Last week, the British betting firm Ladbrokes announced that Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami had emerged as the favorite to win this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, coming in with 10/1 odds. As of yesterday, the international literary star has moved up in the rankings to 7/1—with none other than Bob Dylan, at 10/1, following tightly on his heels. Dutch novelist Cees Nooteboom and Chinese author Mo Yan are right behind them, at 12/1.
Last year, the eventual Nobel winner, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, was given 9/2 odds. But he wasn’t expected to win: Syrian poet Adonis was the final favorite, coming in at 4/1 (this year, Adonis still makes the top twenty, but has fallen to 14/1). Dylan was also a close candidate last year, at one point late in the betting even coming in as the number-one pick, pulling ahead of Murakami (who was at the time 8/1), Adonis, and eventual winner Tranströmer.
In the past decade, North America hasn’t fared so well in the Nobel race. The last American to win the prestigious literary prize was Toni Morrison, who won in 1993. Aside from Dylan, the only United States authors to make it into the top twenty this year include Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, and Phillip Roth. Canada, who has never had a Nobel Laureate, tops the list with short story writer Alice Munro (whose newest collection, Dear Life, will be released by Knopf in November), at 20/1. Other Canadians to make it into the betting pool this year include Margaret Atwood, at 50/1, and poet Anne Carson, at 100/1.
Also sitting in the 20/1 position is Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, whose forthcoming memoir, There Was a Country, will be released by Penguin in October. Hovering just above him in the line-up are Umberto Eco at 25/1, and Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates, and E. L. Doctorow, all at 33/1. Joining Atwood at 50/1 are Ian McEwan, Maya Angelou, Chang-Rae Lee, and Peter Carey. And the list goes on and on, including such contemporary literary greats as Kazuo Ishiguro, Ursula Le Guin, David Malouf, Salman Rushdie, A. S. Byatt, Milan Kundera, Julian Barnes, and John Ashbery, all at 66/1; and Michael Ondaatje, Paul Auster, Louise Glück, and Jonathan Franzen coming in at 100/1.
Candidates to win the Nobel Prize in Literature may be nominated by Swedish Academy members or esteemed international literary figures. Earlier this year, Peter Englund, the head of the Swedish Academy, revealed that 46 of the 210 nominated writers for this year's prize were first-time selections.
The 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced later this fall. For more information about the prize, visit the Nobel Prize website.