The Birdcage Archives

Sunday 29 October 2023

– XXI –

Sensitivity is the new form of censorship. It is the newest notion in attempt to rid the world of offense. Yet such practitioners of sensitivity editing, reading, and viewing find offense wherever they look. They do the world a disservice. The world is not ideal. It is a mixed bag of stimuli; none of which is exclusively interested in regards to one's tolerance or sense of sensitivity. Children and people need to have frank and open discussions regarding intolerance, not censor material in which they are never exposed to it. The human condition is a varied spectrum of experiences. Not all of which are positive or kind. Exposure, discussions, and understanding them are intricate parts when experiencing them and encountering them, but also in confronting them and processing them.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Ananda Devi Wins the 2024 Neustadt International Prize for Literature

Hello Gentle Reader,

The Neustadt International Prize for Literature for 2024 has been awarded to the Mauritian Ananda Devi. Previous winner of the biennial award include:

Francis Ponge (1974)
Czesław Miłosz (1978)
Octavio Paz (1982)
Tomas Transmtromer (1990)
Kamau Brathwaite (1994)
Assia Djebar (1996)
Mia Couto (2014)
Dubravka Ugrešić (2016)
Ismail Kadare (2020)
Boubacar Boris Diop (2022)

Often referred to as the ‘American Nobel,’ the biennial award has a reputation for recognizing and awarding great writers from across the globe who write in a diverse language. Winners of the award include giants of international reputation (as listed above), while nominees include other contemporary classic writers as: Doris Lessing, Wole Soyinka, Mavis Gallant, Carlos Fuentes, Can Xue, and Nirmal Verma. The Neustadt International Prize for Literature shares a similar literary perspective with the Nobel Prize in Literature, an eye for global recognition and appreciation of literary merit, though some may point out that the Neustadt applies a more global perspective with greater accuracy.

Ananda Devi is considered one of the most important French language writers working today, specially from abroad. Devi’s bibliography includes novels, poetry, short story, and essays, though only a fraction has been translated into English so far. The novel “Eve out of Her Ruins,” is given significant praise and is noted as the best introductory point for Devi’s work. The Neustadt International Prize for Literature is the first big name international award that Ananda Devi has won, which may mean an increase interest in her work and further translations, but this is also a significant moment in Devi’s career, where international acclaim is now being bestowed upon her, though Ananda Devi has long been revered in French reading circles.

Congratulations to Annada Devi, The Neustadt International Prize for Literature is certainly a confirmation that your work is renowned for its penetrating poetic insight, unflinching social criticism and overview, and an expert surveyor of the uniquely female perspective of the human condition.

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

M. Mary

Friday 13 October 2023

Louise Glück Dies Aged 80

Hello Gentle Reader,

Louise Glück was one of the most singular and original poets of contemporary English language poetry, a poet whose work was unified and complete, revolting against the notion of miscellany or collected scraps. Each of Louise Glück’s poetry had a sense of concrete or togetherness about them, a sense of unity not just in form, but in narrative, preoccupation, crafting beautiful poetry collections of marvelous sequences. Louise Glück was an unapologetic lyrical poet, one who swore no allegiance to any school, movement, or theory. Glück’s poetry strived for continued absolute clarity, one which severed and trimmed sentimentality and kitsch modes of expressions of disingenuity. This clarity was also regarded for its austerity. Pristine and picked clean, but unmistakably examined and exactingly staged and displayed. Louise Glück was a poet whose work examined, dissected, cut open and burrowed into otherwise eternal preoccupations of the human condition but also of personal matters, such as trauma and intimate relationships either with parents and siblings, or the dissolution of a marriage. These otherwise personal narratives had critics referring to Louise Glück as a confessional poet, but they couldn’t have been more wrong in their categorization. Glück’s poetry lacks the emotive frills, the titillating exhibitionist strip tease and final self-immolating cleanse. Louise Glück was far more chameleonic even impersonable, employing and embodying myths and botanical perspectives to refract and reflet on the topics in which Glück mulled over; but what was always enduring was the unmistakable poetic voice, both personal in its intensity, but crystallinity disseminated without ceremony. A poem often referenced by critics as having the distinct Glück touch is “All Hallows,” with the placid imagery of an otherwise rural landscape in autumn. Glück describes the arrival of dusk with the image of darkening hills and oxen asleep; the fields are picked clean either by harvest or pestilence; while a toothed moon rises. The poems jagged, sharpened edges, poke and prick throughout the poem, but soothes in the end, when a woman extends a hand of golden seeds as offering, calling out into the darkened evening for the soul. The distinct mournful voice, the jagged and serrated imagery, are all hallmarks of Louise Glück’s poetry, but take note of the season, and how landscape and nature are prevalent through the poem. “The Wild Iris,” is regarded as one of Louise Glück’s masterpieces of poetry, a poetic cycle that ruminates on the existential dramas of human nature and life through three very distinct voices, the God, the gardener, and the flowers of the garden, each one adding their voice to the chorus. The poem “Snowdrops,” is featured on the Nobel Prize website, but displays Glück’s unique poetic voice embodied by a fictional character, whereby the titular snowdrops remark with anxious surprise that they revived and return as winter recedes. Louise Glück is truly the October Poet, while looking outside as the day is bathed in grey light, the sky swaddled in impenetrable grey and white clouds, but the trees remain alight and aflame with a brilliance of autumnal colours of yellow and orange, while roads and lawns are carpeted in brown leaves, and some trees eager or windswept, have all but shed their leaves for the season. October is a month of ripeness and lengthened shadows, but also the last swansong before winters arrival, when the world comes alight once more, in a moment of renewed ripened life.

Sadly, Louise Glück died today (October 13 2023) at the age of 80. She was a remarkable poet, whose adherence to personal lyrical form ensured she had a rich and rewarding career, having won both the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the National Book Award, and was the United States Poet Laureate, in 2020 Glück was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Beyond poetry, Louise Glück was an accomplished professor and lecturer or poetry.

Rest in Peace, Louise Glück.

