Suspense over this year’s literature Nobel to end shortly
Literary circles are abuzz with speculation ahead of Thursday’s Nobel Prize announcement, with award watchers suggesting this year’s honors in literature could go to a controversial writer such as Syrian-born poet Adonis.
The academy is known for its cloak-and-dagger methods to prevent any leaks about its choice, resorting to code names for authors and fake book covers when reading in public.
The list of nominees is never revealed and the jury’s deliberations are kept secret.
The suspense will come to an end on Thursday when the winner is announced, ending an unusually long wait. It comes a week later than usual “for calendar reasons”, the Academy said in late September.
“That leaves a little more time to speculate” about the 2016 laureate, jokes Swedish Academy member PerWastberg.
While perfectly in line with academy statutes according to Wastberg, some Nobel watchers have interpreted the late date as a sign of discord over this year’s choice.
“If you ask me, it’s absolutely not a ‘calendar’ issue,” says Bjorn Wiman, cultural pages editor at Sweden’s main daily Dagens Nyheter. “This is a sign there’s a disagreement in the process to select a winner.”
Mattias Berg, cultural reporter at Swedish Radio, suggests the academy’s 18 members may have argued over a “politically controversial laureate, such as Adonis”, whose most recent publication is a polemic tract on political Islam.
“The prize would in such cases be seen as taking a stance,” Wiman says.
If the academy is indeed looking for a laureatewhodivides opinion, it may also have set its sights on Indian-born British author Salman Rushdie. In March, the academy denounced the Iranian fatwa on the author of The Satanic Verses, after a 27-year silence it attributed to its neutrality and independence.
Literary critic Madelaine Levy at daily Svenska Dagbladet says only one thing was certain: Weknowthat we know nothing about the academy’s choice.
“Year after year, the writers chosen are incredibly different,” she notes.
Some of the same names have been making the rounds for several years, including Ngugi wa Thiong’o of Kenya, Don DeLillo and Joyce Carol Oates of theUnited States and HarukiMurakami of Japan.
Wiman meanwhile has his Nobel trifecta for this year:
“I think it will be (Norwegian playwright Jon) Fosse. I’m hoping for (Israeli writer David) Grossman. And I would jump for joy for (the novelist using the pseudonym Elena) Ferrante.”
Amid all the speculation, the academy is remaining tight-lipped.
“Some people want to know what’s in the Christmas parcel and some people want to be surprised. We want to surprise you,” says Swedish Academy director Odd Zschiedrich.
Every year, the venerable tradition remains the same. In February, the academymakes a list of all of the nominations submitted before reducing it to a secret short list of five names inMay.
Throughout the summer, academy members study their works, before reaching a decision in October.
Last year, the academy surprised everyone “by not surprising us”, Wiman says.
Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won for her documentary-style narratives based on witness testimonies, was the favorite in both literary circles and on betting sites.
This year, most observers say they are expecting a return to fiction.
But Murakami, the big favorite among bettors and the public, is not considered a serious contender.
Too superficial, is the unanimous verdict among the Stockholm literati.
“There’s room for a category of authors who haven’t yet won”, as was the case with the short story genre and AliceMunro, and Alexievich and her documentary style, according to Swedish Radio’s Berg.
Despite that, and even though novelists are those most frequently honored with a Nobel, he says he would love to see Joyce Carol Oates win.
And, note many observers, more women ought to win the award. Since 1901, only 14 women have won, compared to 98 men.
Others suggest it’s time for an American laureate, the last one dating to 1993 when ToniMorrison was honored.
“It’s been a long time since an American author won the prize,” Levy says. “The great American novel is underrepresented.”
But the academy insists its members do not consider gender or geography when selecting a laureate.
“They’re only interested inwhether it’s a skilled writer,” Zschiedrich says.
Left: Syrian-born poet Adonis, a top contender for the Nobel literature prize this year. Right: Chinese author Mo Yan, a Nobel laureate in 2012.
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