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Every October, the Nobel Prize for Literature is awarded — and every September, speculation over who will win that prize begins. Traditionally, the guessing game starts with British betting site Ladbrokes releasing its odds, which are then endlessly debated until the secretive Swedes make their announcement.

The odds for this year's Nobel have been released, and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is the frontrunner (3-1), with prolific American writer Joyce Carol Oates trailing behind (6-1), followed by Hungarian novelist Peter Nadas. However, as The Guardian explains, Murakami — however deserving of such commendation he is — need not start writing his Nobel lecture just yet:

Ladbrokes is running with Murakami, but the firm has got it wrong before. In 2011, a run of bets prompted it to slash odds on Bob Dylan from 100-1 to 10-1 24 hours preceding the announcement of the winner. That year, Adonis was a 6-1 favourite, followed by Murakami (8-1) and the eventual winner, [Swedish poet Tomas] Tranströmer (10-1).

Murakami is the author of highly acclaimed novels like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. His latest, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, has not yet been translated into English, but is selling extremely well in Japan.

Should Murakami win the Nobel, the American drought will have lasted two decades, the last U.S. writer to win the prize being Toni Morrison in 1993. And allegations that the Swedish Academy harbors a bias against American literature will surely resurface. 

The Ladbrokes list does include the likes of Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon and Philip Roth, though none of these writers fits into the Swedish Academy's rubric of writing that is, on the whole, obscure and political.

Last year's recipient, Mo Yan, was widely criticized for his silence about the abuses perpetrated by the Communist Party in his native China.

A woman has not won the Nobel for literature since Herta Müller in 2009.

 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.