throws of senility returns to his childhood home in order to reconnect with the memory of his mother who was described as disturbed and spoke in an incomprehensible language, which now in the fogs of cognitive decline the old man begins to understand. No where has human nature been celebrated with such empathic understanding for the eccentric, and finding the mysticism within the mundane. Through 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 watercolor 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. The chances of Eeva Tikka winning the Nobel Prize in Literature are more likely slim to none, but since discovering the sample taste tests of her on "Books from Finland," I've eagerly hoped to be able to read a complete set of her works in English translation. Sadly, that has not happened yet, but regardless of Tikka's literary language and lack of international presence, I think she would be a truly marvelous laureate, master of the understatement, conjurer of the mystery of the everyday, and a true poet who celebrates the eccentricities and mysticisms of the inarticulate natures of life, and appreciating the marvel of their nature.

Olga Sedakova – Russia – Russian literature during the Soviet period seemed to fall into two groups. The propagandists like Mikahil Sholokhov, who were free to publish after receiving the bureaucratic rubber stamp of approval by the prevailing ideologues. Then there was the dissidents and exiled writers, the most famous one being Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the gulag monk, whose works stripped the pastoral proletariat praise of Sholokhov, revealing the Soviet Unions ideals to be not only morally reprehensible, but politically malicious, with a corrupt government a seething pustule institution of daily life. Where then does a writer like Olga Sedakova fit in? Not politically aligned, but not actively dissenting. Still barbed from publication? Absolutely. Why? Because Sedakova is a classists writer, one whose work would inspire thought, and of course independent thought in an authoritarian regime is as dangerous as open dissention. While the Brezhnev Era (Era of Stagnation, as coined by Gorbachev) burned and dried up any cultural and intellectual innovation by virtually lobotomizing the citizenry through a steady diet of prescribed messaging and aggressive censorship, the populace retreated further away from public discourse and life, and instead curated rich interior lives in which to find solace from the griege of the Soviet Unions policies. This period would prove to be the incubation period for Olga Sedakova, who took the time to continue her studies in 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 Sedakova is a neoclassicist in form, which would not be suitable in the Soviet Union, as such forms and writing harked back to bourgeoise principles or intellectual principles that would be deemed anti-socialist and intellectually polluted, meaning censored. Sedakova's poetry in turn retains a fascination with the divine and theological concepts (with some going so far as to describe her as a denominational poet), and while Sedakova contemplates God, love, and matters of the soul, her poetry should not be disregarded 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. The poetry of Olga Sedakova is luminous as it is liturgical and philosophical, expansive in celebrating the marvel and miracle of life. In addition to being an accomplished and refined poet, Olga Sedakova is equal parts an essayist and academic, contemplating the matters of theology, philosophy, and humanist thoughts, but also travelogues and other such writings. I certainly could not be described as a connoisseur of poetry, but reading Olga Sedakova here and there, is a delightful experience. This is a poet who abandons ostentatious pontification and embraces a poetry that is accessible and approachable, there is always a sense of shared appreciation and joy within the marvels of the word. When Olga Sedakova won the Solzhenitsyn Prize in 2003, the judges praised Sedakova's poetry for "striving to convey the mystery of life in a simple lyrical style." Olga Sedakova would be a worthy Nobel Laureate in Literature, a poet who occupies the same heights as Czeslaw Milosz for the moral occupation; maintains ceaseless interest in exploration and curiosity as Wisława Szymborska; and is a master of metaphor as image and form like Tomas Tranströmer. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, I am sure all Russian writers are in a state of unease and disgust. Many have gone into exile. Olga Sedakova has remained a staunch critic of Putin's unjustifiable, aggressive, and brutal invasion and subsequent war in Ukraine.

Guy Goffette – Belgium/France – In 2020 there was a petition circling calling for President Emmanuel Macron to transfer the remains of two historical and influential French poets to the Pantheon: Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. Before rockstars, these two poets were the most scandalous writers of French society. Dancing in the shadow of Charles Baudelaire, they continued to develop French poetry in ever new directions and burning horizons. These two poets also happened to unabashedly gay, much like their English contemporary of the time Oscar Wilde. Though the petition is honourable, seeking to immortalize the two poets in a grand mausoleum, it not devoid of criticism. The petition, seeks to entomb the two poets together, and though it is true Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud were lovers, their affair was not a pleasant walk in the park. It was a hurricane season in hell, reaching crescendo with Verlaine shooting Rimbaud twice in Brussels. Both poets were treated as social pariah, not only for their love affair, but for a lack of personal appeal. Verlaine was not just decadent, but a debauched drunkard; while Rimbaud was a brilliant meteoric poet (retiring with greatness behind him at the age of 20), he was also viewed as obscene, rude and dirty. Both poets embraced the anti-rationalist and transgressive lifestyles, becoming connoisseurs of scandal, courtiers of gossip, and objects of fascination. Both poets died relatively young, Rimbaud at 37 and Verlaine at 51. Their works, however, have secured their immortality, becoming some of the most revolutionary and influential poets of the late 19th Century, reverberating throughout the 20th Century. Criticism was leveraged against the petition due to a misguided attempt at being inclusive, or remediating past injustices to the two poets regarding their homosexuality. To intern both poets together is a gross miscarriage of justice unto itself. Call me old fashion, but if someone shot me twice, I would rather not be interred with them in the same tomb (and vice versa). Rimbaud's great-grand niece also voiced opposition to the proposal, as the internment of both Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud to the Pantheon together grossly exaggerates their relationship and absolutely diminishes their literary and poetic achievements. Furthermore, for however presumptuous it is, based off of the lives of both Verlaine and Rimbaud, neither would or could give a tinker's cuss to the Pantheon and its representation. The petition itself was a gross failure on countless levels, failing to properly recognize both poets enduring literary achievements and instead apply 21st century political and moral concerns with less then subtle virtue signalling, which completely besmirches the work and lives of both Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. Thankfully, President Emmanuel Macron denied the request, and spared both poets from being immortalized on identarian grounds, rather then their literary and universally encompassing works. Their legacies safeguarded. This inevitably leads to one of the French languages most unapologetic lyrical poets of today, who is often described as the heir to Paul Verlaine, is the Belgian born French language poet, Guy Goffette, who in turn has penned a few tribute portraits and sketches of Verlaine in turn. Rejecting the deconstructivism of postmodern poetry, Goffette returns poetry to its more palpable experience, capturing through languages impalpable embrace and own form the fleeting experiences of life. This unapologetic celebration of rich lyrical textured poetry, is not hindered or stifled by further academic elucidation, but exists in rustic richness, weathered as they are time tested, they preserve, remain the most succulent forms of expression of literary language and experience. In addition to his immensely poetic endeavours, Guy Goffette has penned, essays, novels, and short stories. "Forever Nude: A Fiction," is a fictionalized recount of the post-impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard and his naked muse Marthe (borne Marie) a resolute figure in Bonnard's work. The work is not entirely, however, concerned with the lives and love between artist and muse, and the two secrets they withhold from each other, Guy Goffette finds himself ruminating on Bonnard's art, both its sensuality, eroticism, but also technicality, sense of perspective, and deployment of colour. Very little of Guy Goffette's poetry is translated into English, but the late French master of poetry Yves Bonnefoy remarked that Goffette is by far one of the best poets currently writing in French. Louise Glück was the last lyrical poet to receive the prize, in awarding Glück the Swedish Academy recognized a great poet who wrote cohesive and universally compelling poetry built on an austere literary language, but as compellingly beautiful as Octobers gold giving way to Novembers frost and forlorn bones. But it was also a recognition into a form that is eternal and continually relevant. Guy Goffette is an equal poet who celebrates the form in all of its enrichment.

Magdalena Tulli – Poland – The tree of the world is a timeless mythological trope, no different than the turtle carrying the universe on its back, drifting in the infinitesimal void. In "Dreams and Stones," the enduring tree of creation stands at attention, setting the scene for a novel that delights in deconstructing the creation myth through a postmodern and playful perspective. The short novel playfully examines the process of genesis, resulting in an amusing mediation on rebuilding and coming back from the point of oblivion. The novel lacks all the supposed elements and essential components of a novel: character, plot, setting, and narrative. Instead, readers are granted a glimpse into watching the conception, development, and construction of a city, through the wishes and dreams of the otherwise absent citizens. What makes "Dreams and Stones," such an endearing and marvelous read, is not the metafictional narrative, the gradual metamorphosis and unveiling of a fictionalize city, pulled back from the brink of obsolesce, it is the magnificent voluptuousness of Magdalena Tulli's prose, shimmering and maximalist, an overflowing current of gorgeous unapologetic writing. Tulli's work writing courses through the city's public works, water and utility infrastructure; beats in every road way and intersection; is present as urban planner, architect, and interior designer. "Dreams and Stones," is Magdalena Tulli debut novel, and though it reads more like a cityscape prose poem, it provided the initial introduction into Tulli's literary themes, metafictional deconstructions regarding the nature of narrative, creation, and storytelling, sifted through the literary. In "Moving Parts," Tulli introduces more concrete elements of storytelling, but once again she inverts the conventional modes of narration. "Moving Parts," centers around the 'narrator,' who has been contracted with telling a story, but he doesn't understand the story or have any inclination of what's going, soon after his characters rebel, multiply, and begin to tell competing narratives to thwart him, while his employer (the writer) remains disinterested or neglectful to the shenanigans, either by being drunk or sleeping. "Moving Parts," is an absurdist romp, comical as it is engaging, Tulli once again dissects the supposed structure authority to the world, by showcasing how easy it comes undone reveling in the collapse of order and rising chaos. The poor narrator is hapless and helpless to the situation, pitiful as he is pathetic, he is abandoned and lost to the proceedings as both victim and clown. Magdalena Tulli has proven herself a master of metafictional narrative, while "Flaw," ups the ante once more and cements Tulli as a master of metaphor, as she continues her postmodern postmortem examinations of the narrative form to critique not only reality but also history. Throughout all of her novels, Magdalena Tulli has crafted an intoxicating and luxurious literary language, one that raddles with extraordinary metaphors and imagery that reface and refresh reality in a whole new light and perspective, all the while tackling complex themes regarding identity, reality, as well as one's relationship with history, and the heredity passage of trauma, guilt and shame. It is difficult to envision any writer who can be described as a contemporary or likeminded writer as Magdalena Tulli, who is exceptional, original, and absolutely singular.