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

M. Mary

Thursday 12 October 2023

All the Lovers in the Night

Hello Gentle Reader,

The decline of social capital and meaningful relationships has risen steadily. Prior to the pandemic, former United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy described loneliness as an emerging epidemic; in 2018 the United Kingdom appointed a minster for loneliness in order to report, manage, and reduce loneliness within the United Kingdom. With the onslaught of the pandemic in 2020 into 2021/22, loneliness was referred to as the shadow pandemic. While individuals participated or complied with mandates or restrictions and other public health orders such as social distancing and self-isolation. Restaurants, bars, theatres, and cinemas closed. Other retail stores either shuttered their doors or remained open in reduced capacities. People stayed home (where they could) and to use the resilient cry to arms, hunkered down. All the while, loneliness spread. Images, footage, stories, and news of the elderly locked up and isolated in their care homes looking out windows, completely severed from their social networks, supports, and safety nets. Further reviews, audits, reports, and inquiries have been damning. Canada, for example, paraded itself as a stellar success when it came to its response the pandemic, but reports have also damned the nation and its provinces for its complete failure and abuse of seniors and elderly who were confined to long term care facilities. The response to their needs was not only inadequate but fragrantly negligent, resulting in numerous deaths and causalities. The physical and health related effects of loneliness continue to be studied, with researchers warning that the effects of loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being a chronic alcoholic, and exceeds the health complications related to obesity. Human beings are hard wired biologically to cultivate and participate in intimate activities. The requirement for meaningful social connections is inherently human, but the notion of loneliness has evolved alongside human society, philosophy, political and economic systems, and social structures. For example, one might imagine archaic feudal rural societies as being plagued with loneliness; but this has not been historically proven. To partially quote Karl Marx: "Religion is the opium of people," and certainly during these otherwise feudal dark ages of back braking labour, mundane oppression, and deliberate inequalities, the church became in essence the epicenter of the social life, a place in which to gather and amongst a group take in the word of the lord. Faith in the divine—this otherwise invisible hand—proved to be the tonic and comfort to what would otherwise be described as lonely souls, because despite their physical isolation or remoteness, the notion of God was an ever unseen but constant companion with faith being the tether to this understanding of divine company. Society in turn continued to evolve, and as medicine, science, and new philosophies that rallied against absolute monarchies and the church's complete subjection and monopoly of the world, the individual has been repositioned as the most important being, not the collective that absorbs the individual. Loneliness was no longer solely attributed to trees, roadways, and clouds, people too began to become acquainted with the notion of loneliness. Modernity brought freedom, fueled further by Darwinian applications in socioeconomic principles, and existentialist philosophies have sought to provide the basis for the individual to live their lives emancipated from the church. Yet, loneliness persists with a pestilence proclivity for permeance.

Loneliness has become a somewhat ironic byproduct of global interconnectivity, consumerism, and technological dependence. Ideas, narratives, stories, experiences can be shared across the world. People are connecting and re-connecting with people online. But the harsh glare of a computer screen or a phone screen, does little to pacify or replace the need for meaningful social connections. Everywhere, however, people are transfixed by their phones. Bombarded with images of their friends or relatives or co-workers or some celebrity on some great adventure, while their commuting to their job or standing in a fluorescent lit hellscape making themselves a coffee in the breakroom. Doomscrolling is another term that has come to the forefront, whereby people consume as if on loop nothing but depressing, negative, disheartening news. Continually, research shows that there is a lack of meaningful relationships and partnerships forming amongst individuals, and technology is neither replacement or alternative. The celebrated rat race of the postwar boom years in the 1950's has expedited and cultivated conditions where the modern individual is doomed to be atomized and isolated. People's calendars are full of activities and events, but the continue 'go, go, go,' narrative only masks the condition, providing the superficial understanding that they have meaningful interactions, with one participant of a study recounting their early investments and relishing in the on-the-go culture from morning into the night, filling their days with activities from school to extracurricular sports to then volunteering, only to slowly become increasingly exhausted. Then they realized they had no real support or meaningful social connections. Their phone and contact list were full of polite acquaintances but no enduring friendship. In turn solitude, alienation, loneliness have perhaps become more prevalent literary themes over the past decades, as it becomes an increasingly permanent fixture of the human condition. Collectivist cultures such as Japan before did not report many cases of loneliness, but the rise of globalization and consumerism has inevitably worn away the collectivist cushioning from alienation and loneliness. Shut-ins or what are known as: hikikomori, are becoming a prevalent demographic in Japanese society, where individuals do not leave their homes or have any meaningful real world social connections. Furthermore, Japan's population is declining, with a number of single person households on the rise, and almost half of the population has reported to feeling occasional loneliness on a daily basis. It’s a concerning social trend, and should not be confused with the wistful solitary characters of Murakami Haruki as they despondently stroll through their neighborhoods and tripping into a surreal dreamscape. It’s a palpable and realistic concern deprived of flights of fantasy. It was due to Murakami's praise of Kawakami Mieko that I initially was hesitant of reading her. Recently, however, her work has been translated and published with frequent ease into English language, showcasing to an extent a significant departure from the previously dominant surreal and magical realist narratives produced by Murakami. Similar to Ono Masatsugu, Kawakami Mieko is a writer concerned with more immediate social and realistic concerns, though she is less literary than Ono.

Loneliness is not the central theme or figure of Kawamai Mieko's novel "All the Lovers in the Night," though it is an apparent reality and state of being. The novel describes a modern woman Irie Fuyuko adrift, completely directionless and aimless, whereby the world zips along past her. Fuyuko is an individual who has seemingly no qualities, no interests, and no life. She is an individual who has come to the conclusion and acceptance that her life will not be very exciting or interesting. The novel introduces her as a simple neutral and beige character. A working professional woman—a copy editor/proof reader—whose almost machine like in her job, capable of working through manuscripts notating errors. At the office her productivity is appreciated, though this is her sole activity, never participating in water cooler chat, conversations, or other social activities. The other women in the office immediately view Irie Fuyuko with disdain. She becomes the focal point of the office gossip, taunts, and other passive aggressive attacks. Irie Fuyuko's character foil is the unapologetic, brash, social, aggressive extravert man-eater Ishikawa Hijiri, who recognizes Irie Fuyuko's productivity and encourages her to become a freelancer, whereby she could most certainly make more money and work from home. This is the life of Irie Fuyuko, a completely blank slate of an individual. She attended and graduated from an average nondescript high school, she had no preferential university or postsecondary ambitions and attended one merely because it was recommended to her. Upon graduation she accepted the first job that was offered to her and then stayed well into her early thirties. Her trajectory in life is best described as unambitious, unassuming, and uninspired coasting. It’s a life lacking in agency or direction. Irie Fuyuko is an amorphous being and individual completely afloat and lost within the world, directionless and perhaps even clueless. Her parents are never mentioned. Though its assuming they were typical middle-class individuals. There is little joy or excitement in her life. She's never left Japan and has no aspirations for traveling. She doesn't give her appearance much thought or concern either. Curating further information to assume that her clothing is generic and equally unassuming, lacking in character or colour. Her birthday is late December around Christmas, which unsurprisingly she celebrates the event alone, but in a rare moment exercises a sense of independence and takes a walk at night and observes the city in all its lights and comings and goings, but also notes people. How they wait for each other in restaurants or train stops; how they walk together or eat together. On one of her nightly walks, Irie Fuyuko is confronted by her own reflection in the mirror:

“The image of myself that floated to the surface, tinged with blue against a backdrop of the signs, walls, and windows of the nearby buildings, looked absolutely miserable. Not sad, or tired, but the dictionary definition of a miserable person.”

