Ngugi to know if he is a Nobel winner today

October 7, 2010 12:00 am

, STOCKHOLM, Oct 7 – Speculation is rife ahead of the Nobel Literature Prize announcement on Thursday afternoon, with many saying an author from either Africa or North America will get the coveted award.

The Swedish Academy that awards the prize never reveals the names of the nominees, leaving the door wide open for frenzied guessing right up to the announcement.

Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet on Wednesday listed American novelists Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy and Canadian short story writer Alice Munro among the most likely 2010 winners.

But a writer from Africa, hugely under-represented on the Nobel stage, is just as likely, according to the buzz in literary circles, with authors like Ngugi wa Thiong\’o of Kenya and Somalian Nuruddin Farah figuring among the favourites.

Another name that has been popping up for years, but more so this year, is Algerian novelist and poet Assia Djebar, with many Nobel watchers pointing out a poet has not won the prize since Poland\’s Wislawa Szymborska in 1996.

A woman laureate from Africa would also make a refreshing change.

However, Djebar writes in French, which could put her at a disadvantage since Frenchman JMG Le Clezio won the prize just two short years ago.

Other poets that have figured among the favourites for years are Adonis of Syria, Ko Un of South Korea and Tomas Transtroemer of Sweden.

In other genres, American Joyce Carol Oates and Canadian Margaret Atwood, Israeli Amos Oz, Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa and Japonese Haruki Murakami are some of the other usual suspects for the prize.

Jonas Axelsson, the chief literary editor at the Bonniers publishing house, is meanwhile expecting "a surprise again this year," after last year\’s win by German-language author Herta Mueller from Romania.

"I have no name," he acknowledged, adding "I could give 40, but it wouldn\’t help. I\’ve been wishing (to guess right) for years, but always got it wrong."

"The only hint that the Academy gives is that it has to be an eyewitness to something … important for the whole world," he said.

A less academic approach to the guessing game can in some cases be more efficient: close watchers of potential laureates\’ odds on the Ladbrokes betting site two years ago were tipped off to Le Clezio\’s pending win.

Wednesday night, Ladbrokes was handing best odds to McCarthy, placing him ahead of Thiong\’o. They had been trailing far behind Transtroemer just a day earlier.

The unibet site meanwhile placed Thiong\’o in the lead, followed by Paraguayan Nestor Amarilla and McCarthy in third.

The Literature Prize, to be awarded at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) Thursday, is the fourth and one of the most watched announcements this Nobel season, following the prizes for medicine, physics and chemistry earlier this week.

Next in line is the other big crowd-pleaser, the Peace Prize, which will be announced on Friday, while the Economics Prize will wrap up the Nobel season on Monday, October 11.

This year\’s laureates will receive 10 million Swedish kronor (1.49 million dollars, 1.09 million euros) which can be split between up to three winners per prize.

The Peace Prize will be handed out in Oslo on December 10, while the other Nobel laureates will pick up their prizes in Stockholm on the same day.


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