Tomas Venclova – Lithuania – One of the major Lithuanian poets of the postwar period, Tomas Venclova is often grouped and discussed in similar vein with some of the great Postwar Polish poets of the time: Czesław Miłosz, Zbigniew Herbert, and Tadeusz Różewicz, considering Venclova grappled with the complexities of history, the horrors and atrocities revealed after the Second World War, new terrors emerging on the horizon within the postwar landscape, but also the greater purview of the 20th century, the displacement of people, injustice as a common reality, the shifting and changing national borders, and ethical dilemmas individuals routinely faced as they endured authoritarian oppression. Living behind the Iron Curtain Tomas Venclova was unable to openly express his condemnation and opposition to the Communist State. The state openly swallowed and destroyed the lives of many of his contemporaries and friends. This environment provided Tomas Venclova the necessary condition to develop his poetic style and literary voice, one valuing dense and allusive symbolical style that is musical and meditative, taking inspiration from Lithuania's traditional poetic traditions, and reminiscent of classic Russian poets, in the early Boris Pasternack and Anna Akhmatova, before both poets were hollowed and beaten by the senselessness of the Soviet Union. This is where Tomas Venclova veers and digresses from his Polish contemporaries, maintain a steadfast appreciation for rhymed metered verse, retaining the ideals of the early 20th century literature, which continued in tradition with great poets W.H. Auden and Joseph Brodsky. In exile, Tomas Venclova's literary work was released and found appreciation with an audience craving majestic poetry; furthermore, Venclova crafted an image of himself being a critic of authoritarian governments, a cosmopolitan and concerned humanist, and a skeptical lyricist, who tended to hope with reservation, but never abandoned. If the Swedish Academy is once again interested in awarding an accomplished poet with an ethicist commitment, a lyricist ear, and a humanist's heart, Tomas Venclova is an obvious and worthy choice.

Fleur Jaeggy – Switzerland (Italian language) – There are few writers who are as disinterested and detached as Fleur Jaeggy. Cold and dismissive, this penetrating dry ice perspective radiates into her literary work. Stories are treated like musical scales, practise pieces of mechanical motion, rather than liberating creative effort. Jaeggy once praised her good friend the late Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann for requiring "little encouragement not to speak," and that is the way Jaeggy prefers it. She is the distant and indefinable Pluto to her late husband Roberto Calasso's radiant Jupiter. Though Calasso was regarded as a literary institution in his own right, an avatar or manifestation of literary ideals and principles; Fleur Jaeggy curates' interest through a dazzling mystery and unapologetic austerity that cannot easily be dismissed as "German sensibility." Jaeggy is a master reductionist; not minimalist. Minimalists strip and peal back to the barebones, allowing insinuation and reader involvement to provide flesh and tissue. Jaeggy penetrates and redacts in search of the soul, only to ironically point out: there is no soul. What is at the heart of being? The effusion of life and the cellophane of nothingness. As is in the instance of painted Nymphs in one story, who escape their paintings in order to attempt life—have a crack at it—only to realize they are not suited for life and ill equipped for the drudgery and suffering that it inevitably entails. This does, however, mischaracterize Fleur Jaeggy as a nihilist, a disciple of the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran. No, quite contrary, Jaeggy is neither interested or concerned with philosophising. Instead, Jaeggy is far more interested in distilling the human experience down, revealing and reveling in the madness of the everyday. In one story, a wealthy generous benefactor adopts a disenfranchised orphan. The results catastrophic. The little heir sets the adoptive home ablaze. There is no reason. No grand or malicious scheme. She merely wishes to see the place burn: "for the hell of it." Fleur Jaeggy destroys the notion and illusion that there must be some form of inherent meaning in everything. Jaeggy tears this comforting falsity asunder. Readers looking for some semblance of comforting pacifying fabrication, should look elsewhere. There is no grand scheme or universal meaning regarding events. Other writers would drown in the mire of such unrelenting dourness, Fleur Jaeggy has the perceptible ability to inject irony and gallows humour into her work, though not necessarily alleviating, it is a welcomed refreshing tonic. A common literary predilection of Jaeggy's work is a stainless-steel austerity. Regardless of the medium or form, Fleur Jaeggy retains a crystalline crispness, though beautiful and dangerously alluring prose, whereby Jaeggy performs existential vivisections. As Jaeggy wrote in one of her diffused short novels: "S.S. Proleterka," joy is an illusion, dangerous in its alluring enchantments, but false nonetheless. Fleur Jaeggy is a first-class writer who abandons priggish moral lecturing and highhanded lectures, instead carving out the black ice of life, mapping its intricacies leaving readers with the sensation of a polar plunge, refreshing but freezing. In addition to being an accomplish writer, Fleur Jaeggy is a translator of such writers as Thomas De Quincy and Marcel Schwob; both writer in turn are featured in portraitist essays from: "These Possible Lives." With both De Quincy and Schwob, Fleur Jaeggy finds like minded company, one a sardonic satirist and critic, the other the other the precursor and progenitor of Surrealism. If a literary family tree were to be crafted, Fleur Jaeggy would be featured on it along with Fraz Kafka, Bruno Schulz, Daniil Kharms, Italo Calvino, while further up the tree, Thomas De Quincy and Marcel Schwob would be placed, like eccentric great uncles who are discussed in familiar legend.

Sjon – Iceland – Despite being known as a rockstar poet (an accolade earned due to Sjon’s creative collaboration with Bjork), Sjon is still highly regarded as a literary writer in nature and profession, which is perhaps why his creative partnership with Bjork is both fitting and admirable, rather than cliché. Much like the famous Icelandic singer who is known for breaking conventional notions of music and harmony, Sjon maintains an equal explorative and slight experimental side to his literary works, a pastiche of high postmodernism curated literary sensibilities, with the grounded pleasures of pop culture. Though he debuted as a poet, Sjon’s real literary success came in his prose. Novels are the literary foundations of Sjon’s success both within Iceland but also in translation. His most well-known novel: “The Blue Fox,” maintains the writer’s penchant for pastiche of both fairytale and historical fable, wrapped in cellophane of gentle and appreciative literary language, providing both mysticism and giving form to the harsh and extraordinary beauty of the Icelandic landscape. “The Blue Fox,” would receive the Nordic Council Prize for Literature being hailed as a poignant lyrical postmodern fairytale, and as all fairytales do, enlightened and strengthened ones resolve in humanity, through a touch of the tragic. “The Blue Fox,” proved to be a catalyst for Sjon’s following novels, as both “The Whispering Muse,” and “From the Mouth of the Whale,” maintained a unique postmodernist touch with regards to the historical and the mythic. Later novels, however, share less interest with the mythic or fairytale in nature, but are equally postmodernist in style, disillusionment, and sense of disenfranchisement. “CoDex: 1962 A Trilogy,” is described as a love story, crime story, and science fiction story, but in the mercurial capabilities of Sjon, this trilogy of novels become another postmodern triptych narrating one man's attempt to find a place for himself with human history. Earlier this year, Sjon received the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize, affirming the Icelandic writer’s reputation as one of the most important writers in Nordic region. This prize has gone to the Danish poets Henrik Nordbrandt and Inger Christensen, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, Finnish writer Sofia Oksanen, and Norwegian prose master Dag Solstad and personal chronicler Karl Ove Knausgård. The Swedish Academy Nordic Prize only confirms the notion that Sjon is one of the most important and inventive writers of his generation and is a testament to Sjon’s contributions to both Icelandic literature and Nordic literature.

Ersi Sotiropoulos – Greece – Only two Greek writers have won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The first the literary statesman and poet-diplomat Giorgos Seferis, whose particular blend of Hellenic modernism continued the great tradition of Greek literature transcending nationalist concerns, and embrace with more universal principles of humanism. Odysseas Elytis in turn is a poet of light. A vassal of sun, disciple and admirer. In a manner similar to Seferis, there is a strong humanistic principle, however, Odysseas Elytis is slightly more romantic even more surreal than his countrymen. Still, with poetry that gushes and overflows with such guiding light, casting away remorse and lighting the path towards unencumbered freedom. Both poets lived through tumultuous times. The 20th century routinely fond itself split along battle lines, during both World Wars, but also the fallout of the subsequent Cold War. Greece, was not immune to these battles, and despite being the ancient worlds epicentre of philosophy and political thought, those ancient humanistic ideals were trampled on and destroyed by the rising military coup and subsequently short-lived military junta regime. The early years of this century have not been much kinder to the Mediterranean nation. The Great Recission of the beginning of this century, not only crippled Greece's economy and financial institutions, but also destabilized the political structures of the nation, and syphoned public morality and ideals of equality, fraternity, and charity amongst citizens. In a as of yet untranslated novel "Eva," Ersi Sotiropoulos traces the bankruptcy of a nation and its citizens, showcasing that the financial crisis sowed and destroyed Greek society with a locust ravenous glee. As a writer, Ersi Sotiropoulos is an unapologetic postmodernist, though she does not abandon the humanistic principles that the nation has such strong roots in, Sotiropoulos does not revere them above scrutiny, as crisis—be it economic, political, or ethical in nature—will ultimately see these ideals partially if not completely abandoned in favour of survivalist and independent measures. Goodwill and amicability between one's fellow men and citizens of the world is admirable, but its purity is not unblemished or so above the immediate concerns of the individual's immediate self-preservation. In the stories collected in "Landscape with Dog," Ersi Sotiropoulos reveals her penchant and natural talent for the short story. Each story is a dark glistening shard of glass, capturing through precis language the faults, failures, and silent ambiguities of human relationships, these otherwise simple scenes of daily life are punctuated with the power politics of relationships. Sotiropoulos's most recent novel translated into English "What's Left of the Night," envisions and reimagines the poetic awakenings of one of the modern masters of Greek poetry, C. P. Cavafy, during a three-day visit in Paris. The novel is an erotic, lyrical, and endearing tribute to one of the masters of modern Greek literature. Ersi Sotiropoulos is one of the most paramount and interesting Greek writers currently at work.

