This year’s Nobel Prize in Literature will be awarded early Thursday morning; in the meantime, many are watching the movement on the Ladbrokes odds, and trying to decide what it all means. (The fact that Cormac McCarthy has climbed up to 3-1 mostly means that people are betting on him because he’s the one author anybody’s heard of. The fact that the Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, one of the preeminent African novelists of all time, has climbed up near the top, as previous winners did in the days before the announcement, is more telling. A comp lit professor of my acquaintence, who’s expressed a desire to learn Gikuyu so as to read Wizard of the Crow and Petals of Blood in the original, will surely be well-pleased, not least for the career opportunities this could open up for her.) But what do you think?
Consensus is that poets, South Americans and Scandinavians have been underrepresented in the selections of recent years (though not as much as black Africans); safe picks for geographical distribution would probably include the perpetual candidates Llosa and Fuentes, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer and Syrian poet Adonis
Politics play into it too—last year, I suggested a liberal Israeli author, like Amoz Oz, would be a politically astute and meaningful choice, as well as geographically diverse; but the Swedish Academy likes to give the award to writers closer to the middle of their career, and David Grossman has a strong narrative on his side this year.
Of course, all this talk about whose “turn” it is doesn’t really reflect the reality of the situation—it’s been a poet’s turn for about five years, and somebody from outside Europe’s turn for most of the decade.
But enough of this? Who do you like? Pick names in the comments.