Poets lead running for Nobel Literature prize

Tue Oct 4, 2011 9:11pm EDT
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By Simon Johnson

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Two poets, one Swedish and the other Syrian, are leading the betting to win the 2011 Nobel Literature prize, a bookmaker said on Tuesday, though past prizes have often defied the predictions.

British betting firm Ladbrokes have the 81-year-old Syrian poet known as Adonis at odds of 4/1 and Swede Tomas Transtromer, 80, at 7/1 to win the 10 million crown ($1.5 million) prize, to be announced on October6. Japan's Haruki Murakami was third at 8/1.

All three have been on the betting list of candidates before, but an award to Adonis, a champion of democracy and secular thought, would chime well with Arab Spring revolts in several Middle Eastern nations -- though he has not been without his critics who view his support for the uprisings as too muted.

Apart from his political engagement, Khaled Mattawa, who has translated many of Adonis' works into English, said the Syrian -- named Ali Hamid Saeed at birth -- deserved to be recognised for his artistry.

"When I think of Adonis as a poet ... I think of people like Picasso or Matisse, people who opened up a new way of envisioning experience," Mattawa, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, told Reuters.

Adonis was awarded Germany's prestigious Goethe Prize for literature in May.

"I hope with the greater attention being brought to him, people recognize Arab literature is not only compelling for its content or for the way it might help us to understand Arab societies ... but also (that Adonis's work can) give us a sense of the conceptual prowess we find in modern Arab literature," Mattawa said.

The last poet to win the Nobel Literature prize was Poland's Wislawa Szymborska in 1996.   Continued...