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 otherwise 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 in 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 in Literature.

Doris Kareva – Estonia – In a short essay "A Lesson in Harmony," Doris Kareva opens the essay regarding her infatuation and longing for paints and paper, in order for her to draw and recreate the world, or better yet provide existence to the images of the mind. Of course, a childhood spent in Communist Estonia the resources and supplies may have been sparingly available. Kareva's father showed her with cardboard and water, she could craft the same picture to life. There is a sense of marvel at the painting coming to life, but also its transience as the silhouette of the landscape evaporates. Doris Kareva concludes this memory with wisdom: "Our means are limited, our possibilities limitless." What follows is a concise and beautiful treatise on harmony and grace, two virtues Kareva encompasses with her précis like poetry. The poetry of Doris Kareva is pearlescent and opalescent in form, iridescent as they recall hidden depths before surfacing into the world. in a fashion similar to pearls, their refinement brings to mind a deep-seated sense of being gestated and incubated for a lengthy period of time before taking substantial form. Kareva's poetry is renewed for its strict adherence to form—the aforementioned pearl like précis form—this brevity, does not mean Kareva is a minimalist, but a consummate refiner and reductionist, capable of distilling her poetry into the intense ethereal and lyrical forms. Readers should not underestimate Kareva's poetry though. Despite its jewelled nature and lacking epicist length, these poems contain hidden oceans of depth, perplexing meaning, and emotional resonances that echo long after the last line has been read. This is also what makes Doris Kareva a formidable poet, where the terms 'high,' and 'classic,' are aptly attributed to her works. Kareva is not a poet kneading the earth or contemplating daily life, spinning it into the outer reaches of greater philosophical context; Kareva is a cloud shaper, the poet already contemplating the otherwise intangible and out of reach, through language that is both emotionally exalted, while still remaining contained and measured. A poet of the soul, mysticism, divinity, dreams, and celestial wonders; there is no poet quite like Doris Kareva, who has maintained poetry as a sophisticated form, the only medium willing to explore intangible and imperceptible questions and thoughts which continue to haunt human existence. 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. In the same essay "A Lesson in Harmony," Doris Kareva reflects on the title of one of her collections of poems "Days of Grace," – revealing it comes from a legal term defining the timeline a convict faces when the death sentence has been pronounced to the date of execution. What is an otherwise poetic legalese for capital punishment, Kareva converts into metaphor of the human condition, the recognition of our own inherent mortality, but the vaporous timeframe in which we meet our end. Poetry is a nice way to fill the time between the two node points, between zenith and nadir, is the entirety of a single existence, one born out of love and for love, reaching out into the unknown.

Dag Solstad – Norway – In surveying Norwegian literature, one might be able to discern topical trends and names, such as: Scandinavian noir; mammoth autobiographical confessions of Karl Ove Knausgård; or the strangely theological otherworldly hypnotically lapsing tide like novels and plays of Jon Fosse. Dag Solstad is more the percussor to all three, the otherwise Norwegian literary statesmen, whose literary output has remained consistent and concerned with the themes of existentialism and the dilemmas of the modern man in the post-industrial world. In the novel "Shyness and Dignity," Elias Rukla, an otherwise Norwegian everyman, the kind of man whose has resolved himself to the understanding that is life is merely an exercise in endurance, a repetitive motion of rinse and repeat; he has accepted his position as a individual who exists on the periphery, nothing more then a single in an otherwise large bureaucratic system (coincidentally Rukla is a high school literature teacher, whose instruction is to set the foundation of cultural heritage and appreciation for his students). Yet, one day Elias Rukla finds himself in an inspired crisis, which ultimately sees him breakdown and humiliate himself in front of his students. What follows is a gripping psychological portrait of a man whose basic principles and life have altered through a slight minor trembling of thought and realization; a home life as underwhelming and uninspired as his regular cynical thoughts; a social critique of a society which promotes and facilitates this disengagement with personal meaning. Often compared to Philip Roth for his novels concerning the plight of the individual lost in the everyday confounded by further existential dilemmas. What separates Solstad (thank Christ) from Roth, is his lack of indulgence and self-referential autobiographical components across novels, like one long winded narcissistic monologue of self-praise. Dag Solstad is an expert ironist, but also a chameleon, delighting attempting new forms and formats with his novels. In the novel "Armand V," is composed of footnotes to a literary work that does not exist; Solstad is featured as a minor character in turn, as he ruminates as a writer now passing the 60 mark. The novel, however, concerns the life of the titular Armand, a career diplomat approaching retirement and all the ancillary characters who make up his life. "Armand V," is often compared to Nabokov's "Pale Fire," for its postmodern literary mechanisms and authorial playfulness. "T. Singer," in turn explores one mans attempt at living truly anonymously, all the while relishing the periphery. Throughout the novel, the obsessive, anxious, and painfully shy retirer Singer becomes an increasingly enduring and marvel of a character. Dag Solstad's characters are eerily reminiscent of other famous European writers such as Peter Handke, adrift and alienated, but Solstad's characters appear to relish in the anonymity and periphery of their life, pondering the existential dilemmas of life itself.

Lyudmila Petrushevskaya – Russia – Fairytales, folktales, myths, folksongs—timeless little trinkets passed down from generation to generation. Inheritances pulled from the rafters, the attics, the basements, and the crawlspaces. Housed within ancient trunks—wooden or steam—they are pulled from their tombs like the Eucharist is removed from the tabernacle. Without much ceremony they are retold to a new generation, who become entranced and captivated by their stories. True loves kiss breaking curses; poisoned apples and enchanted spinning wheels; wicked stepmothers and goodly but dead fathers; witches who devour children; and lost children in the woods. They are spun as they are woven. Lyudmila Petrushevskaya carry a similar atmosphere of fairytales. They are dark orbs of obsidian or black pearls strung along an onyx chair. Each one a glistening and gleaming inky tear of unfortunate events and circumstances depicting desperate individuals despairing situations. Here the little match girl is not warmed or reminded of happier times within the fleeting flame, but sees the inevitable skull of deaths embrace staring back. During the initial years of the Soviet Union, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya was prohibited from publishing her stories or novels. Not for political or intellectual crimes. Petrushevskaya did not encourage revolution, rebellion, or any political ill will at all. Yet, her works were deemed to subversive because they 'blackened reality.' As it is well documented and known, the Soviet Union was famous for its aggressive propaganda campaign informing the citizenry their lives were good. Through posters, newspapers, television, and radio, they were bombarded with images of the proletariat rising above capitalism and working towards a better world. Ironic as it was in starch contrast to their realities. Long ques for food. Limited opportunities. Daily persecutions from the police. The entire state and world existed in grey. As Herta Müller once remarked, the colour of Eastern Europe was grey on grey. In this manner, Petrushevskaya 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 workers toiling away for the greater good, though there were workers toiling (then drinking), but it was to make the minimum wage, which allotted them the funds to purchase the scraps and bread 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 presents their narratives in her finely shaped, dark pearls of fairy tales. 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 transcribe 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. Since the invasion of Ukraine, Petrushevskaya has announced she will no longer write. Her bewitching black enchantments of cursed wretches and drunks, have always had her sympathy and her pity, but also Petrushevskaya's love. But no longer. The Russia of today the author has elegized with uncustomary anger, is one of thieves, murderers, rapists, children-killers and destroyers.

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.

Mikhail Shishkin – Russia (exile Switzerland) – Often seen as one of the most important contemporary Russian writers, Mikhail Shishkin is often praised for taking up the monumental themes of Russian literature: history and time (as in the individual's relationship and experience with them), love & loss, the passage of time, and death. Mikhail Shishkin's novels are renowned for being intricately structured, multilayered, lush and expansive. Shishkin's literary language is allusive, dense, and thought exceptionally beautiful, it is extraordinarily postmodern in scope and practise, with paragraphs and passages walking a thin tightrope between philosophical meditation and over indulgence in windbaggery verbiage. "Maidenhair," is often described as Mikhail Shishkin's masterpiece novel, a dense novel of intricate textual and narrative sources, from the interpreter of Russian refugees, who translates the testimonies and stories between Russian's seeking refuge in Switzerland, and the immigration officer interrogating them; his own personal readings; memories and letters to his son; and the love letters of a Russian singer, who has lived through Russia's greatest wars and revolutions, the rise of the Soviet Union and its dissolution. Where a narrative starts, end, or bleed into each other, grow increasingly difficult to discern. Reality and the reliability of each narrative becomes flummoxed and questionable, as the interpreter may interject a comment from the book he's reading in a different context or setting or vice versa, reality shifts and changes rapidly. In the novel "The Light & The Dark," Mikhail Shishkin once again bends time to fit his own literary preoccupation, recounts in the epistolary novel two lovers who have become curiosities and orphans of time, but whose enduring love crosses the time and space in their letters, declaring and maintaining their unthwarted infatuation, all the while reminiscing and indulging in their memories with each other. Controversy, however, has erupted against Mikhail Shishkin, with reports being leveraged against Shishkin that large swaths and parts of "Maidenhair,"—specifically the diary of a young Soviet girl from the Russian country side—where eerily similar to the memoirs of Vera Panova. Accusations of plagiarism have been leveraged against Shishkin, who has defended his use of Panova's memoirs in his most famous novel, as both literary play and a trope of his postmodern literary trope, moving the work into another dimension. Orhan Pamuk has faced similar accusations of plagiarism with his own work, and has dismissed it, while readers have supported his work as deploying intertextuality within the confines of postmodern literature, with full disclosure. The accusations of plagiarism being leveraged against Mikhail Shishkin, however, do warrant pause for concern, in addition to the other external events such as the Ukraine-Russian war, which ultimately plays against both Ukraine writers and Russian writers, regardless of their opposition.