What follows is Irie Fuyuko's slow decent into self-realization and actualization, if on a more destructive basis. In attempt to participate in actual events or activities outside of work, Fuyuko goes to a community centre which offers a variety of different classes from languages, to culinary/cooking/baking, crocheting/knitting, to courses regarding the sciences. What follows suit is an embarrassing and destructive showcase, but also opens the door for hope and redemption, the opportunity for a meaningful social connection with another individual attending the event, a high school science teacher, Mitsutsuka. What follows is a budding relationship between the two. Their meetings awkward and polite revolve around superficial subjects and science, with flashes of odd admissions from Irie Fuyuko, giving her imperceptible character some defining feature. Her joy of lying in bed as a child and pretending to be a lion for example. Of course, Fuyuko's dissatisfaction with her life continues, but cannot be resolved as she has no interest or understanding of how to facilitate improving it. What follows is a slow train wreck, the continued dive into crisis and introspection and misery. Irie Fuyuko's default state of being has always been unrecognized loneliness, suddenly faced with its reality, Fuyuko is lost within its all-consuming depths. The narrative goes the way it's expected to. The novel loses its drive and steam and concludes as natural as it can, with a sense of irresolution, all the while gaining further understanding. At times Kawamai Mieko writes almost glaringly polemic, employing the brash Ishikawa Hijiri to give voice to her opinions and perspectives on societal expectations and constraints, lacking the required subtly to be considered successful to thwart accusations of posturing to the readers.

Along with Ono Masatsugu, Murata Sayaka, Kawamai Mieko is a representative of a new wave of Japanese literature, one which showcases writers who are moving away from the incorporeality and disengaged hermetic narratives, and instead moving towards narratives that are socially aware and concerned; they do not shrink or shy away from specifically Japanese elements or cultural references. Kawamai Mieko is a writer renowned in her native Japan as being unapologetically feminist, and these social lenses and perspectives are often stitched and sewn into her narratives, providing commentary on the societal expectations of women in Japan. In this fashion, one of Kawakami's claims to her success is both interviewing and criticizing Murakami Haruki over his otherwise two-dimensional female characters in his work, who rely on heavily male oriented perspectives and characters to define them.

"All the Lovers in the Night," is a unique social novel, one with explicit detailing care into the nuances and perspectives of a life completely adrift in a state of anemic alienation. Scenes of passive aggressive office politics are genuine and empathetically relatable, while the descent into misery is a slow burn, and unfortunate to read, often leaving readers wondering at which point their own lives have come to the same epiphanic moment where they realize their own life will not be very exciting. Irie Fuyuko's job as a copy editor is not held out of any enjoyment, satisfaction, or interest in reading or editing. The description of how she works through the manuscripts to Mitsutsuka seemed frightening, where she described the activity with machinist enjoyment, not enjoying what was written, but merely pecking through looking for mistakes and then discarding the work and moving onto the next manuscript like an assembly line. The lack of fulfillment shows a character who has no direction, no interest, no understanding of life. The novels slow vivisection of these social realities and emotions is what makes it a worthy read. Personally, I didn't find Kawamai Mieko's language explicitly lyrical or touching. The prose was clean and starched, which is required in order for it to land its punches and have the necessary impact; though as the aforementioned polemic discussions aside, there were times the novels language slipped into the uncharacteristically quotidian and vernacular. Beyond these initial observations, Kawamai Mieko's novel “All the Lovers in the Night,” is a tonic of a social critique regarding the amorphous apathy of modern life and loneliness as constant companion of the modern individual.
Thank you for Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

Friday 6 October 2023

Post-Nobel Prize in Literature 2023 Thoughts

Hello Gentle Reader, 

This years Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to the Norwegian dramatist and prose writer, Jon Fosse, who the Swedish Academy praised:

            "For his innovative plays and prose which gives voice to the unsayable."

Shall it be described as a tradition now that all subsequent Nobel Prize in Literature announcements will follow the same formulaic expression that was established in 2019 with the announcement of the Laureates in Literature for 2018 and 2019. The chiming bell heralding the appointed hour, those white gold accented doors of the Swedish Academy opening into the beautiful ballroom with that crisp brilliant October afternoon light pouring through, where a full house of journalists have congregated to hear the announcement of this year's Nobel Laureate in Literature. From the doors emerges the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy (Professor) Mats Malm, who stands behind a barricade and rattles off the standard pleasantries before announcing this years Nobel Laureate in Literature. This year, roughly five or ten minutes before the announcement, a woman (I suspect producer or event organizer for the Swedish Academy) brief the assembled journalists of the afternoon's proceedings:

First – At 1:00pm (CET) Professor Mats Malm will come through the doors and announce the years winner.

Second – Afterwards Chair of the Nobel Committee Anders Olsson will provide an overview of the Nobel Laureate.

Third – Finally Chairman of the Nobel Committee Anders Olsson and Nobel Committee member Anne Swärd will hold a short interview regarding this year's decision. 

The announcement followed the outlined format with particular Swedish proclivity for procedure. Permanent Secretary Mats Malm confirmed that by the announcement that he was able to get in touch with Jon Fosse who was driving en route to the fjord; there was a perceptible ironic smirk that crossed Mats Malm's face when he said this, as any reader of Fosse will recognize the trademark fjord as a quintessential Fosseian feature. As for how Jon Fosse took the news, Mats Malm commented that he was delighted but not necessarily surprised, as Fosse has been in speculation and tipped as a contender for a little over a decade now. This concluded Mats Malm's portion of the afternoon's proceedings. Following, Chairman Anders Olsson made his scheduled appearance and dryly read his bio-bibliographic sermon regarding Fosse, and what followed—rather quickly it seemed—was the casual (though concisely short) interview with Anders Olsson and Anne Swärd, though Olsson managed the interview in full (at least what was available to be seen during the live stream). In total the entire procession took roughly a half hour (?) maybe even less. Certainly, no lingering over the pudding.

In awarding Jon Fosse the Swedish Academy has finally landed its footing, re-establishing the Nobel Prize in Literature as a literary award fixated on quality and merit, though leaving it to fall slightly into the realms of expectation and predictability. That being said, caution should still be exercised with the Nobel Prize in Literature, as there are giants of literature who carry a certain expectation that they will be crowned and coronated with the Nobel, such as the still living Adunis and Ismail Kadare and recently deceased Milan Kundera and Javiar Marias. As is the case of the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, the Swedish Academy has also proven that it plays a long game and a conservative game at that, having confirmed that Tranströmer was nominated consistently every year since 1993. Yet, one can't help but imagine the Swedish Academy sitting there and mumbling to themselves: "too soon," every time his name crossed their table. By the time 2011 came along, the decision became a matter of now or never, due to Tranströmer's poor health and advancing age, thankfully the Swedish Academy made the right decision. The case and optics between Tomas Tranströmer and Jon Fosse are very different. As the Swedish Academy is a Swedish institution, it is aware that it can it be criticized for being bias towards Swedish language writers. This came to the fore front in 1974 when the Swedish Academy decided to split the award between two Swedish writers who were also academy members. This award remains a blackened mark on the awards history, readily available to be pulled out and used against the Swedish Academy to support a variety of allegations, accusations, and charges, which includes but not limited to eurocentrism and self-absorption on the brink of self-gratification. This explains why it took almost two decades for the Swedish Academy to take the plunge and award Tomas Tranströmer and another eleven years to announce Jon Fosse, as any Scandinavian writer who is announced as the winner will inevitably be scrutinized with a heightened degree of viciousness.

