Adonis declared Nobel prize for literature favourite

Celebrated Arab poet given odds of 4/1 by Ladbrokes

After winning Germany's major award the Goethe prize earlier this year, Syrian poet Adonis has emerged as the frontrunner to be crowned Nobel literature laureate next month.

Ladbrokes has made the 81-year-old, described as "the most important Arab poet of our time" by the Goethe jury, its 4/1 favourite to win this year's Nobel prize for literature, ahead of another octogenarian poet, the 80-year-old Swede Tomas Tranströmer, at 9/2. "Adonis has been a permanent fixture on the shortlist in the past and the odds suggest this could be his year," said spokesman Alex Donohue.

Last year the betting firm backed Tranströmer to win the Nobel, but the 18-member Nobel Academy plumped for Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa instead. "After hitting the woodwork last year we think Tranströmer has a superb chance of atoning for defeat," said Donohue.

The reclusive American writer Thomas Pynchon is at 10/1 at Ladbrokes, with perennial contenders the Algerian novelist Assia Djebar (12/1), Korean poet Ko Un (14/1), Australian poet Les Murray (16/1) and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami (16/1) also frontrunners for the betting firm. The top 10 is completed by three new names in the running: Hungarian writer Peter Nadas at 12/1, Nepali poet Rajendra Bhandari and Indian poet K Satchidanandan, both at 20/1, with Romanian author Mircea Cărtărescu another new entry in 11th place.

MA Orthofer, at the Literary Saloon, said that Cărtărescu, Bhandari and Satchidanandan "really surprise at these odds ... possibly these are names that have leaked out as having been officially submitted, and hence are at least vaguely 'in the running'".

Irish author John Banville was given odds of 25/1 after winning the Franz Kafka prize in May – an award which often predicts future Nobel winners. "Hold on, the other phone's ringing, it must be Stockholm," Banville joked at the time.

AS Byatt is the UK's best Nobel runner, meanwhile, at 33/1, ahead of Ian McEwan (40/1) and Salman Rushdie (also 40/1). And along with Pynchon, America's most likely chance of winning the Nobel - and putting paid to the notion held by Nobel jury member Horace Engdahl that the country's writers are ignorant and insular [] - will come from novelists Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo or Joyce Carol Oates, according to Ladbrokes, which has given all four writers odds of 25/1 to win the prize.

Whether Bob Dylan, at 100/1, will clinch it for the US remains to be seen. "Whilst we expect Dylan to have his backers it would represent a major shock and a costly one for us if he walked away with the prize," said Donohue.

The Swedish Academy has said that the Nobel laureate - who in the words of Alfred Nobel "shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" - will be announced "on a Thursday in October".


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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