Durs Grünbein – Germany – Dresden, the German city has an illustrious and lengthy history. From being the capital of Kingdom of Saxony one of the more influential states of the German Confederacy in the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic Europe. As a component of the German Empire, Dresden was a modern economic hub, for manufacturing and banking, but also an important city that harboured and fostered culture, becoming the capital of European Modern Art, before Hitler went to war with those artistic sensibilities and then rest of the world. The bombings and destruction of the city of Dresden during World War II, became metaphor and turning point in the moral resolve many in the west felt regarding the extent of the allied bombings as a righteous means to win the war, and instead ac cruel and excessive point of perverse destruction. The bombed out hollow streets of Dresden and the skeletal building facades standing in ash and ruin, have become some of the most captivating and melancholic imagery of the Second War II, along with the revelation of the concentration camps and the holocaust, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the ruins of the London Blitz. In total, these images form a tetraptych of the unencumbered, unrestrained, and ill measured devastation, destruction, and cruelty that came to define the war in action, tone, atmosphere, and end result. In the postwar years, Dresden was barricaded behind the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, being one of the major cities of the former East Germany, which under the Soviet banner and ideology took the ruins as opportunity to dismantle old quarters of the city, including churches and historic homes and buildings, and refurbish in the uniform and unitarian socialist architecture. Wartime suffering experience by Germans (let alone discussed) is often viewed as a bramble of moral thorniness, as if somehow to acknowledge let alone discuss the suffering of the German people during World War II is a betrayal of their initial aggression and genocidal actions during the war. Separating government from citizen, however, is the more impetrative point to make when discussing suffering. Regardless it’s a difficult subject to broach, yet one of Germany's most eminent poets, Durs Grünbein, did that just that in: "Porcelain: Poem on the Downfall of My City," tackling the complications of Germany's inability to properly mourn out if distrust their grief for their own loss, would be considered a subtraction from reconciliation with the horrors perpetrated by the country. This has inevitably allowed for more unsavoury and disturbed characters to capitalize on this turbulence, smithing it and fashioning into the artillery of their own machinations. W.G Sebald prophetically forewarned. Porcelain becomes the defining metaphor of Dresden, and much like much of the stock being destroyed during the bombings during the World War II, Durs Grünbein collects the various fragments littered throughout the cityscape and begins a mournful and melancholic overview of a city with a great history, terrible governments, and scarred by annihilation. Grünbein makes it clear, however, that he is a latecomer, and though he can see the phantom pains, the sense of displacement, and shadows of destruction, their palpability to him, their sense of intimacy and immediacy are not as forceful. This is because Durs Grünbein is not a postwar poet, nor is he a poet who had disillusioned hopes of the communism. Rather, Durs Grünbein is a poet who came of age during the realization and disappointment of the GDR (German Democratic Republic/East Germany). This is why Durs Grünbein has become the most renowned post-unification German poets, who is able to straddle the two Germany's from a uniquely East German perspective, becoming Germany's poetic wunderkind with his debut poetry collection Grauzone Morgens ("Mornings in the Grey Zone,") collects and observes with a sense of causality the late socialist-rot of the Soviet Union and former East Germany on the brink of collapse. From there on out, Durs Grünbein has ensured himself as being the most prominent German language poet of his generation, occupying the immediate years between socialist collapse and reunification, and as a writer was able to meld between the two worlds seamlessly. Grünbein's subsequent collections of poetry moved towards rumination on the classics and other more erudite measures, abandoning a fixation the immediate history, and became a more language focused poet.

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 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.

Nádas Péter – Hungary – One of the grand epicists heralding from Hungary, where Krasznahorkai László 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; Nádas Péter is the postmodern scholar examining with critical scrutiny the enteral and ethereal concerns of time and memory, written in enriched opulent 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; Nádas Péter 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; Nádas Péter 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 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. To further add to Péter Nádas's growing bibliography in translation, two volumes of memoirs "Shimmering Details: Volume I," and "Shimmering Details: Volume II," are expected to be released later this year in November. Despite being called memoirs, Péter Nádas is not writing a simple linear reconstruction of a life, but embraces the forms ideals, but is far more interested in interpretation, dissection, and reviewing the process of recollection and the results, rather than fixating on the results alone. Nádas has made a literary career by being original and never straightforward, unsurprisingly, his memoirs embrace this panoramic fullness, exploring the backstages that connects emotion to experience and then memory. There can be no denying that Péter Nádas is by far one of the most cinematic writers currently writing, who has also made serious and lasting significant contributions world literature and ruminated on the eternal questions regarding the nature of memory and recorded history.

Pierre Michon – France – Since his initial debut in the mid-80's with "Small Lives," Pierre Michon has made a reputation for himself as being a master of the minute, a miniature of portrait within an otherwise idiosyncratic and limited dramatic arena. Michon is not a writer of overblown novels. Despite this, Michon is a writer of cerebral portraits. 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 author's own artistic vision. This would inevitably explain why Pierre Michon and his work is always regarded with cult notoriety. His short novel “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 author's 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. Michon's most critically acclaimed book "Rimbaud the Son," recounts the multiple facets of the great modernist French poet, Arthur Rimbaud, by contemplating the different sides of the poet: as a son, friend, school boy, drunkard, visionary, sexual libertine, and poet. In Michon's hands a meditation on a famous literary life is not reduced to straightforward biography, its swaddled before its metamorphosis into a meditation on the writing life and the obsessive compulsion of what compels an individual to write. In this regard, Pierre Michon is an anti-biographer, whose Faulknerian sentences capture their subject accordingly, but moving beyond the intimacy of the portrait and getting lost within the metaphysical realism encapsulating the curious and bewildering world of artistic endeavours. "The Origin of the World," could be described as Pierre Michon's most conventional novel, recounting a bleak love story in the early 1960's, but the signature maximalist prose are continually present, the gelatin suspending and preserving characters within the book, while compelling readers to slow down and be lost within the rhythm and rhyme of the prose itself, all that opacity and exuberant prose often makes Michon more comparable to poet then typical novelist or prose writer. Michon's work noted for its distilled density is reminiscent of a fortified wine. 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 a 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.

Lyudmila Ulitskaya – Russia (exile) – Often I find myself providing unsolicited sympathy (or perhaps pity) to Russian writers for multiple. Most recently for the aggressive and terrible war their autocratic government has taken with the invasion and subsequent war in Ukraine. Then there is more the literary sentiment. Russian literature is world renowned. The nations politics will always leave much to be desired, but their literary accomplishments are gold standard. How than, as a Russian writer, do you write in the shadow of the ancestral legends? An otherwise moot point, as regardless of how, they continue to do. Lyudmila Ulitskaya is one of the great contemporary Russian writers currently writing today, one who truly understands the importance of dissention, free thought, and the writer as being in continued opposition to the state. Educated as a geneticist, Lyudmila Ulitskaya was fired from the Institute of General Genetics for the dissemination of underground literature. Since her dismissal from the institution, Ulitskaya has garnered a reputation of being one of the most important Soviet and Post-Soviet Russian writers currently at work. Lyudmila Ulitskaya has always been a social and political conscious writer, understanding that the atrocities, censorship, and oppressive autocratic rule of the Soviet Era, but the uncomfortable and corrupted transition to supposed democracy. After the invasion and subsequent annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014, Lyudmila Ulitskaya has become a vocal opponent and critic not only of the Russian government, but the pseudo-autocratic leader Putin, which leads Ulitskaya being described as Russia's inconvenient public conscious. Ulitskaya's literary works follow in the same vein as great Russian literature, the everyday lives and tragedies of every day people. In her novel "The Big Green Tent," Lyudmila Ulitskaya recounts a trifecta Bildungsroman, about three childhood friends whose lives through the Soviet Union. The dissident, the tragic, and exile. A novel of sweeping portrait of the Soviet landscape and reality, the rampant propagandas attempt to distort the grim reality. "The Funeral Party," in turn turns the novel to one fixated point, a dying artist, whose friends, family, lovers, squabble and argue over, which recollection and memory is to supported as the venerable truth? Lyrical, melancholic, and humorous, Lyudmila Ulitskaya proves herself to be an expert alchemical distiller of the complexities of home, exile, life, death, and love, tenderly revealed by a chorus of characters reminiscing, mourning, but always in enduring love. Lyudmila Ulitskaya is a writer of current times, one who is able to survey the past atrocities without nostalgia, and face the presents proliferation for corruption and machination without flinching, all the while remaining certifiable in her moral and ethical convictions, inevitably means she is a writer who is needed more now than ever. The kind of writer who is able to act as conscious without pontification or personal indulgence for piety.

