October 10, 2008 / 2:59 PM / 10 years ago

Swedish Academy worried by possible Nobel lit leak

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The Swedish Academy is concerned its decision to award Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio the Nobel Prize for Literature may have leaked ahead of the announcement, a prominent member of the academy was quoted as saying on Friday.

French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio attends a news conference in Paris October 9, 2008 after he won the 2008 Nobel prize for Literature. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The academy’s permanent secretary, Horace Engdahl, told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter he intended to look into the matter, but that it was unclear how or if the information had somehow got out prematurely.

A senior official at the academy told Reuters that Engdahl would not provide any further comment on the issue beyond the remarks he had already given to Swedish media.

The academy announced that French author Le Clezio had won the prestigious prize on Thursday.

The odds for Le Clezio to win, largely determined by betting volumes, fell sharply in the days leading up to the announcement, raising suspicions of a leak.

“This doesn’t look good,” Engdahl was quoted as saying. “It is the first time that I feel something may have happened, but there was also a wave of speculation that began in Paris. When I was there last weekend I had a feeling that there were some who believed strongly in Le Clezio.”

The head of British betting agency Ladbrokes’ Nordic operations, Lasse Dilschmann, told Reuters that odds in favor of Le Clezio had tumbled from about 15 to 1 at the end of September.

“They (the odds) were heading down well below 2 when we closed the betting,” he said. “It is quite unusual for us to close betting. It has, as far as I know, happened only once before in Sweden.”

Engdahl noted that the academy’s shortlist for the prize had leaked once in the past, when Portugal’s Jose Saramago received a Nobel in 1998. “If anything abnormal has occurred we will have to tighten our routines further,” he was quoted as saying.

The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 and has decided the winner of the literature prize since it was first handed out in 1901.

Reporting by Niklas Pollard

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