The new Nobel Prize in literature odds

by on August 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm in Books | Permalink

The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has emerged as the early favourite to win this year’s Nobel prize for literature.

The acclaimed author of titles including Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and, most recently, IQ84, Murakami has been given odds of 10/1 to win the Nobel by Ladbrokes.

Last year the eventual winner of the award, the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, was the betting firm’s second favourite to take the prize, given initial odds of 9/2 behind the Syrian poet Adonis, at 4/1. This year Adonis has slipped down the list, given odds of 14/1 alongside the Korean poet Ko Un and the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare.

New names in Ladbrokes list this year include the Chinese author Mo Yan and the Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom, both coming in with strong odds of 12/1 to win the Nobel prize.


Britain’s strongest contender for the Nobel this year, which goes to “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”, is – according to Ladbrokes – Ian McEwan, who comes in at 50/1, behind the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, at 33/1. American novelist Philip Roth is at 16/1, alongside his compatriot Cormac McCarthy, the Israeli author Amos Oz and the highest-placed female writer, the Italian Dacia Maraini.

The article is here.

1 gwern August 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Murakami, eh. But wasn’t _1Q84_ generally regarded as something of a disappointment? Certainly not something to sway a committee.

2 IVV August 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Depends on how hip you are.

3 Taeyoung August 25, 2012 at 12:52 am

Mmm. Maybe. But maybe they could give it to him “for 1Q84” but really taking into account his whole body of work? Honestly, while I loved the Sheep Man and After Dark was fun, nothing he’s written has been nearly as good as Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Haven’t read 1Q84 yet, though (was waiting for the bunkou version to come out, and now it’s at the bottom of my queue).

4 Black Death August 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Two lists of 13 writers –

List A:

Vladimir Nabakov
Philip Roth
Marcel Proust
James Joyce
Anton Chekov
Jorge Luis Borge
Leo Tolstoy
Ezra Pound
Mark Twain
Henrik Ibsen
Graham Greene
Thomas Hardy
W. H. Auden

List B –

Gerhart Hauptmann
Giosue Carducci
Selma Lagerloef
Wladyslaw Reymont
Grazzia Deladda
Roger Martin du Gard
Par Lagerkvist
Hallador Laxness
Ivo Andric
Eugenio Montale
Iincinte Alexandre
Elias Canetti
Eric Karl Feldt

What single fact distinguishes these two groups….. (Jeopardy! music plays). That’s right! You got it! List B are all Nobel Prize winners for literature, and List A are not. So tell me again how important the Nobel prize in Literature is. I have to admit, their record in the sciences is much better.

5 Ray Lopez August 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm

How can anybody write a novel in a non-English language and expect to win the Nobel Prize in Literature? I mean, do they account for foreign languages? If you write in an oral language with no alphabet, how does that work? The Nobel Prize for the Khoisan language families?

6 msgkings August 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Oh man those Khoisan books are all rubbish.

7 Sbard August 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm

English would technically be a foreign language to the Nobel selection committee.

8 Andreas Moser August 25, 2012 at 3:00 am

I think most of the members of the Nobel Committee are Europeans.
They speak several languages each. (Which reminds me of the post from a week or so ago about the American discussion whether it makes sense to learn a ‘second’ language.)

9 Andreas Moser August 25, 2012 at 3:04 am

Based on evidence, writing in a non-English language doesn’t seem to be a problem at all:
The first 7 laureates wrote in German, Italian, Polish, French, Spanish and Norwegian. Only the 8th Nobel Prize for Literature went to an English author, Rudyard Kipling in 1907.
The last English language author to win was Doris Lessing in 2007. Since then, it went to German, French, Spanish and Swedish writers.

10 GiT August 25, 2012 at 7:19 am

“In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climates. . . . And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.” – Goethe

11 Micke August 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm

The prize criteria is that all the prizes are given to contributions during the last year. This doesn’t apply at all anymore, but it was applied within reason early on. Thus, Twain, Chekov, Ibsen and others on your list were not really eligible. And really, if you don’t even know this, should you be criticizing the selections?

(Philip Roth and Marcel Proust are ridiculously overhyped, by the way. “The Great American Novel” is trying way too hard to be clever, and no one can really comment on Proust, because he is completely unreadable, so no one actually has completed his tomes. But if it makes you look smart to namedrop him, by all means go right ahead.)

12 Taeyoung August 25, 2012 at 12:48 am

“and no one can really comment on Proust, because he is completely unreadable, so no one actually has completed his tomes.”

I wouldn’t say that. I read him (in the CK Scott Moncrieff translation). In light of its length, it does all sort of blend together, but I found it enjoyable in its way. Sort of washes over one, while reading. Proust is closer to John Galsworthy than James Joyce. Readable.

13 GiT August 25, 2012 at 7:20 am

Joyce can be readable, in the earlier works. I thought Dubliners was great fun to read.

14 Donald Pretari August 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I’m hoping it’s Tom Sharpe.

15 Norman Pfyster August 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Isn’t it good…Norwegian Wood.

16 msgkings August 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Oh man that is funny. Thread winner, case closed.

17 Roy August 24, 2012 at 5:14 pm

My suspicion (not an endorsement, Kadare is the only one I can stand):
Ismail Kadare
Ursula LeGuin
Yves Bonnefoy

18 Thor August 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Kadare is the only one I can stand, too. He is really good. The Siege, I believe it is called, is great. I’ve also enjoyed a couple of the others.

19 Anon. August 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I know it will never happen, but I hope for Pynchon. It would be hilarious and extremely well-deserved.

20 Orange14 August 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Unless he breaks his vow of silence, it can’t happen as one has to travel to Stockholm and officially accept it in person. Pynchon won’t do this and unfortunately his most of his books since Gravity’s Rainbow are too derivative to warrant serious consideration (though I do like some of them. William Gaddis was a more deserving candidate while he was still alive. I actually think Richard Powers is a logical candidate and it would be way cool to see them honor Joyce Carol Oates.

21 Thomas... um... dirk August 24, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Pynchon’s vow of silence? He was happy to voice-over for himself on the Simpson’s a couple times; I suspect he’d accept a Nobel.

22 Rahul August 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Bob Dylan? Really?

That doesn’t seem “literature”, at least the way the Nobel Committee is usually perceived as viewing those things. Would that make it one of those rare occasions when the Nobel in Lit. was awarded to someone the masses recognize?

23 Matt T August 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm

If Bob Dylan is on that list, might I suggest David Simon. I mean, I’d rather read/listen/watch “The Wire” than anything Dylan’s done.

24 Andreas Moser August 25, 2012 at 3:12 am

The Swedish Academy has published its selection process:
Somewhere else I read that its members speak 13 different languages between them.

25 Liam August 26, 2012 at 12:40 am

No Amazon links?

26 marcos August 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Amos Oz is the best!

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