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Nobel ’11

O Cărtărescu!
For some reason, I love to discuss the fact that people – British people, really, if we’re honest – like to bet money on literary prizes. It’s Book Award Betting Season again, everybody!

Thursday morning, kids all over the planet will wake up to a world with a new reigning Nobel Prize winner in Literature. They’ll rush downstairs, turn on their local NPR station, & hope to hear their favorite name announced. Little Jimmy’s been praying all season for Syrian poet, Adonis, but he wouldn’t be broken up if Tomas Transtromer took home the gold. Gary thinks it’s gonna be Philip Roth, but he’s wrong – at least according to Suzie, who has inside knowledge that Nuruddin Farah is a sure thing.

Ah, what do they know – here are the odds as of Monday, according to Ladbroke’s famed betting house, London: 

Adonis – 4/1
Tomas Transtromer – 6/1
Haruki Murakami – 8/1
Peter Nadas – 10/1
Assia Djebar – 12/1
Ko Un – 14/1
Les Murray – 16/1
Thomas Pynchon – 18/1
Philip Roth – 20/1
Nuruddin Farah – 20/1

Just like every year, most of the names on the list are a mystery to me, even after Googling & Wikipedia-ing. This is just the top 10, filled with many familiars, although Tomas & Assia are still enigmas – there are 77 total names listed with odds on Ladbroke’s. (Les Murray is an Australian poet, by the way.) Last year, 25/1 darkhorse Mario Vargas Llosa took the Prize even though Cormac McCarthy was the heavy 5/2 favorite heading into the final week. This year, my money’s on Romanian poet Mircea Cărtărescu – I mean, why not? Who the hell knows anyway?

Not to be outdone, the Booker Prize is in the one-month Shortlist waiting period – the winner is announced October 13th. Here’re the current odds on that action:
Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending: 13/8
Carol Birch – Jamrach’s Menagerie: 7/2
A.D. Miller – Snowdrops: 7/2
Stephen Kelman – Pigeon English: 9/2
Esi Edugyan – Half Blood Blues: 13/2
Patrick deWitt – The Sisters Brothers: 8/1
I have no idea how to interpret odds like “13/8” but it would seem that Julian is a pretty heavy favorite. I’m still pulling for Carol Birch.

Any thoughts? Maybe a little side bet?
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5 comments on “Nobel ’11

  1. Ben
    October 4, 2011

    Man, I LOVE when literary awards get glamorous like that. I don't get the Nobel sometimes though. They act like bitter elitist hipsters.

    I spent eight years in a literature department that is HEAVY HANDED on Arabic writers and I have never even once heard the name of Adonis mentioned. Fuck, I know who Mahmoud Darwish is, for Chrissake. Even read some of his poems.

    While I love American writers, I could really well understand Haruki Murakami winning or Assia Djebar (and Lord knows I don't like her stuff), but Adonis, REALLY? Who has he reaached the others didn't?

  2. Seth Marko
    October 5, 2011

    Oh, the Nobel peeps are definitely hipster-doofus-elitists. The whole thing is a practice in the absurd, culminating in a ridiculously obscure selection like JMG le Clezio or Herta Muller. (The ONLY reason I've heard of Adonis is because he's been the Nobel “favorite” for the last 2 years.)

    Murakami would be pretty rad. And Bob Dylan is now bringing in 8/1 odds for some reason. But I agree, Ben, although I love some of the American writers on the list (Cormac, DeLillo, even Alice Munro, really) I don't see their broad, all-encompassing, global appeal.

    Then again, Herta Muller? Can we really, truly expect the Nobel snobs to seek out writing for the unwashed masses? That's the fun in all this, though – rooting for writers pitted against each other in a literary deathmatch.

  3. Ben
    October 5, 2011

    J.M.G Le Clézio is actually pretty well known in French, but here's a funny thing about him. I have read none of his novels, only about twenty forewords he's made for classics. And that's the case for most people I know.He's like a master foreworder. I like to think he got his Nobel for sucking up to the right people.

    As far as the Americans go, I could find reasons to give it to DeLillo, McCarthy and Pynchon, but the real two front runners in my book are Murakami and McCarthy. They reached out to the most people, changed the most lives.

    I agree about Herta Muller. I have absolutely no idea why she was chosen. Many times the choice of the academy were doubtful at best. But they did a good job for most of the last ten years: Naipul, Coetzee, Jenilek, Pamuk…even Vargas Llosa I can understand. So I'd say let's keep it up. If they absolutely want an arabic poet to win, they can always pick Mahmoud Darwish next year.

  4. Seth Marko
    October 5, 2011

    That's true, about le Clézio, Ben – I hadn't heard of him before the award, but it does seem like he's well known enough. But Herta…

    Other than that, the committee has done a pretty great job of selection over the years & the Nobel seems to be more consistent than other lit prizes. (Mainly the National Book & the Booker, which alternate between brilliance and bullshit.)

  5. Ben
    October 5, 2011

    The best work of rewarding deserving writers I think was made by the Pulitzer, lately. They shine light on writers deserving. Junot Diaz, Richardo Russo, Jennifer Egan, Paul Harding…they wouldn't be where they are now without the Pulitzer win.

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This entry was posted on October 4, 2011 by in Booker Prize, Nobel Prize.
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