In awarding Jon Fosse, the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy did not evaluate his work beyond the purely literary. Fosse is a writer who has no sociopolitical motivation. This is a writer whose singular concern has always been motivated by how the literary is the medium to discuss existential and elemental concerns of the human condition, from the eternal anxieties of an indecipherable dread; the shadow of death in daily life; longing and perplexing questioning reaching out and contemplating meaning in any universal sense; dashed hopes and thwarted dreams; questioning the human relationship with the divine; and the absence or loss as the pit of emptiness and the nodal point of grief as a permeating feature of existence. The list goes on, forever changing, shifting, and evolving. These eternal and primordial themes have long stalked human thought and been the foundations of great literature and will continue to do so. How Jon Fosse treats these subjects is what makes him unique. Fosse is a writer who is burrowed in language, for what is literature without the appreciation and understanding of language, as language is the lodestone and medium of literature. Fosse's literary language is often described as minimalist, stripped down and repetitive. Jon Fosse's literary language is deceptively simple for its simple vocabulary and repetitive nature, but it has a unique rhythm a hypnotic lyrical quality to it that mimics the deliberate tidal movement of back and forth, push and pull, in and out. The other typical feature of Fosse's novels and plays is the complete lack of feature or detail. Characters are often nameless and featureless, representing anonymous voices in a landscape which has come to define and describe Fosse's reality: shingled shorelines, pewter skies of dove-coloured clouds, grey (or black) seas endless and eternal, waves rolling into the beach, docks and piers and boathouses creaking and bobbing in the currents drifting routines, and small houses where intimate and yet eternally existential dramas are set to unfold. There are times, however, when characters are named in Fosse's work, though the names are interchangeable appearing elsewhere Jon Fosse's bibliography, be it Asle, Alida, Olav, Ales, or Aliss. Alse in particular is a routine incarnation found throughout Jon Fosse's work.

Before the Nobel announcement, Jon Fosse is described as one of the most performed living playwrights around the world, with productions staged in France and Germany; New York and London, though, Fosse's dramatic works in the Anglosphere have always been muted or lukewarmly received at best. Contemplative rambling poetic monologues sprouted by names anxious characters, set in purgatory landscapes are always a tough sell for English language spectators. As a dramatist, Jon Fosse is often considered a heir of both Samuel Beckett and Henrik Ibsen. In a fashion similar to Samuel Beckett, Jon Fosse has completely abandoned the conventional rules and forms of drama. Yet, while Beckett paraded and guided the tour through an apocalyptical absurd existence and showcases languages inability to fully communicate meaning or apply logic to otherwise surreal existential events creating an almost highbrow comedy. Jon Fosse's work is rhythmic and hypnotic with the back and forth, back and forth, with a lacking sense of the comedic absurd while excavating the dreamlike conundrums. One of Fosse's most performed plays: "I am the Wind," is often described as a shipwrecked "Waiting for Godot," as two male characters The One and The Other find themselves shipwrecked adrift in the sea. Polar opposites, The One is cautious and reluctant to embrace life, tantalized by the prospect of death being release from the uncertainty of life; The Other is the social opposite enduring The One's depressiveness, and clinging to the basic instinct towards life. The English language reviews were not particularly enthralled, while in turn admitted the work did linger after its performance, a testament to its exemplary discussions regarding existential ponderings of cosmic conundrums and baseline existential apprehension. Whereas "A Summers Day," changes course, moving away from the Beckettian powerplay between two opposing characters, instead focusing on memory, love, and absence. The play recounts with an air of nostalgia formed by memory an older woman looking back on the day her husband goes missing. Time is a key feature and movement in "A Summers Day," being treated as circuitous, crossing and crisscrossing a continued repetitive loop. Even in the remembered youth, with smile and love, the threat of loss and emptiness is at the pit of their relationship. This same emptiness permeates the daily life and existence of the older woman, who scries through the past seeking understanding or some sense of resolution. In Fosse's work, however, resolution is seldom on offer.

Over the past decades there have been few playwrights awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. While Jon Fosse remains committed that prose and novels have always been his preferred form, his dramatic writings have always been discussed first, perhaps because they were translated faster and produced further, immediately gaining the attention and piquing the interest of the greater public first. Fosse's plays display his rhythmic and minimalist language, the rolling, swelling, and receding rhythm, followed by long pauses, all of which creates an atmosphere and drama founded in irresolution. Fosse's work are not about action, resolution, climatic display of virtues and moral grandstanding. Fosse instead leaves his disembodied voices of characters completely abandoned at sea, lost in the uncertainty and anxiety of their very existence. Otherwise, mundane moments become amplified by a creeping distress, paralyzing inaction and stifling resolve. Fosse's works exist within this stasis, this slow burn of existential dread. In awarding Fosse, the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy acknowledges his contributions to the dramatic world with his plays. Despite being heralded as the heir of some of the greatest playwrights of the 20th Century, such as Samuel Beckett, Thomas Bernhard, Bertolt Brecht, there is something more singular about Jon Fosse's dramatic writing that is completely his own, abandoning in essence the playful nihilism of Beckett or the unrestrained manic vitriolic contempt of Thomas Bernhard. Fosse's writings have a gnostic incantation quality to them, continually attempting to articulate some unknown mysticism that could be divine or some other unknowable force; there's the wavering anxious and hesitant pauses be it long or short. A real sense of neutrality, with softer edge veering towards a lukewarm sense of warmth, which would be uncharacteristic of his predecessors. Fosse does, however, maintain the tradition of routinely deconstructing and revolting against the conventional forms of the theatre, ensuring that dramatic writings continue to evolve and thrive in an innovative sphere of both physical presence but absolute reliance on language. In their overview of Jon Fosse's work, Anders Olsson, has paid particular attention to Fosse's dramatic works highlighting key pieces of work: "Nightsongs," "The Name," "Death Variations," and "Dream of Autumn," and in their short interview post-announcement, Anders Olsson mentioned that Fosse's dramatic works are prosaic in form, meaning they can be read conventionally and not necessarily required to be witnessed or watched.

When it comes to Jon Fosse's prose, the Swedish Academy has highlighted his most recent novel (and what is now described as Fosse's magnum opus) Septology: "The Other Name: I-II," "I Is Another: III-V," "A New Name: VI-VII," which for seven volumes, presents its self as a reflective breathless monologue of an aging painter Asle, but also his doppelganger Asle in the city of Bjørgvin (Bergen) who is an alcoholic painter. The two Asle's ruminate over the complex questions of life, love, death, light and shadow, faith and despair. The novel takes Jon Fosse's signature minimalistic sinuous rhythmic language of crests and falls as Fosse continues the exploration of the human condition in metaphysical form. Septology has been described as a transcendental novel, an absolute masterpiece which continues to confront the perplexing questions that have daunted and haunted mankind since we first began too cognitively question or own existence and formed language in order to disseminate this line of questioning. This seven-volume novel, appears to be that great novel that has been lurking within Jon Fosse over the decades, slowly being released and accumulating in his beautifully written novels: "Aliss at the Fire," "Morning and Evening," "Boathouse," "Melancholy I-II," and the previously highly acclaimed Trilogy: "Wakefulness," "Olav's Dream," and "Weariness."