Krasznahorkai László – 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. 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, Krasznahorkai László 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. Krasznahorkai László 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. Recent English translations showcase Krasznahorkai's literary preoccupations moving away from his initial bleak, grey, deluge of text characteristically the hallmarks of "Satantango," and "the Melancholy of Resistance," and moving towards more esoteric and ephemeral prose with a distinct departure not only in theme, but in location. First seen in "Siebo There Below," and followed up with the recent translation of: " A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East," Krasznahorkai László has begun to meditate on the far more abstract and philosophically poetic notions regarding the act of creativity, the pursuit of perfection and climbing the unobtainable heights, but reveling in the journey and the process. All the while "Chasing Homer," returns in extraordinarily condescended form to the high octane and postmodern paranoia, whereby the titular Homer is chased—no hunted—across Europe, and in his dodging must blend in with crowds, shift through trains, run down streets, and changing ferries, all in an effort to keep ahead of his would-be killers. "Chasing Homer," removes the past and does not dare dream of a future, it fixates on the instantiations present propelling the narrative with suspense. On a personal note, my reading experience with Krasznahorkai László, is one based off respect, but lukewarm enjoyment. His work requires the level of care, patience, tolerance, and marathonic resilience and tenacity, which I no longer have much to spare. 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 is 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, Krasznahorkai László is uncompromising, which is also what endears him to his readers. Krasznahorkai László 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 futile, if not completely impossible. Bestowing the Nobel Prize in Literature on Krasznahorkai László, might be deemed predictable, but it is more then well deserved.

Jenny Erpenbeck – Germany – Its hard to imagine a contemporary German writer as critically acclaimed and popular as Jenny Erpenbeck, who is not only praised in her native Germany, but frequently translated into English, and receives the same critical appeal and applause. To secure this point, the eminent critic James Wood is quoted to have written: "[. . .] when Jenny Erpenbeck wins the Nobel Prize in a few years [. . .]," in reference Erpenbeck's novel "Go, Went, Gone," which James Wood was seeking to raise the exposure of as one of the more underappreciated, but very deserving novels of 2017. Jenny Erpenbeck's lineage is full of generations of intellectuals, writers, and scholars. Erpenbeck's father was a physicist, philosopher and writer, while her mother was a translator of Arabic; her grandfather was an actor, writer, and director, and her grandmother was an actress, political writer, radio director, and journalist. All of this is rather interesting, considering the Erpenbeck's lived in East Germany, and communism is not renowned for favouring writers and intellectuals of any sort. Without any offense or venom, the Erpenbeck's obviously had a very fortunate life behind the Berlin Wall. Jenny Erpenbeck began her career not as a writer, but as an operatic director. The grandeur and material realm of the theatre was Erpenbeck's first love, while more literary endeavours came later. Despite turning to writing later, Jenny Erpenbeck has found immediate success as a writer, her prose, be it novel, short story, or essay, is unmistakable for the cool and detached tone, all the while surveying the shifting and ever-developing notion of history in the making. The parallel directions of the two Germany's and the two Berlin's may be considered a over used metaphor bordering on tired cliché, but when discussing the literary work and life of Jenny Erpenbeck, there is no avoiding the two sets of Berlin with the amorphous void dividing them. The Berlin Wall occupies the western imagination as the physical manifestation of the Iron Curtain, a barbaric barricade with the infamous 'death strip,' complete with patrolling armed guards, watch towers, barbwire, tripwire, guard dogs, and Czech hedgehogs. Escapes and crossings became feats of extraordinary legend. Yet, Jenny Erpenbeck treats and refers to the wall with almost fairytale metaphors or more mundane component of the landscape. In one reminiscent essay, Erpenbeck called referred to the wall as the edge of the world, and a place where her family picnicked often. When it came to the historic night when the wall was demolished, Erpenbeck was home asleep. Life across the wall remains exotic due its isolated and opaque nature, but as Jenny Erpenbeck clarifies, life was normal even mundane, but they were explicitly aware of the differences between the two, East German and Berlin building for a Socialist Utopia, while the west building on democratic principles. In this regard, Erpenbeck was aware of everything be incomplete in nature. Unification of the two Berlins for Erpenbeck was not a homecoming, but an experience of disorientation, a drifter in time. History, time, and trauma are eternal themes of Jenny Erpenbeck's literary works, with "Visitation," an elegiac novel recounting a house statically affixed in place, but not immune to the violent eruptions of history, and all the people who have inhabited its home. Twelve individual lives are recounted through one hundred and one years of German history, from the 19th Century to the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, communist East Germany, and post-reunification. "Visitation," is a poetic mosaic of a novel, enriched through the everyday which is so often usurped by history and scabbed over by the residual trauma. "The End of Days," equally concerns itself with time and all the different narratives and streams of a single unnamed female character, whose life follows different paths depending circumstance and choice. Throughout these various pieces of chamber music, Jenny Erpenbeck recounts the complications of time and the 20th Century anew. Jenny Erpenbeck's most recent novel translated into English: "Kairos," traces the personal ground of the dissolution and collapse of the German Democratic Republic, a poignant, doomed, and complicated love story between a naïve young woman and an indulgent older stately man. What follows is a affair that criss-crosses and laces through the collapse of a former world into a new one, yet what of all the people who are now lost within this new world, and their world, their city destroyed, demolished, their anchor points no longer found in the unity. Jenny Erpenbeck may be young, and her bibliography small, but she's a profound and power writer, one of the best of contemporary German literature. As if in fashion similar to W.G. Sebald, Jenny Erpenbeck understands that history is not forgotten strata layered upon layers of each other, but an encompassing atmosphere that exists within the present and already sketched a pliable future.

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. It's 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 retain 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 become 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 the 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) remains intensely referenced in her poetry, just as Liguria was of poetic value and personal importance to Eugenio Montale.

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.

Ewa Lipska – Poland – Often attributed to the Polish 'Nowa Fala,' (New Wave) generation of poetry, Ewa Lipska was a contemporary of the late Adam Zagajewski, and came to poetic introduction during the tumultuous late sixties, finding their foothold in the Solidarity Movement of the 1970s. This poetic generation developed organically, having no central cause or leader providing any sense of identifiable unity. Instead, it was a rag tag group of poets, whose literary concerns developed and were published in reaction and protest to the stifling conditions of the time. Unsurprisingly, both Adam Zagajewski and Ewa Lipska have dissuaded from being lumped together with the poetic generation, as their works continued develop individually and separately. Lipska for example is not a political poet, nor a poet of social commentary. Though political power struggles and social structures maybe featured in her poetry, they are not the defining focal points, the breath or beat that drive Lipska's poetry. Personal experience is the lodestone of Lipska's poetry, fueled by curiosity and observation, while shrinking away from defining generalizations or encompassing absolute statements. Language is a favoured subject, with Lipska playfully batting around the paradoxes of language. Ewa Lipska exposes and reverts the propagandists use of language in on itself, while criticizing languages inherent failures as being a product of human cognition to both categorize, describe, and communicate the world, all the while being vulnerable for manipulation and deception. This delight in paradoxes, are noticeable influences of the great Polish poet, friend and mentor of Lipska, Wisława Szymborska, who remains the gold standard for poetry. Yet, Lipska's poetry developed independently still, encompassing more complex metaphors and a sense of language that is inverted and confrontational. Where Szymborska recognized the fault in language, it was still the mode of expression to contemplate and comment on the wonders of the world. For Lipska the flaws and failures of language maintain a distrust in its ability to depict honestly creating a confrontational relationship with language that develops poetry that is both ominous, introverted, and existing in a state of dreamscape metaphor.

Mircea Cărtărescu – Romania – It is often advisable to limit absolute statements, if not outrightly dismiss as ludicrous exaggerations; but I like any one else, now and then must abandon restraint and indulge in ludicrous statement, which ultimately has some merit. In this instance, Eastern Europe as a whole, has proven to be a fertile and absolutely twisted and marvelous forest of some of the most original writers of recent memory. Heralding from Romania—a nation which is often stereotyped in gothic castles, vampires, superstitions and other fantastic tropes— Mircea Cărtărescu is one of the most original writers, whose work is finally reaching a hungry English language readership, who are fascinated by his absolutely phantasmagoric and explosively luxurious prose. Mircea Cărtărescu began his literary apprenticeship as a poet, and a founding member of the Blue Jean Generation of contemporary Romanian poetry. In his youth, Mircea Cărtărescu remarked he found influence from the 1960's counter culture movement, which explains the psychedelic and acidic vibrancy of Cărtărescu's electrifying literary language. Yet, Cărtărescu found greater renowned and success through his prose, especially his explicitly postmodern anti-novels, such as "Blinding: The Left Wing," and the recently translated "Solenoid." "Blinding: The Left Wing," is a monumental and monstrous novel, chimeric, mercurial, and indefinable, the novel parades as a fictious memoir, journey through a warped and hallucinatory Bucharest, and an atlas of a dreamscape defying definition. "Blinding," is a monumental novel of saturated detail, 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, comparable to Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges. "Solenoid," continues parading under false pretenses, taking the form at first of a high school teacher and diarists account, quickly collapses and implodes in on itself, cast into tangents ruminating on mathematics and philosophical concerns, but also entering into a more surreal and dreamscape dimensions, which previous Mircea Cărtărescu initiates will recognize. Cărtărescu of course grounds the narrative in the realities of absurdities Romania's communist life, rations, long lines for groceries, the relentless soul grinding work of the education system, and the frustrations of the family life. In a growing line of writers who write with a compelling raw freshness, Mircea Cărtărescu is also famous for not being a revisor or editor, maintaining a sense of continued uninterrupted stream of consciousness in his work (other writers known for this stance include China's avant-garde Can Xu and the Argentinian literary factory Cesar Aira). Yet, curious trope with Cărtărescu's fiction, which has so far been translated into English, is a sense of they are personal (be it fictional memoir or diary) and the works appear to be anchored loosely in the autobiographical or self. Unlike Annie Ernaux, however, where her work is a continued examination and autopsy of the factoids being presented in the sociopolitical context; Mircea Cărtărescu contorts, twists, the subjectivity into new perspectives which expand beyond the 'I,' beyond the intimate, beyond history, and drift not only into the sky or out to sea, but roam the cosmos and the microscopic with equal ease, the imperceptible personable is soon lost within the hyper textuality, which in turn becomes a inscrutable and impenetrable cerebral labyrinth. Truly, Mircea Cărtărescu is one of the most original and greatest writers current at work.

