Eastern writers in buzz for Nobel literature prize

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STOCKHOLM (AP) - Is it time for the Nobel Prize in literature to come from the east?

After last year’s South American win and years of European dominance, many experts expect the Swedish Academy to do just that when it announces this year’s winner on Thursday.

Many of the big names in Asian and Middle Eastern literature, including South Korean poet Ko Un and Syria’s Adonis, have been mentioned as possible candidates for years, but still haven’t received the prestigious, 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) award. The same goes for Algerian poet Assia Djebar and Israeli author Amos Oz.

“I know the academy doesn’t think in this way, but I still feel it would be timely to give the prize to a Syrian poet during this period of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa,” said Maria Schottenius, a literature expert at the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. She has Adonis as her top bet and Oz as her second favorite.

Goran Sommardal, a culture critic at Swedish radio, said he hopes the Chinese female avant-garde author Can Xue or Chinese poet Bei Dao wins the award.

The jurors at the Swedish Academy don’t give any hints of who will win the prize, but Permanent Secretary Peter Englund says the secretive academy has started to work actively to broaden its scope beyond Europe and the English-speaking world.

In the past two years the academy has boosted to between 10 and 15 the number of freelance experts proposing works in languages that jury members haven’t mastered, he told the Associated Press.

Europeans have won seven of the last 10 prizes and the Swedish Academy has previously been criticized for ignoring writers from other parts of the world.

Last year’s laureate, Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, was the first South American writer to win the award since Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1982. No American has won since Toni Morrison, in 1993, although American authors Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, Joyce Carol Oates and Thomas Pynchon are repeatedly mentioned as possible candidates.

Other writers that figure frequently in Nobel speculation include Canada’s Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood, Albanian poet Ismail Kadare, Claudio Magris of Italy and Cees Nooteboom of the Netherlands.

New names that have sailed up this year are Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk and Adam Zagajewski, Moroccan poet Tahar Ben Jelloun, Ferreira Gullar of Brazil, Peter Carey of Australia and Argentinian author Cesar Aira.

Earlier this week, U.S. singer songwriter Bob Dylan surged to the top of betting agency Ladbrokes list, followed by Adonis, Japanese author Haruki Murakami and the longtime favorite of local critics, Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer.

Another betting agency, Unibet, gave Adonis the lowest odds, before Korean American novelist Chang-Rae Lee and Murakami.

Englund urged people to ignore the betting agencies, which he says sometimes include “completely crazy” speculation.

“They contain a lot which is just plain speculation,” Englund told the AP. “They have to have someone at the bottom of the list, which gives 150 times the money or something, so obviously they have to let in someone who is completely unlikely, some literary UFO.”

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