Speculation mounts as Nobel lit prize nears

Speculation mounts as Nobel lit prize nears
Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy
Literary circles in Sweden are bursting with speculation ahead of Thursday’s announcement of the Nobel Literature Prize, with many expecting the award to go to a poet for the first time since 1996.

A Spanish language author has not won the prize since 1990, so it could be time for Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa to clinch the coveted distinction — or it could go to Romanian-born German writer Herta Mueller or Israel’s Amos Oz, both mentioned as possible winners for years, experts in Stockholm note.

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

But its choice will be revealed Thursday at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT).

On the eve of the announcement, the culture pages of Sweden’s newspapers’ were full of literary names.

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

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

Eklund cited Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, as well as Adonis, the pseudonym of Syrian-born poet Ali Ahmad Said as possible winners.

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

At the same time, he predicted the winner would “definitely be (someone from) outside Europe,” after last year’s award went to French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio.

Haakan Bravinger, an editor at Swedish publishing house Norstedts, also agreed it was “time for poetry.”

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

While nationality doesn’t play a role in the Academy’s choice, “the language will have a role,” Björkholm said, 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,” Björkholm said.

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.

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, Algeria’s French-language novelist Assia Djebar, Claudio Magris of Italy, Australia’s Les Murray and Albania’s Ismail Kadare.

The leanings of the Academy are especially hard to predict this year, since it has a new permanent secretary, Peter Englund.

Meanwhile, online betting site Ladbrokes gave the lowest odds for Amos Oz and Herta Mueller, at 3-to-1, while the top poet was Adonis with 9-to-1 odds and the top Spanish-language writer was Mario Vargos Llosa, with the same odds.

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