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.

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.

Miljenko Jergović – Bosnia/Croatia – 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 honesty, 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.

Vénus Khoury-Ghata – France [Lebanon born] – 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 a beauty pageant in her youth and her socialite activities and engagements. Yet in France, Khoury-Ghata has become a respected and distinguished poet and writer, receiving 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.

Asia & the Indo-Subcontinent

Ogawa Yōko – Japan – A common overarching thematic concern with previous contemporary Nobel Laureates is a preoccupation with memory and all its multifaceted elements. This includes last year’s laureate, Annie Ernaux, and her intrapersonal sociological dissertations on individual memory in relation to the greater social fabric and collective memory. Other prominent practitioners include Kazuo Ishiguro, whose crystalline prose orbit the theme of memory, self-delusion and personal revisionist relations with history; Patrick Modiano, whose works tackle memory, amnesia, and oblivion, both on a personal basis but also on a more collective basis, even willful erasure of the past and memory; Alice Munro in turn often explored the conflicting nature of individual memory to established realities, but also how a difference in remembering creates an entirely new perspective or fresh reality. Each of these writers incorporated the notion of memory into their work in their own way, allowing the theme to truly take on a kaleidoscope notion of possibilities and construct. From Alice Munro’s linoleum kitchen caverns; to the sepia shrouded Paris of Modiano, a city of oblivion and ghosts; the parabolic and manufactured dystopian realities of delusion of Kazuo Ishiguro; and Annie Ernaux’s sociological time capsules. Ogawa Yōko is also a consummate author of memory, with many of her novels tackling the notion of memory in a variety of contexts. For English readers “The Memory Police,” has been the only example of such of Ogawa’s available to review which details her preoccupation with memory and claustrophobic realities. “The Memory Police,” operates as a parable as literal objects are physically redacted, as memories of such objects and events become collectively erased on a collective consciousness. The appeal of forgetting and the responsibility of remembering, become competing interests. How memory and history are classified, organized, and tracked is another motif of Ogawa’s work, with objects often taking on a prominent if not personified force. Perhaps even being a physical embodiment or preservation of the ephemeral space of an individual’s memory, nostalgia, and longing now severed when emancipated in the form of a physical object. Beyond memory, Ogawa Yōko is also regarded for her disturbing, violent, macabre, and grotesque literary elements. These works are nuanced as they vandalize the pristine illusion of quaint normalcy existing within the mundane. The inclinations of a characters disturbed interior gradually breaking through and defacing the exterior world of acceptable normal conventions. A woman buying a strawberry shortcake for her son abruptly changes the pace of the errand when she announces her son is dead, in a tone that is reminiscent of one talking about the news or weather. The casual matter of fact revelation unnerves and shadows the remainder of the transaction. It’s the matter-of-fact casualty, which becomes the literary hallmark of Ogawa Yōko. Where other writers would devolve into sentimentality and sensationalism, Ogawa introduces the grotesque, disturbed, and macabre with blanched intimacy. The interior worlds and claustrophobic, confined, and intimate spaces are the landscapes of Ogawa Yōko; be it abandoned daycares, anonymous islands, dilapidated seaside hotels, and museums of miscellaneous mundane objects or devices of torture. It should be noted that Ogawa Yoko is not an apostle or disciple of Murakami Haruki. Thematic similarities and literary tropes are more aptly traced to her countrymen Hyakken Uchidaa and Kanai Meiko, both writers are known for employing grotesque and violent imagery in their literary fiction that transgressively disquiets the reader. The violence of Ogawa Yōko does not sensationally shock the reader but creates a layering sensation of menace and atmosphere of dread. Through a continued layer of details, mundane elements, complete with prose which is best described as blanc (white), Ogawa has crafted a claustrophobic, confiscating and intimate literary landscape, where the author explores the complexities of memory along with the undercurrents of violence and menace.

Moon Jeonghui – (South Korea) – Korean literature during the 20th century found itself in a continued state of rupture and upheaval, with the Japanese occupation and colonization to the Korean War in the 1950's, the division of peninsula, and western approved dictatorship, (South) Korean writers often lacked the space to facilitate writing at home, and had no audience beyond their language. Ko Un, became the first Korean language poet to achieve international success and recognition, and for years was speculated as the only Korean writer as a potential Nobel candidate. A shift in the last decade, however, thanks to government support and grants, Korean literature is finding a new audience abroad, and more and more writers are being translated, with prose writers overwhelmingly being reviewed. (South) Korea has suddenly become Japan's economic competitor, not only in electronics and automotive manufacturing, but in soft exports such as culture. One of the most recognized and appreciated female poets in the postwar period is Moon Jeonghui, who introduced a long neglected and overlooked feminine perspective into postwar Korean poetry. This new perspective should not be written off as 'less then,' or riddled with niceties of domestic life and carefree cottage perspective. Instead, Jeonghui writes about the brutality of the effects of war as it infiltrates all consciousness and aspects of daily life, but also a romantic perspective, all of which is encapsulated in pristine language, free from whirl winding ostentatious philosophizing. The reality of a woman is at the heart of Moon Jeonghui's poetry, and daily almost mundane are breathed new life and perspectives within her refreshing imagery. There is also a sense of feminine resistance, where Moon Jeonghui has used uniquely female experiences such as menstruation, to carve out a path different then that of their male counterparts. If one were to ever declare a poet as being almost exclusively feminist and existential, Moon Jeonghui, certainly would be an apt candidate. Through poems that dance between the beating heart of hearth and home, to destructive assault of rebellion and breaking free from societal expectations of what their gender means to their place within society, within the home, and the power politics of the day, all of which is written in a beautiful poetic language which fluctuates like water, remaining personal, subjective, and shifting in meaning via emotional response; while never betraying the hidden depths beneath the immediate surface value.

Bei Dao – China – Modern Chinese language poetry finds itself building off of the foundation of the previous 'Misty Poets,' of the mid-20th Century. This uniquely Chinese language of poetry, came to prominence after Mao's ideological reforms became the scorched earth policy of the day, which millions of lives upended and people displaced. The school of poetry, is noted for its deliberate obfuscation of language. Through obscure and ambiguous language, poets of the Misty School, were able to criticize the communist governments policies regarding censorship and cultural practices, specifically within uniformity of ideological standards and restricting art forms during the Cultural Revolution. During these ten lost years, resentment and bitterness amongst the citizens of China had an appetite for poetry and perspectives that affirmed their disgruntled mistreatment during the Cultural Revolution. Bei Dao is one of the founding poets of the movement, who along with fellow poet and painter Mang Ke founded the underground literary publication: "Today," which became the literary voice and mode of transmission for the poets to reach a wider audience, before it too was inevitably banned. The publication and poetry circulation tended the poetic ground for Bei Dao's future poetic career. One of Bei Dao's most famous poems "The Answer," has become culturally and politically significant, taking inspiration from the demonstrations and protests in Tiananmen Square in 1976 that were characteristically shut down violently. The poem, however, was resoundingly brutal, raw in human agency, criticism, and anger, it quickly encapsulated the discontent the people felt and their suffering during the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. "The Answer," brought Bei Dao to national fame and his work slowly began to find its way translated into Western languages, and as China began to embrace some capitalistic principles and even lessening restrictions on freedom of expression and travel, which saw Bei Dao able to travel abroad. In 1989 with the student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, Dao was abroad. As the demonstrations grew volatile and the government took a hardnose military action, Bei Dao was seen as a political agitator and refused re-entry, and so began his years in exile. If the Chinese Government sought to discredit Bei Dao as a poet they unanimously failed. Forced into exile, Bei Dao became a political and literary figure of dissent in China, metaphorically similar to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (though arguably without the flare and drama). Regardless, interest in Bei Dao and his work grew. Throughout the 90's Bei Dao moved from academic lectureship to academic lectureship, his poetry translated and published abroad, all the while being banned in mainland China. By the late 2000's Bei Dao was welcomed back to China, but instead moved to Hong Kong, where he taught and has organized further poetry readings and events. In recent years, however, there has been an increased move and direction of China reverting to more draconian measures under President Xi Jinping, with Hong Kong experiencing vicious censorship and freedom of expression crack downs, then of course came the Pandemic, which saw China embrace the public health emergency to exercise its dormant authoritarian brutality. For years, Bei Dao has been discussed and speculated as a future Nobel Laureate. His poetry was groundbreaking, revitalizing, and necessary to capture the desolation and despair of the Cultural Revolution, the lost ten years, and all the suffering the great leap forward had reaped and sowed across China. Beyond the political context of Bei Dao's poetry, however, is the defense of the individual through confusing and jarring paradoxes, between an individual's interior world and the physical exterior world around them, allowing them to live and experience two different components of life. There is a sense that if the Swedish Academy hasn't awarded Bei Dao the Nobel Prize in Literature now, they may have viewed his candidacy as being past.

