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Poll: Who will win the Nobel Prize in literature?

Joyce Carol Oates is rumored to be a contender for the Nobel Prize in literature.

Joyce Carol Oates is rumored to be a contender for the Nobel Prize in literature.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The Nobel Prize in Literature is the ultimate award for a writer. International in scope and given for a lifetime's extraordinary literary achievement, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to indelible authors: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, William Faulkner, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Albert Camus, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Naguib Mahfouz, Pablo Neruda, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Hesse, John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison.

Morrison, who won the Nobel in 1993, was the last American author to have been recognized by the Swedish committee, which has been accused of having an anti-American bias. Certainly some recent winners, including the 2014 laureate, French author Patrick Modiano, have not been particularly well-known to American readers.

What makes the Swedish committee choose an author? Sometimes it is because they have been engaging with ideas that are part of contemporary discourse (Herta Muller in 2009); if that's the case, either Adonis, a poet born and raised in Syria who emigrated to Lebanon after being imprisoned, or Russian poet Yevgeniy Yevtushenko would be strong contenders.

Sometimes the prize goes to an author (such as Octavio Paz) who has already won the Neustadt Prize for International Literature. That would make exiled Somali poet Naruddin Farah a likely choice.

The Nobel committee also has chosen authors closer to home (Tomas Transtromer) - and Dutch novelist and travel writer Cees Noteboom is one of the closest candidates on British betting house Ladbrokes' contenders list.

Sometimes what helps is a little momentum, which would point in another direction: In May, innovative Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai took the Man Booker International award.

Other favorites include Austrian novelist Peter Handke, Japanese author Haruki Murakami, Argentinian writer Cesar Aria, the famously fatwa'd author Salman Rushdie, and possibly longshot Americans Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth.

Which author do you think will win?

Deserving special (but not serious) mention is Bob Dylan, who appears on Ladbrokes' list and often climbs in the ranking as bettors go for the crazy novelty of the idea of his becoming a Nobel Literature Laureate. But no matter how important a cultural figure Dylan is, and no matter how dense and wordy his lyrics are, he's not an author in the same sense that these writers are.

We'll have more on the Nobel Prize in literature after its announcement Thursday.

Book news and more; I'm @paperhaus on Twitter


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