Nobel The Unknowable

on Thursday, October 10, 2013
Only a couple of hours to go before the big Nobel announcement which means I'm way behind on one of my favourite annual traditions: failing to pick which obscure midlister will walk away with the gong. I've just had a little peak at the Ladbrokes top ten to gauge who the punters are backing and, once again, Haruki Murakami is sitting alone at the pointy end. I like the guy, but he'd be a pretty uninspired choice. Unless, of course, they're trying to "pop" up a prize that has long been slipping into a swamp of irrelevance.

Standing slightly below the pedestal, looking up Murakami's dress, are the likes of Peter Nadas, Joyce Carol Oates, and Thomas Pynchon (who stopped being good in 1990 and, let's face it, most probably died in January 2010). There's also a few I suspect Ladbrokes just made up - Svetlana Aleksijevitj, Ko Un and Assia Djebar - but that ought not cut them from contention. Tomas Transtrommer was created from a game of Boggle (his name is worth about 73 points) and he won the thing two years ago.

Given the time restraints, I'll keep my other observations brief:

1) Previous darlings of the betting set seem to have fallen down the list. Adonis is out of the top ten. Ismail Kadare (one of my personal favourites) doesn't even crack the twenty.

2) Some people still think Aussies Les Murray, Gerald Murnane, David Malouf and Tim Winton are in with a chance. I'd love it if they were but, to quote another great Aussie cultural icon, tell 'em they're dreamin'!

3) Bob Dylan is way down the list. Well done punters, it only took you five years of wasted bets to realise that HE IS NOT A WRITER (though, if you must have a troubadour, Leonard Cohen is).

4) Just outside the top ten there's an interesting cluster of deserving folk: Philip Roth, Amos Oz, Milan Kundera, Umberto Eco, Peter Handke and Javier Marias vary from 16/1 to 33/1. Other than William H. Gass or Elias Khoury, I can't think of more worthy recipients.

5) Why has no-one thought to bet on David Grossman?

6) Some people will bet on anything for a laugh. Jonathan Littell? Jonathan Franzen? Anna Funder?

So who will actually win the Nobel?

Not that I have any form whatsoever in calling it, but I have a strange feeling it might actually go to an American. Given his recent retirement, Philip Roth would be a fitting choice. As would Joyce Carol Oates (though she seems to be bit of a splattergun artist - prolific but patchy). I doubt it will go to a poet. Maybe a playwright - it hasn't gone to one of those weirdos since Harold Pinter in 2005. A journalist? That'd be kind of cool. Oooh... maybe a graphic novelist? Let's not forget that these things are often more the product of compromise than anything else so rationalise, hypothesise or fantasise as much as you want, there is no obvious choice.

Put a gun to my head and make me pick one? I'm rooting for Umberto Eco. I have no idea why. I guess if I'm going to get it wrong I might as well do it in complex, cross genre style.


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