Haruki Murakami: early leader in Nobel Prize predictions

British gambling site Ladbrokes puts Japanese author Haruki Murakami at odds of 10/1 for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

L: Elena Seibert/Knopf
Haruki Murakami scored a bestseller with his work '1Q84,' which was released as one novel in the US.

It’s the Kentucky Derby of literature, the Super Bowl of bibliophiles, the most bet-on literary competition of the year. The announcement of the Nobel Prize in Literature may be months away, but bet-placing is in full swing. In the top spot with 10/1 odds is Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, according to British gambling site Ladbrokes.

If past precedent is any indication, it might just be a good bet. Last year the prize was awarded to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer, who was Ladbroke’s second favorite with initial odds of 9/2 (just behind Syrian poet Adonis, at 4/1).  Interestingly, Murakami was a favorite last year, too, with odds at one point hitting 8/1.

The author of “Norwegian Wood” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” Murakami is perhaps best known for his recent “IQ84,” an epic trilogy that sold millions in Japan and the US. As we wrote in an earlier Chapter & Verse post, his novels “often feature defiant protagonists who run against the orderly, group mentality predominant in Japanese culture…. Like his protagonists, Murakami is a vocal critic of Japanese policy, particularly its reliance on nuclear power.” The Nobel Prize is often a political statement as much as a literary one, and in this increasingly anti-nuclear climate, Murakami’s views won’t go unnoticed.

Of course, Murakami’s not the only contender. Some 210 writers were nominated for this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, some 46 of whom were nominated for the first time, according to the Swedish Academy.

Behind Murakami is Chinese author Mo Yan (12/1) and Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom (12/1). Tied for fourth are Albanian author Ismail Kadare (14/1), Syrian poet Adonis (14/1), and South Korean poet Ko Un (14/1). Cormac McCarthy is currently running at 16/1, Alice Munro at 20/1, Bob Dylan’s rocking 33/1, and Jonathan Franzen’s way down at 100/1.

The betting kinds would be wise to check out Michael Orthofer’s deliberations on Literary Saloon before plunking down cash on a choice like Bob Dylan (“....anyone who bets on Dylan is basically just handing the money over to them,” writes Orthofer).

As for us, we’re keeping our eye on Murakami and new names like Chinese writer Mo Yan, Italian writer and daughter of a Sicilian princess Dacia Maraini, and Spanish novelist Eduardo Mendoza Garriga.

Let the betting begin!

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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