In "Aliss at the Fire," readers are provided an introduction into how Fosse's language and prose is hypnotic as it is hallucinatory, but also that circuitous play with time, as Signe an old woman slips further and further through memories regarding her missing husband Asle, who one day rows out into the fjord and is lost. He is neither confirmed or speculated of being dead. He is merely missing. Asle's permeating absence becomes the void of Signe's life, the very emptiness she routinely circles around. Lost in memory and speculation, she drifts back five generations of Asle's family, resting finally on the titular Aliss, who rescues her infant child from the icy waters of the fjord. Through her own grief, Signe has summoned the tragedies and legends of Asle's family through the ages in the same house, on the same fjord. "Aliss at the Fire," showcases Jon Fosse's circuitous depiction and understanding of time but also his mastery of brevity (the novel is barely over a hundred pages long). "Aliss at the Fire," is a masterful work of stream of consciousness narrative, moving further and further through a families personal and sustained generational tragedy now crashes ashore at Signe's feat with the loss of her husband. "Moring and Evening," recounts one man's entire life from his birth until his death. Once again just over a hundred pages long, an entire life is captured in one final day where everything is as it always was, but feels different. "Morning and Evening," is a novel of reductionist beauty, in pristine simple language. All the while Trilogy: "Wakefulness," "Olav's Dream," and "Weariness," is a metaphysical romance of ethereal beauty, with commentary drawing the biblical reference and metaphor of the stranded, searching and abandoned Asle and pregnant Alida to the equally despondent Joseph and Mary. Jon Fosse's trilogy is an absolute beautiful work, a set of novella's detailing the complications of two tragic lives from the brink of despair, shadowed by a precipitable but unknown darkness, the ache of hope dashed by retribution, mourning and grief with some remedial action leading the closest one can get to redemption. Trilogy proves that Jon Fosse is a master of reductionist narratives, boiling and carving away all the ostentatious fat, leaving crystalline prose which appreciates and employees' languages painterly mastery, to absorb and slip through time, memory, and encapsulate and capture the fleetingness of existence and life.

Jon Fosse is not a writer one reads for narrative or story or plot. Fosse is a writer one reads for language. The slow pared down rhythmic language. There is reason why Fosse's prose is called lyrical, not for their symphonic quality or orchestral technicalities, but for the parred down rhythm beat, which forces readers to slowdown and become adrift within its hypnotic repetitive qualities. Through plays, novels, short stories, and poetry, Fosse proves himself to be a master of language and one of the most literary concerned Nobel Laureates of recent memory, eschewing the paltry partisan pageantry of political grandstanding and social naval gazing, but rather being more concerned with literary concerns, language, and the enduring element and primordial preoccupations of the human condition and languages ability to give it some sense of form, or at minimum a sense of articulation, with no expectation of response or resolution. On the topic of language, Jon Fosse's literary language is Nynorsk, the minority written language, roughly 10 - 15% of Norwegians use Nynorsk as their written dialect, while the major Norwegian written dialect is Bokmål. The fact that Fosse employees Nynorsk is a particular component of his win, with many praising the decision to award a minor dialect. Furthermore, the Swedish Academy provided comparison between Jon Fosse and the great Norwegian writer Tarjei Vesaas who also wrote in Nynorsk.

This years Nobel Prize in Literature is more secure in its decision based on literary merit alone. Jon Fosse is a giant of literature, one of the most produced, staged, and performed dramatists in the world, but also one of the most devote literary writers, whose crystalline prose do not betray the depths beneath the surface. Fosse is a writer who has an appreciation and understanding of language that goes beyond utilitarian application, and is an artform unto itself. Fosse is also a writer of little to no controversy. There are no (if any) indignant "who?" screeching about. This is a writer of world class quality and appreciation. Jon Fosse is a writer of purely literary merit, no ulterior motivation. I am absolutely pleased that Jon Fosse has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. if there is any criticism to be leveraged against this year's award, it's that the Nobel Prize's citation is a bit perhaps to literal, or lacking in a quality that is more interesting, but no one and nothing is perfect. The Swedish Academy may be criticized for making a safe choice this year, but that does little to eclipse the fact that Jon Fosse is one of the most important dramatists in the world and one of the most singularly innovative though highly personalized even introspective prose writers currently at work.

Very warm congratulations to Jon Fosse, a very well-deserved Nobel Prize and a very deserving Nobel Laureate.

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

M. Mary 

Thursday 5 October 2023

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2023

Hello Gentle Reader, 

The Nobel Prize in Literature  is awarded to the Norwegian Jon Fosse:

"For his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable."

Congratulations are in order for Jon Fosse!

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

M. Mary 

Monday 2 October 2023

Remaining & Final Thoughts for the Nobel Prize in Literature 2023

Hello Gentle Reader,

Later this week we will learn who this years Nobel Laureate in Literature is, as the Nobel Prize in Medicine was announced today. As September's shadow lingers in the foreground, the seasons are certainly showing a change in demeanour and temperament. Summers brilliance and scorching devil may care attitude is all but abandoned, and while it attempted to prolong itself into the beginning of September, temperatures have slowly decreased, while the air grows crisper, the light clearer. To quote the English philosopher Bernard Williams:

"September tries its best to have us forget summer."

I am ready to leave summer behind, and forget it. The warm summers of childhood nostalgia and dreams, have all but been replaced by an oppressive authoritarian season that scorches with inquisitor fervor and righteous fury. While autumn, which used to haunt my thoughts as a child, has become a season of resigned dignity, and in turn has become my favourite season. These past few days have brought rain, and though welcomed, one can't help but chide for its overdue arrival. Where was it during this past parched summer? The wet winds have battered branches and rattled the leaves to take up flight and fall in departure. Afterwards, they scrap up and down the street, sometimes in flocks; while other times in desperate solitary sojourns, anguished and alienated please crying out from its weak scattering scratches down the street. Tree lines are a mix of green, yellow, and red. Enthusiastic trees (or merely wind beaten) have shed their leaves and resigned themselves to the oncoming winter reprieve. Now in October the brilliance of the leaves turning will have been lost. Having abandoned their perches, they'll lay scattered on lawns and lost in streets. While the trees transformed into twisted scaffolding frame grey skies through their gnarled bark branches. On clear moonlit nights, the moon will shine through these frames, casting arthritic clawed shadows. At which point, October settles in September's wake.

