Every year, a few hours before the decision of the Royal Swedish Academy, bets fly. Everyone has their own method, their own quirks and their unshakeable certainties. One thing is certain: there is no official list of candidates for the supreme title.
Every year, betting sites give their list and every year, they are close to the result. Except in 2016 where, to everyone's surprise, the name ranked in 50th position, with almost no chance of winning, was chosen. It was Bob Dylan. And the controversy that followed is in everyone’s memory. Dylan is a singer, a poet but not a writer. His only novel, Tarantula, is a pure turnip even if his Chronicles in two volumes are worth the detour. In this regard, why not crown Leonard Cohen the author of several quality novels? Dylan shunned the Nobel, refusing to come and collect his check, sending Patti Smith in his place...The soap opera was long and laborious.
This year, this famous 50th place is occupied by a certain Stephen King. He may play electric guitar in a band, but you can't accuse him of not being a writer! We can talk endlessly about the quality of his work, about the seriousness of genre literature... For fifty years, King and Carrie have been one of the best observers of the evolution and disruption of American society.
We were talking about Dylan. Online betting sites do not lack humor. This year, they included other singers in their lineup: Paul Simon, Paul McCartney and Lana Del Rey! We want to believe it was a typing error. In this category, we believe more in the chances of Patti Smith, who has published poems, essays and stories since Seventh Heaven in 1972 and received, like Stephen King, the National Book Award in 2010 for her autobiography Just Kids.
In the meantime, if online betting sites are to be believed, Norwegian Jon Fosse, recently selected for the International Booker Prize, has every chance of winning. He is followed by the Kenyan Ngugui Wa Thiong'o, 85 years old, always placed, never winning and by the Chinese Can Xue whose work is in a fantastic and dreamlike register. Only one translation exists in French, by Gallimard, Dialogues en Paradis, in 1992.
Another little-known author here, the Australian Gerald Murnane, 84 years old. Of the ten novels published, only Les Plaines, published in 1982, was translated in 2011 by P.O.L and Tamarisk Row, which dates from 1974, was translated…in 2016 by Buchet Chastel.
Next comes a serious candidate, the Romanian Mircea Cartarescu, 67 years old. Poet and novelist, he is known here since a dozen of his titles have been translated, including his masterpiece, Solenoid, by Noir sur Blanc.
An outsider appears for the first time: the Chilean poet Raul Zurita, Pablo Neruda Prize 2016. In the year of the fiftieth anniversary of Pinochet's coup d'état, crowning a man who was arrested and tortured by the junta would make sense, as they say. The names of authors cited for several decades reappear: the Syrian poet Adonis, 93 years old or the Albanian novelist naturalized French Ismail Kadaré, 87 years old.
The French Pierre Michon and Michel Houellebecq are also cited. But how can we imagine that after the coronation of Annie Ernaux in 2022, another French author wins? At the time, the Le Clézio (2008) and Modiano (2014) doubles were the talk of the town…
Other questions: can the eternal favorite of punters, the Japanese Haruki Murakami, finally win the grail, he whose international success is considerable and who cannot be described as a committed author? In this regard, will the Swedish jurors have the guts to consecrate Salman Rushdie, victim of a fatwa for thirty years and of an Islamist attack which cost him an eye, in the summer of 2022? This would be a strong and encouraging sign.
Can we still believe in the chances of the immense Portuguese Antonio Lobo Antunes? And the Americans Joyce Carol Oates, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon? After the failures of Philip Roth and Cormac McCarthy, this would be a miracle!
Since 2013, the Swedish jurors have alternated winner and winner. Will they continue this policy? This would mean that the great Russian novelist Ulitskaya could not win the prize. No more than the Canadian Margaret Atwood. Verdict, tomorrow at 1 p.m. live on the Swedish Academy website.