Amos Oz heads field of Nobel literature candidates

Fri Oct 2, 2009 11:25am EDT
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By Simon Johnson

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Israeli writer Amos Oz is favorite to be picked for the 2009 Nobel literature prize next Thursday, but with the judging notoriously hard to predict, he is far from a safe bet.

Oz, who deals with life in modern Israel in his novels, and reflects decades of commitment to the Israeli peace movement in his political writing, is quoted at 4/1 by the British bookmaker Ladbrokes, meaning he has one chance in five of winning.

But Oz was also widely tipped last year, when Frenchman Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio won the award.

Joint second favorites are the Algerian novelist Assia Djebar and the American writer Joyce Carol Oates, both at 5/1.

Whoever wins the 10 million Swedish crown ($1.4 million) purse, the decision is likely to enrage as many as it pleases.

Adding spice to attempts to guess this year's winner is debate about whether an American could take home the gold medal that goes with the kudos and cash.

In 2008, Academy member Horace Engdahl caused an outcry in literary circles when he said Americans did not participate in literature's "big dialogue." Engdahl was replaced as the Academy's spokesman, though he remains a member of the panel.

Other American writers that are thought to be in the running include Philip Roth, quoted at 7/1, and Thomas Pynchon at 9/1.   Continued...

<p>Israeli novelist Amos Oz listens to a question during a meeting with Russian writers in the Russian PEN centre in Moscow, September 7, 2006. REUTERS/Anton Denisov</p>