Due to this summer's unrelenting heat and drought, may headlines are employing the words: Disappointing. Poor. Meager. To describe this year's harvest. A recent walk around the city's limits, displayed the fields and crops have all be harvested. Bare stalks are what remains. Fawn and beige shadows of their former golden ocean like self. There is always a sense of expanse to the fields and crops, an endless nothingness just carrying on into the infinitesimal. Now, this otherwise nondescript landscape grows increasingly hollow and empty. The nights bite with a particular foreshadowing to a winter wolf lurking in the north, while meteorologist have begun to announce frost advisories for some communities. Flowers have all but shriveled up. Given way to autumn and dramatically died. They keel over in their wilting withered beds. Except those select few who preserve and hold through. Chrysanthemums and sunflowers are magnificently brilliant. Bold beautiful and resolute. They'll carry on in bouquets and harvest floral arrangements. The world may awaken in Spring, but does not come alive until Autumn. This change in season, with all its delights, paradoxical nuances, and changes in temperament reminds me of the Nobel Laureate in Literature for 2020, Louise Glück, who is the eternal October Poet.

Admittedly, when Louise Glück was announced as the Nobel Laureate in Literature for 2020, I was not overjoyed or impressed by the announcement. I was disappointed, with heaping doses of disgruntled annoyance by Glück's award. This discontent was only exacerbated by the Swedish Academy's new announcement format, whereby members of the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy, dryly read a lecture to the assembled journalists, afterwards engaging in the most boring question and answer period. Though this could have been easily written off as a component of the Pandemic, this new style of announcement has become the mode of the Swedish Academy moving forward. Over the years, I've come to appreciate Louise Glück's poetry, an appreciation which was not readily on hand during the initial announcement, and was not properly sold by a disengaged Swedish Academy—more specifically wooden Permanent Secretary and charmless chair of the Nobel Committee.

Louise Glück was often mistakenly characterized as a confessional poet early on in her career. There is no histrionic striptease with Glück's poetry. No sense of deranged personal indulgence into immolating depravity. Glück's poetry lacks the kindling and the fire in which to burn herself anew. Louise Glück is not quite a phoenix like poet, rising from the ashes in a pyrotechnical display, radiant and revived. Rather, Louise Glück is more a poet of austere investigations where precision is the means in order to extract and display the events and discern meaning. This is often done to the point of being cold. Glück is more comparable to a figure skater with her technicalities in grace and effortless ability to conduct an autopsy on what could described as powerful (even overwhelming) emotions, all the while retaining a detached clinician's perspective in order pull back the layers and get to the heart of the matter. All of which is done in the most exquisite crystalline and clear language. My respect for Louise Glück of course came through her more unified collections of poetry. Often poetry collections are literarily a collection of assortments of poems, equivalent to a box of chocolates. A sampling if you will, to tickle and tease out some enjoyment from every palette and taste. Louise Glück, however, has drafted poetry collections with a sense of unified narrative or sequence, the poetry collection operates as a complete work, not independent stars shining and outshining each other. Glück's comprehensive collections provide her the opportunity to provide narrative and a mixture of voices to 'speak,' within her collections, and in turn converse. The most famous poetry collection "The Wild Iris," where existential ponderings of dramas of life playout through the diverse world of the garden, which is populated by a diverse group of flowers (which are imbued with their own personalities and monologues), the gardener who tends to this earthly realm, and an unknown god looking down upon it all. Subsequent collections followed suit, composing complex symphonic sequences of poetic cycles, employing historical, literary, and mythical narratives in which to comment on otherwise private moments.

Over the years, I've grown to appreciate Louise Glück and her poetry, as it is certainly singular in form. There is no poetic allegiance, no adoption or adherence to any other poetic movement or school. The poetry of Louise Glück is independent as it is intimate, private in intensity. The cohesion and overarching narrative of her collections, makes them feel like a complete 'piece,' rather than a scattered collection of fragments or thoughts housed together under one title. As September waltzes into October and autumn colours the leaves with fall, I often find myself gravitating towards Louise Glück's poetry, as after all, Glück is the October Poet. As the days are slow to wake and lengthened shadows cross streets earlier as the days redact further and further into the night, and the light grows distant but clearer, I read and grow increasingly fond of Louise Glück. Austerity is a word, I think few writers and poets would want attributed to their work, but for Glück, I hope she revels in it, as its endearing and complimentary. Glück's poetry is deprived of personal indulgences giving way to sensationalism and cloying sentimentality, all the while refusing to entertain high handed ostentatious peacocking. This is a poetry of expert refinement. The poetry of reaped fields golden and fawn. Of burdened dusks with clouds blood clot red. Yet, also of a twisted ironic sense of hope, of tender kindness, and a biting sense of humour. Louise Glück is a complex and multifaceted poet, whose distinct voice and literary qualities enshrines alongside the other great poets who have been awarded in recent memory.

— Darts in the Dark —

As with every year, the different Betting Sites have complied a synthesized list of who they think has the best odds at wining the Nobel Prize in Literature. This year's top contenders are perennial favourites, with top spot being reserved for the connoisseur of the surreal and delirious, the fever driven Kafka of Chinese literature, Can Xue. In hot pursuit is the Norwegian master of the hypnotic and rhythmic tidal prose and bleak dramatist, Jon Fosse. Third favourite is the hermetic magician of perception, the cult classic revered introspective master and Australian novelist, Gerald Murnane. Rounding off the betted front runners is the Canadian poet Anne Carson, who has expanded, pulled, twisted, and manipulated the form into surprising and refreshing territory.

The second tier of favoured writers—those who are grouped with having 12.0 odds—include prominent and perennial favourites to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, including Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, a titan of contemporary postcolonial African literature; include the dissident Russian writer Ljudmila Ulitskaja; the Romanian spelunker of the surreal Mircea Cărtărescu; and American classic postmodernist and legendary camera-shy Thomas Pynchon.

The third tier—those who are grouped with having 15.0 odds—include the industrially prolific Argentinean César Aira; vitriol incarnate and iconoclast, Michel Houellebecq; the Japanese surveyor of modern-day isolation, disconnect, and pop philosopher, Murakami Haruki; baroque sentence composer of obscure renown, Pierre Michon; celebrated and controversial Chilean poet, Raul Zurita; one of the modern masters of the English language, the renowned and famous Salman Rushdie.

Other writers who were listed with odds past 15.0, include Jamaica Kincaid, Karl Ove Knausgård, Margaret Atwood, Helle Helle, Ko Un, Elena Poniatowska; Krasznahorkai László, and Homero Aridjis.