Chen Yuhong – Taiwan – There have been plenty of writers heralding from China and Taiwan who would have been admirable Nobel Laureates: Mu Xin, Eileen Chang, and the late Yang Mu immediately come to mind. Sadly, the last of them: Yang Mu, a Taiwanese poet, was the one who was often speculated to have had the best chance of winning a prize in the immediate future. Mu's poetry was known for its blend of western modernism and eastern classicalism. This borderland between classical eastern poetry traditions, specifically Chinese poetry traditions, and the influence of a multitude of western poetic sensibilities can be seen in Chen Yuhong's poetry. A contemporary of Yang Mu, Chen Yuhong rocketed onto the Taiwanese literary scene just before the turn of millennium in 1996 with her debut collection: "Concerning Poetry," Yuhong established her as a mature and dignified poetic voice. Subsequently volumes of poetry collection only confirmed and refined the high lyricism and musical sensibilities of Chen Yuhong's poetry, which through striking imagery and contemplation muse and contemplate a wondrous form of topics, from the mysticism and spirituality of Tibetan Buddhism; to the resounding soothing harmony of the Uyghur folk music; to observing the loss and devastation of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan. Nature, however, remains a particular and popular topic, the natural world and landscape remains a common vantage point for Chen Yuhong's poetry, providing both the image, narrative, and expression to the subject in which she mediates upon. As in the case of many great poets, Chen Yuhong is also a translator, having translated Anne Carson, Carol Anne Duffy, Margaret Atwood and Louise Glück. Chen Yuhong is a refreshing poet, when so many poets in and or around China or employing its language, often work within the Misty School of abstract and complex poetry, Chen Yuhong embraces lyricism for its sensuality, subjectivity, and inherent linguistic musicality. The poetry refrains from political opposition or support, and instead traverses the impermanence of life and time and grasps the emotional responses of the human condition within set circumstances.

Kim Hyesoon – (South) Korea – Elfiede Jelinek remains a distinctive Nobel Laureate in Literature, her award was met with controversy for a multitude of reasons. For English language readers, the complaint was a resounding and infuriated "who?"; other detractors found the Jelinek's award uncomfortable, recognizing that she is by far one of the most influential and singular German language playwrights of her generation. Whose work is infused and saturated with a bombardment of language from texts, to advertising campaigns, to colloquial dialogue, each one adding a new schizophrenic like dimension to contemporary societal reality, where the continued unrestrained bombardment of language and information is ubiquitous with life itself. Contrary, however, many found Elfiede Jelinek's work complicated by the sheer unapologetic transgressive nature of it. It is difficult to imagine a recent Nobel laureate whose work is renowned for its linguistic creativity and zeal and saturation in violence and vitriol. Detraction put aside, Elfriede Jelinek, remains one of the most interesting Nobel Laureates, reading her work is nothing short of a unique experience, and however uncomfortable it can be, one can't help but admire Jelinek's uncompromising literary vision, brandishing an acidic recipe of violence, criticism, and gallows humour with ease. The (South) Korean poet, Kim Hyesoon is similar in vain, a poet who rebels, revolts, and is staunchly oppositional to Korean Societal expectations, especially concerning the inequality between men and women. Hyesoon employs a poetic language that is disturbing, visceral, grotesque, macabre, and shockingly unapologetic. An iconoclast who vandalizes preconceived notions of femininity and womanhood within a society that views them as an object or commodity. The commodification of women, Hyesoon blames squarely on rampant and unregulated capitalism introduced to (South) Korean society via neo colonial powers sustaining the previous dictatorship. In a strange way, Kim Hyesoon, is one of the more popular (South) Korean poets to have been translated into English. Hyesoon's poetry, which is renowned for its experimental form, agile language play, and vicious vitriolic societal criticism in opposition to injustices, as well as more universal themes of love, womanhood/motherhood, and death, have found her admired and respected on the international stage. Her international accolades include the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2019 for the collection: "Autobiography of Death," in 2021 the Cikada Prize, and more recently the Royal Society of Literature in 2022 (alongside other writers such as: Ogawa Yōko, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Anne Carson, and Juan Gabriel Vásquez). Poetry may be described as a form that wavers between oblivion and relevance, Kim Hyesoon injects an obstinate vitality into the form, proving itself to be a literary form capable to facilitate protest and viral dissemination within the public consciousness.

Can Xue – China – There is no writer quite like or even comparable to Can Xue, as this modern Kafkaesque writer of Chinese letters is absolutely singular in form, writing, narrative, and style. Where other writers experiment in and with literary forms, there is a sense of restraint and an otherwise academic playfulness to their forms. Can Xue, abandons any notion of restraint, her work are cerebral deep dives into the subterranean catacombs of the subconscious, entering into the mines of a dreamscape, where with hermetic glee and monkish discipline, Can Xue embroiders some of the most compelling, exquisite, and disturbing tapestries of modern literature. Can Xue's early life is marked with hardship and disruption, political instability in China throughout the 20th century saw the abrupt upheaval of Can Xue's life, with the routine persecution of her family, loss and displacement of home, her father's imprisonment, and her mother and a few siblings sent to the countryside for re-education. The arrival of the Cultural Revolution ensured that Can Xue's formal education was ultimately ended. Despite a lack of formal education, Can Xue never stopped reading or participating in self-learning. Her autodidact ambitions, led both her and husband to find learning sewing and tailoring, allowing them the opportunity to fashion themselves a better life, then the labour jobs they were provided previously. The ability to learn and take back the direction of one's own life, perhaps provided Can Xue the encouragement to write. Having never been formally indoctrinated or taught in a certain manner, Can Xue is free to orchestrate, compose, and format her works like a composer designing clouds, unencumbered by the trivial constraints and conventions of gravity. This does mean that Can Xue's work is not easy to digest or even comprehend. Like an onion, layers upon layers of unconventional, fantastic, strange, disquieting, and unapologetic surrealism are bound to be displayed on the page. How to interpret Can Xue's work has confounded readers and critics equally, with many applying external political and macro historical contexts to Can Xue's work in order to apply some structure and order in which to analyse the work. Unsurprisingly, Xue, rejects this line of critical study, and has maintained that there is no political dimension or element to her work at all, all the while maintaining that her novels and short stories are literature, narratives without concern or influence from external sources. Still, the line of analysis regarding Can Xue's work as social and politically subversive. This still seems like a false or disingenuous criticism of Can Xue, who despite being completely avant-garde, embraces the principles of being free and disinterested with an ideological, social, or political concern, and instead embraces a purely indulgent enjoyment in the literary form for the sake of it. Can Xue is a master of the surreal and dreamlike stew, where she's boiled and braised the bones of Kafka and Borges, extracting marrow and jelly and concocting within her own cauldron a steady brew of strange stories and novels. Much like the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, Can Xue's cityscapes exist in a completely fictitious and imaginative realm, where floating gardens drift by; factory smoke that never stops puffing out chimneys; an eternal fog rolls in; the sun oppressively pounds the earth like a scorching hammer; throughout it all, Can Xue remains barely guiding the reader through the surreal and dreamlike landscape in which they have willingly entered. The breathtaking performance-like pieces of Can Xue's writing are majestic as they are irritatingly obscure. Its difficult to envision if Can Xue will receive the Nobel Prize in Literature or not. Xue is a writer who embraces all the absurdities of literature, rips up the conventions, defies the law and order, and is completely disinterested in otherwise silly concerns that are not purely literary. This also makes Can Xue a very divisive writer, one who can inadvertently attract criticism in equal measure as she crafts praise. Still, if Can Xue were to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, there is a certainty that one cannot complain the award was by any means dull or conventionally pedestrian.

Tawada Yōko – Japan | Germany – Tawada Yōko is by all accounts an exponent writer, one capable of working and writing in two languages: her native Japanese and her adoptive German. Tawada is said that writing is a process of continued translation, as she writes in one language and begins to translate into the other. Which language is employed based on the type of work also creates a unique structural piece of language, as Tawada writes longer works such as novels in Japanese; while shorter works (short stories and essays) are drafted in German. This 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 artificial, to the point of being 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, they are also philosophical and metaphysical. Tawada explores the differences between waking life and dreams; animals and humans; thoughts and emotions, and other abstract phenomena. Though language may provide context in narratives, Tawada employs 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. Yoko Tawada does not eschew her Japanese heritage or language. Instead, Tawada embraces the richness and duality of perspective and context two different languages provide her, meaning that both Japanese and German are equal in their influences in Tawada's literary output. If the Swedish Academy wanted to award a writer skilled at linguistic aerobics and exploration as language as the first method of navigating, communicating, and comprehending reality, Tawada Yōko is the most ideal candidate.

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.

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.

