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The Nobel Prize 2022: Top seller or underdog to win the Nobel Prize in Literature?

The Nobel Prize 2022: On Thursday (October 6), the Swedish Academy, the organisation frequently criticised for favouring lesser-known writers over best-selling authors, will reveal the recipient of The Nobel Prize 2022 in Literature.

Two authors whose work was not extensively translated and was not known to the wider public or even certain publishers were awarded the coveted prize in the last two years by the 18-member Academy: American poet Louise Gluck and Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah.

When asked about the “complete astonishment” in the studio when Gurnah’s name was called out last year, Lina Kalmteg, literary critic for Swedish Radio, said, “After last year, I believe it’s maybe even a little tougher to anticipate” who may win this year.

According to Bjorn Wiman, the cultural editor of Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s most widely read the newspaper, “I believe we can anticipate a more well-known name this year, given last year’s surprise.”

The Nobel Prize 2022 in Literature

The Academy is making a sluggish but steady recovery from the #MeToo debacle that caused the delay of the 2018 award and the contentious choice to honour Austrian novelist Peter Handke the following year.

His pro-Serb stances included support for Slobodan Milosevic, the president of Serbia who was on trial for genocide at the time of his death in 2006.

A more international and gender-balanced literary award was promised three years ago, and it now seems to have arrived.

In light of the 2017–2018 controversy, “the Academy is now extremely concerned about its image when it comes to diversity and female representation,” Wiman told AFP.

He noted that the Academy was no longer composed only of “older white guys” and that many new members had brought “fresh viewpoints and different references” to the table.

The Academy has given the Nobel to two women and one male during the #MeToo crisis. These women are Louise Gluck of the United States and Olga Tokarczuk of Poland.

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What does it mean for the prospects of a second female this year?

Canadian Margaret Atwood, Frenchwoman Annie Ernaux, and American Joyce Carol Oates are all possible winners this year.

After Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, a reward to Russian novelist and ardent Kremlin opponent Lyudmila Ulitskaya, who is regularly mentioned as a prospective contender, would also send a powerful statement.

The Nobel Prize 2022: Wiman said that awarding Ulitskaya a medal “would generate responses” since it would draw attention to her criticism of the Kremlin while simultaneously supporting Russian culture at a time when Moscow is under fire for its role in the conflict in Ukraine.

This, Wiman added, is “the type of complicated intellectual argument you really want to see” in the wake of The Nobel Prize 2022.

The Nobel Prize 2022 in Literature is unique in that it does not have a shortlist, and the Academy’s deliberations and selections are kept secret for 50 years.

If we are to rely on pure conjecture, then the oddsmakers’ favourite is the Frenchman Michel Houellebecq, whose name has been bandied around in Nobel circles for years.

British novelist Salman Rushdie, who was the target of an assassination attempt in August, comes in second.

In 2016, after remaining silent for 27 years, the Academy officially denounced the Iranian fatwa on the author of Satanic Verses, justifying its stance as unbiased and independent.

The Nobel Prize 2022:Ngugi wa Thiong’o of Kenya, Laszlo Krasznahorkai of Hungary, Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo of the United States are all often mentioned as potential winners.

The great American postmodern books haven’t been honoured yet, said Jonas Thente, a literary critic for Dagens Nyheter.

Other frontrunners include Norwegians Jon Fosse and Karl Ove Knausgaard, who, more than a decade after Sweden’s Tomas Transtromer won the award, might bring it back to Scandinavia.

The Nobel Prize 2022: The critic for the regional paper Goteborgs-Posten, Maria Hymna Ramnehill, has expressed her wish that either the French-Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun or the Croatian writer Dubravka Ugresic will win the award.

She said that both authors “have a body of work that addresses identity in connection to nationalism and to gender,” although in different ways.

As you put it, “they speak about their identity in a complex style that shows the difficult and hard-to-grasp environment we live in and which can’t be addressed in simple terms.” AFP

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