Poets poised for Nobel glory; Swede is favorite

Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:01am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White, Arts and Entertainment Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - Swedish poet and writer Tomas Transtromer is the bookmakers' favorite to win the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, with odds also suggesting American authors are once again set to be overlooked.

British company Ladbrokes have given Transtromer, 79, odds of 5/1, or one chance in six of winning. He is ahead of three other poets backed at 8/1 -- Poland's Adam Zagajewski, South Korea's Ko Un and Syria's Adonis.

The first non-poet in the bookmakers' ranking is Paraguay's Nestor Amarilla, a playwright who was reported to have been shortlisted for the world's top literary award, although nominees are officially kept a close secret.

"Tomas Transtromer must surely be in pole position," said David Williams of Ladbrokes. "He's long been mentioned for the prize and we feel his work finally deserves this recognition."

The winner of the award, which can thrust relatively obscure authors into the international limelight, is notoriously difficult to guess, with a series of surprises in recent years.

The prize has also been overshadowed by perceptions of anti-American bias on the committee that whittles the nominations sent in from around the world down to a shortlist which is then voted on by the Swedish Academy.

In 2008, committee member Horace Engdahl was quoted as saying U.S. literature was "too insular," prompting an angry response from some leading American writers.

Ladbrokes have put U.S. authors Thomas Pynchon and Philip Roth, both perennial also-rans in the Nobel race, among the 18/1 outsiders for the prize, worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.5 million) to the winner last year.   Continued...