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Adonis, Thiong’o favourites for Nobel Literature Prize

Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said Esber, also known by the pen name Adonis, is a possible pick for this year’s Nobel Literature Prize © AFP/File / Jonathan Nackstrand

Stockholm, Sweden, Oct 13 – Syrian poet Adonis and Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o are among the hotly-tipped names to take home this year’s Nobel Literature Prize, due to be announced on Thursday.

The pair top critics’ lists of predictions and online betting sites to succeed last year’s winner, Svetlana Alexievich of Belarus.

The suspense will come to an end at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) when Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy which has awarded the prize since 1901, reveals the name of the 2016 laureate.

“After a string of European laureates who have grappled with the guilt of European colonialism, it’s time for a radical writer who portrays the crimes of colonialism and the complications of decolonisation,” culture journalist Asa Linderborg told Sweden’s biggest daily Dagens Nyheter on the eve of the announcement, naming her choice as Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Only four African authors have won the prestigious Nobel. If Thiong’o were to emerge victorious this year, he would be the first to win for writing in an African language, in his case his native Kikuyu. The other African laureates wrote in English or Arabic.

A more controversial choice would be Adonis, considered a giant of contemporary Arab poetry. He recently published a highly polemic tract on political Islam, and a vitriolic essay on the Arab Spring revolutions which he argued were tainted by religious elements.

A statue of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who founded the Nobel Prize, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm © AFP/File / Jonathan Nackstrand

“The prize would in such cases be seen as taking a stance,” said Bjorn Wiman, culture editor at Dagens Nyheter.

Indian-born British author Salman Rushdie is also seen as a serious candidate.

In March, the Academy denounced the Iranian fatwa on the author of “The Satanic Verses” 27-years after it was declared — a long silence it attributed to its neutrality and independence.

– Total suspense –

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This year, the literature prize is the last of the six Nobels to be announced, following those for medicine, physics, chemistry, peace and economics.

At the end of September, the Academy explained that “for calendar reasons” it would not announce its prizewinner during the same week as the other Nobels, as it usually does.

Punters have predicted this year’s winner will mark a return to fiction (prose or playwriting) or poetry, after the Academy last year honoured Alexievich’s documentary-style writing.

If Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o were to be awarded this year’s Nobel Literature Prize, he would be the first to win for writing in an African language, in his case his native Kikuyu © AFP/File / Tony Karumba

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, the big favourite of online betting sites and the public, is however not expected to get the nod, as his work is seen as too superficial, according to Stockholm’s literary circles.

Meanwhile, the United States, which last saw one of its writers win in 1993 with Toni Morrison, could also possibly take home the prize this year, with Joyce Carol Oates, Don DeLillo, Philip Roth and Richard Ford seen as possible contenders

“It’s been a long time since an American author won the prize… The great American novel is under-represented,” noted Madelaine Levy, literary critic for daily Svenska Dagbladet.

But the Nobel Foundation doesn’t make public details of nominees, so an unanticipated name could yet emerge the winner.

“(It could be) someone completely unknown that neither I nor maybe anyone else has guessed, because I think the Academy may surprise us this year,” suggested Mattias Berg, culture journalist at Swedish public radio SR.

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