Magris, Mahasweta, Murakami… the Nobel guessing game is on

October 8th, 2008 - 1:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 8 (IANS) When a small group of scholars in Sweden announce the Nobel Prize in Literature Thursday, what are the chances of the winner being Mahasweta Devi or Sir Salman Rushdie? Any takers for Haruki Murakami or Bob Dylan?The guessing game is on and British betting agency Ladbrokes is offering odds on who will win the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature.

If the latest rates are any indication, Italian scholar, translator and writer Claudio Magris is the top contender with only three odds against one (3:1), followed by Adonis, pen name for Syrian poet and essayist Ali Ahmad Said Asbar (4:1).

Bengali author and rights activist Mahasweta Devi (51:1) and Rushdie (67:1) are the only Indian names on the list of 50-plus heavyweights - heavily debated on the Internet, especially in literary blogs - with few chances.

Dylan, rock and country singer and voice of a generation, is placed last on the list with unlikely odds of 151:1. A dark horse, but he surprised many by winning the Pulitzer this year.

Magris is remembered for his “Danubio” (1986), a novel tracking the course of the Danube from its sources to the sea, with the trip evolving into a colourful, rich canvas of the multicultural European history.

“Danubio” brought him the Bagutta Prize in 1987 and another novel “Microcosmi” the Strega Prize in 1997. He was also awarded the Erasmus Prize (2001), Prince of Asturias Award for Literature (2004), the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (2006).

Adonis has written more than 20 books in his native Arabic. He was considered to be a Nobel candidate in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The next on the list are somewhat more famous names: Israeli novelist Amos Oz (5:1), American novelists Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth (both 7:1), fellow American novelist Don DeLillo, Japanese author Haruki Murakami, Australian poet and critic Les Murray, French poet and essayist Yves Bonnefoy (all at 10:1) and Czech author Arnošt Lustig (14:1).

Nobel watchers point out that American authors, tipped for the most famous prize for long, may have to wait given the recent public comments by Horace Engdahl, permanent secretary of the Nobel Committee for Literature.

In a media interview last week, Engdahl said Europe was still the centre of the literary world, not the US - signalling that this year’s winner was not likely to be Roth, Oates or DeLilo.

The comment led to an uproar in American literary circles, with many arguing that the Nobel committee was not the final arbiter of good literature after having ignored the 20th century’s best littérateurs - Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Jorge Luis Borgest and Vladimir Nabokov to name some.

The Nobel watchers also talk of the recent record of the winners of the elusive and rare Kafka prize: Elfriede Jelinek (2004) and Harold Pinter (2005) were selected for the Nobel after they had been honoured with the Kafka prize.

That should favour Murakami, postmodern master from Japan with a worldwide following to beat a rock star. The same hold true for Lustig.

In case any reader is looking for some familiar names in the hot list, here are some: Michael Ondaatje (15:1), Thomas Pynchon (15:1), Mario Vargas Llosa (21:1), Milan Kundera (26:1), Cees Nooteboom (34:1), Margaret Atwood (34:1), Alice Munro (41:1), Carlos Fuentes (41:1), Peter Carey (41:1), Umberto Eco (41:1), Chinua Achebe (51:1), Cormac McCarthy (51:1), Ian McEwan (51:1), John Updike (51:1), A.S. Byatt (67:1),

Is there any official word on these names or are they just rumours?

“Well, either it’s just a rumour, or someone among the invited nominators has leaked information. Since the nominations have been kept secret for 50 years, you’ll have to wait until then (the announcement of the winner) to find out,” The Nobel Foundation says on its website.

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