Literary circles are abuzz with speculation ahead of Thursday’s Nobel Literature Prize announcement, with award watchers suggesting this year’s honours could go to a controversial writer such as Syrian-born poet Adonis. The Academy is known for its cloak-and-dagger methods to prevent any leaks about its choice, resorting to code names for authors and fake book covers when reading in public.
The list of nominees is never revealed and the jury’s deliberations are kept secret for half a century. The suspense will come to an end on Thursday at 1pm (1100 GMT) when the winner is announced, ending an unusually long wait: it comes a week later than usual “for calendar reasons”, the Academy said in late September.
“That leaves a little more time to speculate” about the 2016 laureate, joked Swedish Academy member Per Wastberg.
While perfectly in line with Academy statutes according to Wastberg, some Nobel watchers have interpreted the late date as a sign of discord over this year’s choice. “If you ask me, it’s absolutely not a ‘calendar’ issue,” said Bjorn Wiman, cultural pages editor at Sweden’s main daily Dagens Nyheter. “This is a sign there’s a disagreement in the process to select a winner.”
Mattias Berg, cultural reporter at Swedish Radio, suggested the Academy’s 18 members may have argued over a “politically controversial laureate, such as Adonis,” whose most recent publication is a polemic tract on political Islam. “The prize would in such cases be seen as taking a stance,” Wiman said.
If the Academy is indeed looking for a laureate who divides opinion, it may also have set its sights on Indian-born British author Salman Rushdie. In March, the Academy denounced the Iranian fatwa on the author of “The Satanic Verses”, after a 27-year silence it attributed to its neutrality and independence.
Literary critic Madelaine Levy at daily Svenska Dagbladet said only one thing was certain: we know that we know nothing about the Academy’s choice. “Year after year, the writers chosen are incredibly different,” she noted.
Some of the same names have been making the rounds for several years, including Ngugi wa Thiong’o of Kenya, Don DeLillo and Joyce Carol Oates of the US and Haruki Murakami of Japan.