In all, this year's betting sites have amassed an otherwise 'conservative,' list of names. Writers who at one point in time have been speculated as a potential candidate for the award, with some being considered front runners in years past. Nothing, however, extraordinarily to extract from this year's complied writers, no grains of wisdom or suspicious names—as in the case of 2014, when Patrick Modiano made his first appearance to the betting list and skyrocketed towards the end. The only new name of reasonable on this year's betting list is the Danish writer Helle Helle. Knowing nothing to very little about Helle Helle, I did some looking around. Critically acclaimed and popular in Denmark, Helle Helle has been translated into some 20 languages. Debuting in the early 1990's, Helle Helle gained recognition for her use of language straddling both visual attentiveness and capturing the nuances of everyday speech. At 57 years old, Helle Helle could be considered in the right age range to begin being considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Though having not read Helle Helle yet, I cannot comment on her output or her work. Though her novel "de," (translation: "they,") was nominated for the Nordic Councils Literature Prize in 2019, with an overview of the novel praising further development in Helle Helle's experimentation and exploration of language, with the novel employing the present tense medium exclusively and anonymous narration of a mother and daughter, who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Rather than sink into the end, they resolve to continue on with life. In 51 short chapters, Helle Helle recounts the final chapter of their lives. The novel was praised for its handling of the disease and death, which through crystalline prose, the shadow of sorrow and grief remained ever present; but was able to avoid the entrapments of sensationalism and sentimentality, all the while exploring the confines of identity and language. As either mother or daughter is named in the book their identities become interchangeable. "de," is a novel fragility, compassion, life and ultimately death; yet its impact comes from the physical and visual perceptions of language, Helle Helle, relies on describing physical aspects of characters, their actions, movements, and speech to betray their emotional responses and turmoil, rather than illuminate it directly. This surface level iceberg narrative ensures investment and participation from readers to decipher and discern the emotional thoughts of the characters.

Elsewhere, names upon names of writers cascade down with a torrent's mania. A Wikipedia placeholder article, leading up to this week's announcement date, has worked diligently to trawl the internet to find enough filler to tide the article until Thursday's announcement. Of course (and rightfully so) the article makes it very clear that despite the Swedish Academy's protocols and bylaws regarding confidentiality and secrecy, numerous international writers are perennially expected and speculated to be considered for the award, at which point the articles proceeds to go into a bombast binge of writers around the world in paragraph format.

The list certainly included some persevering perennial candidates such as: the great Syrian poet Adunis, and the Albanian master Ismail Kadare, both writers have been considered in contention for decades now, and yet neither has received the award. How close have they gotten? No one knows at this time, but the persistent pass over by the Swedish Academy will go down as a glaring missed opportunity and mistake. With Milan Kundera's death this past summer, was a startling reminder that the Nobel Prize in Literature is never guaranteed. Regardless the contributions of both Adunis and Ismail Kadare to their respective languages literature and international literature are everlasting at this point. The Nobel Prizes in their entirety are full of glittering honours and dubious awards. It’s a matter of taste and preference. There have been plenty of omitted writers over the past century of the prize's history and plenty of deserving Laureates in turn. It is disappointing to see, however, both Adunis and Ismail Kadare looked over. But the Swedish Academy as an institution is still human at its core. Regardless of its governing bylaws, purpose, and mission, the academy is inevitably prone to engaging in petty squabbles, which ultimately means the Swedish Academy is forced to compromise on laureates and nominees frequently. This may mean that Adunis and Ismail Kadare have often been neglected due to their literary international successes, whereby some members (speculatively of course) may argue that the Nobel Prize would be redundant to authors of such rank and renown, or as in the case of Robert Frost, their now advancing age prove to complicate the award. Both arguments are flimsy at best, but can easily be applied. As the awards archives are opened up, the extent of these otherwise trifling squabbles become more and more apparent. This is exemplified by one academy member Artur Lundkvist, whose very public disagreements were often borderline disgruntled and embittered, with his oppositions to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn well documented—and it should be noted that Lundkvist was adamant supporter/sympathizer of the Soviet Union and communist in every form but name—but his outrage truly came to full show when William Golding received the award in 1983.

Despite all the speculation, this year's award has no resounding favour applied to any specific writer. In 2021, Annie Ernaux felt like a confident prediction, but everyone's expectations were dashed when Abdulrazak Gurnah was announced as the Nobel Laureate in Literature. When Ernaux followed last year, it didn't come as a surprise rather just delayed. This year, however, there is no consensus or sense of certainty. While Can Xue is ranked the highest in the betting sites currently, there is a current of apprehension beneath any assurances. First and foremost, Can Xue is a writer of divisive talent. Readers either thoroughly enjoy her increasingly abstract, surreal, and acid infused Kafkaesque narratives, with dedicated appreciation, or, they find them unapproachable and alienating. Articles have pointed out that in China, Can Xue is described as clinically insane. Will a writer who floats between profundity and profanity be to the Swedish Academy's taste? There is no discernible answer until Thursday.

What then of Jon Fosse, after all he is one of the most performed playwrights in the world. Fosse's dramatic works are characterized in the same school or category as that of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, though lacking the critical fanfare in the English language. Fosse's theatrical works, however, were not his first love. Plays of bleak shingled shorelines, boats stranded and adrift in black seas, and dramas of anxious apprehension with the threat of someone going to come, all of which is facilitated through Fosse's signature repetitive rhythmic language. Yet, Fosse always considered himself a novelist first and foremost and a dramatist by chance. Fosse's novels are equally renowned for their otherworldly landscapes of bleak fjords, dark houses, unknown towns and villages. Time is fluid mechanic, influenced by memory and dreamscape, allowing temporal shifts in perspective. As with his dramatic pieces, the language of Fosse's prose is equally tidal in pace, rhythmic and hypnotic, like the waves crashing into the shore and receding back out to sea. Though not everyone's cup of tea, there is no denying that Jon Fosse is one of the most important playwrights and influential Norwegian writers currently at work (he is the antithesis to the maximalist Karl Ove Knausgård), but there has been considerable criticism leverage against the Nobel Prize in Literature for having a distinctly Scandinavian bias, which came to a boiling point in 1974—but that's a whole other kettle of fish—when Tomas Tranströmer was announced as the years laureate in 2011, there was considerable grumbling about him being a Swedish poet, despite the fact that Tranströmer was a more then deserving poet, renowned and recognized across the world, reducing their criticism to sour grapes. Still, in 2011, the then Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Peter Englund still commented in attempt to dissuade from preconceived criticism early on by clarifying that it had been almost forty years since a Scandinavian language writer had won the award. These same optics may be applied to Jon Fosse, but again, the Swedish Academy cannot allow a bit of controversy from awarding writers (as it certainly hasn't been a hinderance in the past), and Jon Fosse is more then a worth Nobel Laureate.

Despite Can Xue and Jon Fosse being considered the two front runners for this year's award as per the betting sites, there is still a lack of affirmative certainty that either writer will receive this year's award. This merely confirms the reality that regardless of the speculation, the betting, the commenting, and theorizing, we're all throwing darts in the dark, without knowledge of where the board is, let alone if it is even hung up. Everything remains in the dark until the announcement. The announcement of the year's winner provides no further illumination, merely setting the stage for next years speculation. The joy, however, of speculation is not getting it right, its learning about all sorts of writers who can be considered in contention for the Nobel Prize in Literature, writers who without the awards assistance may have gone unread or overlooked. Yet, I am hoping for a complete surprise (as always) a writer of such little renown and translation, but packs a wallop. The kind of writer who can always use with the uplift of the Nobel Prize's prestige, and whose remarkable output has been overshadowed or neglected, and the world is full of those writers.

