Pundits tip poets for Nobel Literature Prize

Pundits tip poets for Nobel Literature Prize
The Swedish Academy, last December. What are they thinking?
This year's Nobel Literature Prize could go to a poet for the first time since 1996, Swedish literary circles say as speculation mounts ahead of Thursday's announcement.

A Spanish language author has not won the prize since 1990, so it could also be time for Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa, often mentioned as a possible Nobel winner, to finally clinch the prestigious distinction, according to other experts in Stockholm.

In line with tradition, the Swedish Academy which awards the prize is keeping mum. No list of candidates ever leaves the Academy’s walls, and its members are sworn to secrecy.

While many Swedish editors, book critics and followers of the Academy refuse to get in on the annual buzz surrounding the possible winner, those who do dare to venture a guess tend to mention the same names cited every year in the run-up to the announcement.

“A lot of people are saying it’s time for a poet. Maybe it will be a poet this year,” says Stefan Eklund, culture editor at Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

The most recent poet honoured with the Nobel was Wislawa Szymborska of Poland 13 years ago.

“It’s time for poetry. That would be nice!”, exclaims Håkan Bravinger, an editor at Swedish publishing house Norstedts.

But when it comes to predicting a possible laureate? “I have not the slightest idea,” Eklund admits.

“They might want to give it to (Swedish poet) Tomas Tranströmer at last,” says the manager of the Hedengrens bookstore in central Stockholm, Nicklas Björkholm.

Pushed on which poets could be contenders for the prize, Eklund also mentions the Swede, as well as Adonis, the pseudonym of Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said.

“An American female poet would be great, but I don’t know who,” Bravinger says.

One thing is for sure, according to Björkholm: “It will definitely be (someone from) outside Europe.”

That would exclude his own pick Tranströmer, he admits with a shrug of his shoulders, demonstrating the difficulty and contradictions involved in trying to predict the Academy’s leanings.

While nationality doesn’t play a role in the Academy’s choice, “the language will have a role,” Björkholm says, noting that “it’s been a long time since a Spanish” language writer won the prize.

When it comes to those, one name is mentioned more than others: “I always hope for Vargas Llosa,” reveals Björkholm, who says he correctly predicted last year’s winner, French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio.

Yet his first choice for this year would ideally be Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, even though the Nobel Literature Prize has “never gone to a short story writer.”

Munro won the 2009 Man Booker International Prize for her body of work.

Bravinger said he would also like to see the Nobel go to “someone working differently.”

He cited Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, who cannot win because he “died a few years ago, but that kind of writer would be interesting.”

And then there are the big favourites whose names turn up every year amid the Nobel buzz.

They include Israel’s Amos Oz, US authors Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates and Thomas Pynchon, Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, South Korea’s Ko Un, Japan’s Haruki Murakami, Claudio Magris of Italy and Albania’s Ismail Kadare.

Another person often mentioned and who could be in the running this year again is Algeria’s French-language novelist Assia Djebar, according to Eklund.

One of her books is currently being read on Swedish public radio — whether that means she will end up as this year’s laureate remains to be seen.

After last year’s award went to Le Clézio, the chances of a French language author winning two years in a row are probably minimal.

“But you never know with the Swedish Academy,” recalled Eklund.

That is perhaps especially true since the Academy has a new permanent secretary, Peter Englund.

Meanwhile, online betting site Ladbrokes gave the lowest odds for Amos Oz, at 4-to-1, while the top poet was Adonis with 8-to-1 odds and the top Spanish- language writer was Luis Goytisolo of Spain at 9-to-1 odds.

AFP’s Igor Gedilaghine

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