Itō Hiromi – Japan – Poetry is by far the most difficult literary form to translated across linguistic boards, as the form not only relies on the native language to operate, but is a creature of language, burrowed within the grammar, the nuisances of syntax, wordplay, and vocabulary. Poetry is language taking flight. Translators are put in an unenviable situation then, how are they to transplant the form and language into an alien script? Through study, scholarly diligence, hard work, collaboration, and a bit of alchemical mystery, translators pull it off. Itō Hiromi is considered one of Japan's most formidable female poets. Debuting with a collection of poetry titled: "The Plants and the Sky," in the late seventies, Itō Hiromi quickly established herself as not only a feminist poet, but one of the most radical experimental poets of her generation. Itō Hiromi became a sculpture of the Japanese language, shifting and shaping it into more abstract and complex forms, testing the limitations of the Japanese language all the while refreshing it in form and style. Literary topics often finding themselves under Itō Hiromi's purview include: the complicated relationships between the sexes through the lens of womanhood; the elation of pregnancy into the evolution of motherhood; celebrating and studying the oral traditions of Native American storytelling and knowledge sharing; the botanical cycle as seen through the seasonal cycles. It is on valid ground that Itō Hiromi has been called not only soul sister to the Beat Generation for her free-wheeling verse, but also an omnivorous poetic tuner with the acute ability to synthesize and harmonize a variety of poetic traditions from foreign languages and literary legacies. In the 1990's, Itō took a break from her poetic achievements and turned her attention towards prose and writing novels. "The Thorn Puller," is Itō Hiromi's first novel to be translated into English, and recounts the burden and challenges faced by a woman as she travels between her husband and daughter in California and the elderly Japanese parents left in Japan. Crossing borders is not just limited to geographical changes, but also cultural and linguistic changes, the expectations of motherhood and daughter are reviewed within a globalized lens. Of course, what would otherwise be a semi-autobiographical 'I-novel,' of domestic responsibility is masterfully manipulated, contorted, reshaped Itō Hiromi, and channeled through a variety of different embodiments and perspectives, which not only enriches the narrative but showcases the renowned 'shamanistic cohesion,' of Itō Hiromi's poetry is transferable into prose. Throughout the novel Japanese folklore, poetry, literature and pop culture form a kaleidoscope of shifting and shimmering colour, representing the world in all its globalized complications and the blending of cultures. The foundation of the novel is the principle of the bodhisattva Jizo, who delays his own transition into nirvana in order to elevate the suffering of others—or as Ito puts it, pulls the thorns from human existence. Itō Hiromi returned to her poetic roots with the collection: "Wild Grass on the Riverbank." The collection was a testament of a poet still at the pinnacle of form. "Wild Grass on the Riverbank," is a chorus of euphonic and cacophonic voices melding together in a strange and bewildering surreal and dreamscape collection of poems, where mothers shape-shift, fathers maybe corpses, with strange landscape of botanical curiosities, all the while questioning the narrative of the migrant, the shifting realities of borders, realities, and experiences. Evermore grotesque as it is original, showcasing that Itō Hiromi has not retired on laurels at all.

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.

South America & Latin America; with the Caribbean

Cesar Aira – Argentina – The last writer from South America was the elderly statesman, Mario Vargas Llosa, one of the few remaining writers heralding from the Boom Generation. There have been countless writers who have worked diligently and written themselves out of the shadow of the boom writers: Roberto Bolaño and Ignacio Padilla, immediately come to mind. Tragically both writers died prematurely. Few writers from the Southern continent have received the Nobel Prize in Literature, with the Swedish Academy awarding to Boom Generation writers (friends-cum-rivals, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa), while the Mexican poet diplomat Octavio Paz, started off the 1990's decade with a strong poetic influence (the 90's remain a fertile decade for poetry laureates). While Miguel Ángel Asturias, remains one of the most important modernist writers of the 20th century in the southern hemisphere, and a contemporary of Alejo Carpentier and Jorge Luis Borges—Asturias and Borges were once contemplated at sharing the prize, but the academy eventually settled on Asturias alone. Of course, South, Latin and Central America are more than just the Boom Generation, unfortunately, great writers who wrote independently of that literary movement, have all died: Sergio Pitol, Nicanor Parra, José Emilio Pacheco, immediately come to mind; while others such as the Uruguayan poet Ida Vitale is 99 years old, maybe declined by the Swedish Academy due to 'advanced age,' (which has been used as a criterion to dismiss candidates in the past). One of the most important contemporary writers currently at work in the southern hemisphere is the Argentinian writer, Cesar Aira. A prolific author of short novellas, Cesar Aira is renowned for crafting the 'Flight Forward,' literary method, whereby Aira circumvents conventional edits to his literary works, and maintains a continued non-interrupted narrative via a change in the narrative or the story or style. This has created a very diverse smorgasbord bibliography, an otherwise informal goulash of ingredients stewed and simmered together providing hints of the fantastic, magical realism, Dadaist, surrealism, ghost story, historical fiction and so on. Cesar Aira's continued improvisation of narrative has received both praise and detraction. Praise of course going to a continued evolution of literature, bending narratives to a more pliable and fluid states; while detractors leverage criticisms that Aira's prodigious literary production suffocates his literary merit, while his literary style has been reduced to a simple postmodern gimmick and trick, no more than a party trick. Regardless, Cesar Aira remains one of the most innovative and original writers from Argentina currently at work, with the late Roberto Bolaño describing him as one of the best writers currently at work in the Spanish language.

Patrick Chamoiseau – Martinique/France – Postcolonial literature is defined as dealing with the dissolution and independence of nations and states that were previously considered the stewardship or political control of larger external entities. Even if the state was autonomous, there was still a sense of cultural absorption and homogenous institutionalization and integration. I often think of the memories and words of the quiet giant of English literature Penelope Lively, who remembered growing up in colonial Egypt, and remarked that the tales and illustrations of Beatrix Potter's "Peter Rabbit Tales," were completely foreign to her, even though she was viewed as English in everyway beyond landscape. Lively also recalled the absolute trauma of being relocated and shipped back to England from Egypt. The sun, the sand, the ancientness of Egypt, and freedom, all left behind for the grey, dour, and solemn reality of England. No bunnies in blue jackets there. Just grey skies, wool coats, and strict structured educators. Postcolonial literature can be described in this same form, the estrangement, abandonment, and loss when suddenly, the rules of the game have changed, and nations have been granted their independence. Suddenly their cast adrift and left to reconcile with the past, the present, and the uncertainty of the future. For some postcolonial writers such as Chinua Achebe, they revolted against the perceived notion of the quaint self-assured superiority the English thought they had. While, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o has spent a career seeking to reclaim and remediate tribal African languages and identity within the postcolonial landscape. For Patrick Chamoiseau has carved out a new path, one which does not rebel against the previous colonial world, or remediate and nurture a previous identity, but instead embrace the new world, the new identity which has formed not only under colonial governance and transplantation, but persists on long after its departure. As in many postcolonial countries, the colonial language is often considered the language of commerce, education, and social upwelling, in the case of Martinque that would be French (this same instance can be observed in Morocco), yet a young Patrick Chamoiseau was rebel against the French dominance and embraced the Creole language of the streets and the people. The language of the everyday, found in streets, gardens, and kitchens. It is the language of an authentic Martinique, and in turned should be celebrated as a literary sensibility in its own right. Though the postcolonial landscape found Martinique just as reliant on France as if it still were a colony, yet, as the young Caribbean Island nation grew more comfortable with its independence, it began to consider its own identity and seek to curate that separately form France's shadow, and the Martinican Creole became one of the core components of establishing this sense of independent identity. This is where Patrick Chamoiseau is considered one of the more defining writers of Creolite movement, blending with linguistic flexibility both Creole and French. "Texaco," is one of Chamoiseau's most recognized work where slavery, colonialism, personal history, and language become defining features of the novel, where a young woman residing in the shantytown (Texaco) outside of Fort-de-France, recounts her family history. Language is the defining feature of the novel, the push and pull of Creole of the living colonized and the French of the colonizer. One of Patrick Chamoiseau's more well-known novels "Slave Old Man," takes a different turn, recounting the surreal and magical realist like narrative of an old nameless slave and his escape into the jungles and the pursuit the plantation owner and his mastiff into the woods. What follows is a narrative of survival and hallucinations, the nature of free will and the cost for freedom. Patrick Chamoiseau is one of the most important writers of the postcolonial French 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.

Nancy Morejón – Cuba – The Golden Wreath Laureate from the Struga Poetry Evenings, is a prestigious poetry prize, which has recognized and crowned some of the greatest and influential poets with the award, including but not limited to: Eugenio Montale, Adunis, Seamus Heaney, Mahmoud Darwish, Tomaž Šalamun, Charles Simic, Amir Or, and Carol Ann Duffy. Among them is the postrevolutionary and afro-Cuban poet, Nancy Morejón, a leading figure in Cuban poetry. Morejón is a trailblazer in the Cuban literary scene, the first black woman to receive Cuba's National Prize for Literature in 2001. Born to a dock worker and a seamstress, Morejón became the first postrevolutionary Cuban black woman poet to be write, publish, and be critically assed by the masses. In addition to these poetic achievements, Nancy Morejón is an accomplished academic, being a director of the Caribbean Studies at Casa de las Américas in Havana. As a poet Nancy Morejón's poetry addresses concerns of ethnicity, race, gender, history of the Caribbean, politics, and the uniqueness of the Afro-Cuban identity. Though Nancy Morejón does not shrink away or retreat from blackness as a thematic preoccupation, but it does not overwhelm Morejón's work, forcing itself to become the totality of her poetic achievements. Race, dispora, and a history of slavery and indentured labour as components to Caribbean culture, are woven through the poems, discussed as they are celebrated, Nancy Morejón is far more interested in writing about the blend of Spanish and African cultures within the Americas and Caribbean. One of Morejón’s famous poems, Mujer Negra (“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. Nancy Morejón one of the Caribbean’s most socially aware and politically observant poets, who in her own words, recognizes poetry as a form of social communication, meaning 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 and celebration of the freedom, all within the rich colourful languages and cultural diversity and traditions of the Caribbean. Beyond her poetic achievements, cultural curation and academic studies, Nancy Morejón is a translator and literary critic in turn. Heralding from Cuba, Morejón is not free from political issues. In June, she was to be crowned honorary president of the Marché de la Poésie (Poetry Market) in Paris, was rescinded over what has been described as political pressure. I don't know the full details, but the controversy is unfortunate. Taking Morejón's political context out of the mix (as much as possible), there is no denying that Nancy Morejón is one of Cuba's most important poets.

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.