— Personal Preferences —

Of all the Nobel Prizes the Nobel Prize in Literature is most likely the most accessible and approachable prize. Medicine, physics, chemistry, and the memorial economics prize require a considerable amount of knowledge and understanding to provide appreciation of the laureates and their subject matter. The Peace Prize is one that courts the most controversy and whose messaging is routinely lost. Literature, however, is something everyone regardless of their tastes or reading preferences can have an opinion on. Most often there is a continued and resounding indignant hooting of who, when it comes to the prize, as critics and commentators react with outrage at yet another writer winning the award who they've never heard of, and continue to lament why this writer or that writer has once again been overlooked or denied. As a matter of personal preference, I would love to see the many writers receive the award, including the under translated writers such as the Icelandic Gyrðir Elíasson or the elusive Eeva Tikka from Finland, whose beautiful novels, stories, and poetry have never made it to English translation, and exist only in a couple of stories here and there on the internet. Then there is the still criminally underrepresented Ogawa Yōko, who despite being prolifically translated and available in French, remains underwhelmingly available in English. There is the precise intricate poetry of the Swiss master Klaus Merz. The emotive harmonizer and pearl of poetry Doris Kareva. The palpable poetry of Agi Mishol, full of humour, life, and grace.

Regarding the point of poetry, few poets have won the Nobel Prize in Literature in the past few decades, but the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Swedish Academy have awarded considerable high quality and enduring poets such as: Joseph Brodsky (1987), Octavio Paz (1990), Derek Walcott (1992) Seamus Heaney (1995), Wisława Szymborska (1996), Tomas Tranströmer (2011), and Louise Glück (2020); and while other writers have started their careers in poetry, or written poetry collections such as: Elfriede Jelinek, Harold Pinter, and Herta Müller, their work gain prominence via other mediums. When it comes to poetry, the Nobel Prize often acknowledges great poets and poetry, and the poetry of Klaus Merz, Agi Mishol, and Doris Kareva, are all equally worthy of the prize (at least in my humble opinion). They are each very different poets in form, style, and thematic concern, but like all poets who have the won Nobel Prize in Literature, their poems are of expert craftsmanship, as poetry is a craft that has no room for error or laziness. A poet must be an expert in form from start to finish, followed by excruciating editor and unsentimental reader. To quote Wisława Szymborska with regards to why her output was so small: "I have a waste-paper basket at home." Which is perhaps the most useful item any poet can have, as they must carve the excess, rewrite, reduce, and refine. Poetry is an exacting form, one with little to no forgiveness. Great poetry is recognizable, while poor poetry is glaringly unmistakable. Still, I would not describe myself as a devout poetry reader. Though I enjoy it, consuming vast and large quantities of poetry or entire collections, comes across as an over stimulation, or leaving me with the understanding that something has been missed. Poetry, I find, is best read and contemplated in small quantities in order to appreciate it in its robust fullness. This is perhaps why I enjoy Klaus Merz, there's no ostentatious windbaggery, this is a poet of the immediate burrowing to the heart of the matter with clear epiphanic concision. Whereas Agi Mishol's poetry carries a poetry of lightness and life, the mundane is elevated into empathetic metaphor and discussion, full of both sorrow and humour, very few poets are as enjoyable to read as Agi Mishol, with the lightness of touch echoing beyond the page. A dark horse (at least for now) would be the Scottish poet, Robin Robertson, who has proven that poetry and prose are not mutually exclusive and incompatible, but to forms of equal weight and measure. I think Robin Robertson would be an excellent Nobel Laureate and well deserved, few writers have been able so straddle the river banks between poetry and prose with equal command, and yet Robertson does just that and succeeds in broadening poetry's vision beyond the hermetically dense, and prose to pay greater attention to the internal heartbeat and engineering qualities of language as being not just as a mode of narration, but the intricate structure that requires equal refinement and consideration into the presentation.

In the case of the Swedish Academy the current 16 members (the final two will be inducted December this year and participate in the deliberations next year), the entire process is deliberation, debate, argument, concession and compromise. No Nobel Laureate in Literature is unanimously decided upon with the full academy's support, they only have a majority of the support. Though I suspect, some laureates have more support than others. A recent, article mentioned that Murakami Haruki held a 'ghost story,' reading in Tokyo, a week before the Nobel Prize in Literature is set to be announced. Some commentators are considering this to be a campaign maneuver to grab the Swedish Academy's attention. I can't comment on the veracity of that intention (and nor would I, as its tantamount to speculation and conjecture), but it's already been made clear that the academy's deliberations have already begun and are in the final stretch. Any reading or campaign carried out by a writer or their supporters now would an exercise in futility and redundancy. Murakami's ghost story reading and celebration of the classic Japanese writer, Akinari Ueda. During the reading Murakami is reported to have professed his enjoyment of horror narratives (or scary stories) and wanted to write more of them. The fact that its Murakami and his renown for curating ambiguity and opaque reasoning for decisions, leaves the door open for a great deal of theorization. For example, as a writer Murakami Haruki is both praised and criticized for lacking any strong Japanese certainty as a writer, all the while complaining and reveling in his outsider status as a Japanese writer. Murakami's influences have been undeniably English/American literature which includes such as writers as Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, while (it is my understanding) that Murakami has written his works originally in English and translated the text into Japanese, which would present his unique literary style in that sense. Still, over the past years, Murakami's output has been dogged by lacking quality, to the point that it become a caricature of his earlier career. the novels have recycled the same plot, story, themes to the point there is nothing new to be gained from them. His most recent published novel in Japan I believe is called "The City and Its Uncertain Walls," has received a muted to mix response. If Murakami was ever a contender for the award, I think that ship sailed years ago. His output is not of the same caliber of Kawabata Yasunari or the late Ōe Kenzaburō. Due to the devotion of his fans, Murakami is often pushed to the forefront on this upwelling wave of populist appeal, but the quality is severely lacking. Of course, the Nobel Prize in Literature is one based on debate and compromise, which may raise Murakami's chances, as there have been other writers with equal parts mediocre output who have received the award. It comes down to compromise and concessions within the deliberations.

— Finish —

As Nobel Week has begun, we only have a few more days to wait until the Nobel Prize in Literature announcement is made. Who will win the award? At this point the only certainty is this: no one knows who will win the award. I suspect its going to be a shock, hopefully a surprise (though those can go either way), but ideally, it'll be a new writer to explore and learn about and broaden the reading palette further. At worst it'll be a candidate of questionable merit (much like Murakami Haruki) or in turn a perennial candidate, whose award (however deserving) is utterly boring. Its impossible to discern the Swedish Academy's though process. There is no crystal ball; no tea leaves; no palm reading; no tarot spread; or scrying of the stars, which will provide any divination into the Swedish Academy.

Until Thursday Gentle Reader.

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

M. Mary