Nobel literature prize: odds slashed on Jon Fosse following surge in bets

'Bigger than average' punts on 100/1 Norwegian days before award forces bookies to suspend betting and cut to 14/1

A late development in the betting on this year's Nobel prize in literature has seen a "dramatic" shortening of odds on an outsider, the Norwegian author and dramatist Jon Fosse, while Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami continued as favourite to win the prize .

Ladbrokes suspended betting temporarily after a sudden flurry of bets on Fosse, who is best-known in the UK as a playwright (his play I am the Wind was described as "cryptically haunting" by Michael Billington when it was staged at London's Young Vic in 2011).

A Ladbrokes spokesman said: "There were quite a few bigger-than-average bets in Fosse's home country of Norway – nothing untoward, but he was well-backed so we cut the odds from 100/1 first to 33/1, and then to 14/1. It was quite a dramatic tumble, especially for an outsider."

He added that bookmakers were more sensitive to sudden movement in odds "with a prize like this. There are lots of contenders and the prices are high, say 100/1. It's a big liability and it can quickly stack up." Bookmakers often suspend trading if unusual patterns of betting occur, in order to recalibrate prices.

Bets are being taken again now by Ladbrokes; Murakami is favourite with odds of 3/1, Joyce Carol Oates is second-favourite, at 6/1, followed by the Hungarian Peter Nadas at 7/1, and South Korean Ko Un and Algerian Assia Djebar, both at 10/1.

William Hill also suspended betting on the prize at the weekend. A spokesman said that the mystery surrounding the decision-making, including the timing of the final selection, meant that it was at risk of "losing a lot of money". Traditionally the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel prize in literature, times the announcement for the week before the Booker prize, meaning that the winner could be unveiled next week. A full timetable of science prizes has already been announced.

The Swedish Academy of 18 members – writers, poets, literary scholars and others – decide on the winner after a summer acquainting themselves with the works of the five or so writers in contention. On the Nobel prize website, Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said: "We try to contact the person who received the award about half an hour before the decision is announced."

He added that the most-criticised award may have been the prize to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1970. "It was very criticised at the time, not in the least from the Soviet side, but also in Sweden."


Liz Bury

The GuardianTramp

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