From Out of Nowhere: The Nobel Prize in Literature 2015

on Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Svetlana Aleksijevitj. Heard of her? You know, the Belarusian investigative journalist? Still nothing? Didn't think so. Well right now she's sitting comfortably atop most bookies' tables as the clear favourite for this year's Nobel Prize in Literature.

Of course, there is a certain logic to it. Everything about the prize seems counterintuitive. Conspiracy theorists would have a field day if only they gave a crap about literature. Suffice to say the whole thing is shrouded in secrecy and, more often than not, we only become fans of the winner post facto. Seriously, how many of us knew Patrick Modiano before last year? Thankfully, that turned out to be a popular choice because when we all got around to reading him (which for the more obsessed among us was about 4 minutes after he was awarded the prize, slowed only by the need for a knee-jerk blog post about it all) he turned out to be pretty darn excellent. Admittedly, I speak for some sort of English language hegemonic league of arrogance but every now and then I like to pin a badge on myself and say I've read the winner before they were famous (so to speak).

A quick scan of bookies' list finds a few other relative unknowns (at least in the English-speaking world) such as Maryse Condé, Bei Dao and Ko Un alongside perennial favourites Haruki Murakami, Adunis, Philip Roth and, yes (*sigh*) Bob Dylan. I'll never understand how anyone could ever put serious money on that guy and, even if he were to win, I can't imagine that he could pull himself together enough to ascend a podium and string anything resembling a coherent sentence together. Have you seen him play live in the past twenty years? Sad, sad man. But I digress...

Onto what is bound to be my annual wildly inaccurate prediction:

Buoyed by the reception of their last semi-obscure pick, the Literary Round Table of Nobel will venture a little further afield and push their luck just so none of us get too confident in their ability to pick worthy winners. Near misses will be my two faves (László Krasznahorkai and Ismail Kadare) who fall just outside the semi-obscure category - not to mention the inconvenient fact that they would actually deserve it - as well as worthy contenders such as Ngūgī Wa Thiong'o or Joyce Carol Oates. Chances are they'll try to be a touch political but not too tokenistic. So someone who has a connection to geographical displacement or cultural alienation. And it's likely to be a woman. Hopefully of the Alice Munro or Doris Lessing kind and not another Elfriede Jelinek (no, I won't miss the chance to knock that every year. And not even Tomas Tranströmer can stop me. Well... he's dead... but two annual jokes now made!).

Ok so this year's Nobel Prize in Literature will go to a reasonably obscure middle eastern (or thereabouts) woman living in exile. That's my pick. Now you can confidently bet against it.

Unless they shift Belarus across a few countries...

Last Minute Edit: One and a half hours until the announcement and I'm jumping up with two serious picks: Sonallah Ibrahim or Tahar Ben Jelloun. Only because I want to be able to say I told you so. And if it's not, I'll look no more clueless than usual. Win/Win.


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