Bookmakers predict odds of South African novelist winning Nobel Prize in Literature

Ivan Vladislavic. (Photo: provided)

  • The Nobel Prize for Literature is to be announced on Thursday.
  • Bookmakers are predicting that Ivan Vladislavic of SA has a 25 to 1 chance of winning the coveted prize.
  • However, many believe Salman Rushdie could win the prize following the attack on the author earlier this year.

The winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature is due to be announced on Thursday, October 6, and bookmakers are calculating the odds of each potential winner.

Interestingly, South African novelist and short story writer Ivan Vladislavic was odds 25 to 1 to win the prize by betting site NicerOdds towards the end of September. Those odds have since fallen to 30-1 if you go through Betsson.

A piece in The New Republicadmittedly a grumpy and somewhat satirical piece, puts Vladislavic’s odds at 40-1.

Vladislavic has published several acclaimed works of fiction, beginning with his collection Missing Persons in 1989. He has published five novels (most recently, in 2019, The Distance), four collections of stories, a monograph on artist Willem Boshoff and a non-fiction work about life in Johannesburg, Portrait with Keys. Vladislavic is published by Umuzi.

When Louise Glück won in 2020, her odds of winning were 25 to 1 just before the announcement, says LitHub. He also notes that the chances of a writer winning the prize are skewed by the unknown criteria used by the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize. The academy seems to be traveling continents, giving everyone a ride, and it looks like it’s Asia’s turn this year.

Ivan Vladislavic

Double negative of Ivan Vladislavic.

Ivan Vladislavic

Ivan Vladislavic’s Distance.

Again, events can redirect the academy’s attention, and the award often seems to be given to make a political point. Thus, many commentators claim that the winner of this year’s award will be Salman Rushdie. The author of The Midnight Children and satanic verses was recently stabbed by a Muslim assailant who attempted to carry out the fatwa issued by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. The Ayatollah sentenced Rushdie, who is of Indian descent, to death for blasphemy. We saw that he made fun of Islam in satanic verses. Rushdie was forced to live in hiding, under surveillance, for more than a decade. The fatwa apparently cannot be undone, hence the stabbing of a devout Muslim.

While the Swedish Academy’s decision-making process is mysterious, the means used by bookmakers to calculate an author’s chances of winning is apparently based on the number of prizes they have won during their career. Vladislavic has won several, including the Olive Schreiner Award for Missing Persons, the CNA Literary Award for The Folly, the Sunday Times Fiction Award for The Restless Supermarket, the Sunday Times Non-Fiction Award and the University of Johannesburg Award for Portrait with Keys, and the UJ Award and M-Net Literary Award for Double Negative.

Looking through a variety of sources trying to predict this year’s winner, it looks like the favourites, a day or two before the announcement, are Michel Houellebecq (7-1, according to Ladbrokes), Rushdie (8-1 ), Ngugi wa Thiong’o (11-1) and Haruki Murakami (14-1). Place your bets.