Bob Dylan and the History of Failed Nobel Prize Predictions

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The singer-songwriter may be the odds-on favorite at British betting site Ladbrokes, but there's a dubious history of predicting prize-winners: Just ask Philip Roth and Amos Oz

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Reuters


Updated Oct. 6, 9:00 am — Bob Dylan has won 11 Grammys, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe. This week, rumors started spreading that he was about to receive an even more impressive accolade: a Nobel Prize in literature. As of Wednesday afternoon, the odds on the British gambling site Ladbrokes were 5-1 that the singer-songwriter/folk hero would become this year's laureate. Those odds put him ahead of Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami (6-1) and Syrian poet Adonis (7-1).

Hopefully fans of the Bard of Hibbing didn't get too excited when they saw Dylan's good odds: Ladbrokes has a shoddy record of predicting Nobel literature laureates. The site's odds-on favorite has only won once since 2004 (the earliest year for which Ladbrokes data are available online), when Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk received the prize in 2006. This year continued Ladbrokes' losing streak: Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer took home this year's prize, not Dylan. Take a look at the site's history of bad bets (and notice that the odds-on favorites are always men, despite the fact that three women have won since 2004):

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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