A year after the Swedish Academy shocked the world with its choice of Bob Dylan as the Nobel laureate for literature, the jury is preparing to unveil this yearâ€™s winner of the prestigious honour.
The academy, an assembly of 18 Swedes who are elected by secret ballot to their roles and hold them for life, has revealed that the Nobel laureate in literature will be announced on 5 October. More than half of the academyâ€™s members must vote for the eventual winner, who is chosen from about 350 proposals made by literary experts and former Nobel laureates from around the world. Intended to honour Alfred Nobelâ€™s desire to reward â€œthe person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal directionâ€, the SEK9m (Â£832,000) award has gone to 113 writers since 1901 â€“ of whom 14 were women, 28 wrote in English and 77 wrote in prose.
Last yearâ€™s choice, singer-songwriter Dylan, proved controversial, particularly when Dylan initially failed to acknowledge his win â€“ for which he was described as â€œimpolite and arrogantâ€ by academy member Per Wastberg â€“ and then failed to attend the prize ceremony. Instead, he collected the award at a private ceremony four months later, and delivered his Nobel lecture â€“ the sole requirement for receiving the prize money â€“ just before the deadline passed. Dylan, selected â€œfor having created new poetic expressions within the great American song traditionâ€, was later rumoured to have written his speech using the website SparkNotes.
This year, despite betting firm Unibet offering odds on everyone from George RR Martin to Kanye West to take the award, the academy is expected to plump for a safer choice. At Ladbrokes, which found last year that 91% of the time, the eventual laureate had odds of 10/1 or less when betting was suspended, the field was topped by perennial contenders, Kenyaâ€™s NgÅ©gÄ© wa Thiongâ€™o, at 4/1, and Japanâ€™s Haruki Murakami, at 5/1. The last black writer to win the Nobel was the American novelist Toni Morrison in 1993, and the last black winner from Africa was Wole Soyinka in 1986.
Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, buoyed by the success of the recent TV adaptation of The Handmaidâ€™s Tale, is in third place at Ladbrokes, at 6/1, while the South Korean poet Ko Un comes in fourth, at 8/1. Other names in Ladbrokesâ€™s fancied contenders include Israeli novelist Amos Oz, Italian author and translator Claudio Magris and Spanish novelist Javier MarÃas.