Open field for Nobel winner in literature

By Joshua Madden
A&E Editor

The Nobel Prize in Literature is arguably the Lombardi trophy for authors — it’s the most prestigious prize available for modern authors. So this begs the question: who will win this year’s literary Super Bowl? I will highlight some of the favorites and some of the long shots in this year’s competition.

Before I do, however, I need to point out three things to keep in mind before making any predictions.

One is that the committee expressed a desire last year to avoid American authors, which is odd given that the last American author to win was Toni Morrison in 1993, and they have since moderated their criticism.

The second is that authors do not necessarily have to be fiction writers to win literature’s highest prize. Winston Churchill, for example, won the prize in 1953 — one year before Ernest Hemingway — “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

Finally, keep in mind that the recipient must have been alive at the time of the nominations, so despite the fact that great authors like Kurt Vonnegut never received the award while living, they cannot now that they have passed away.

That having been said, enjoy my predictions for possible winners, as well as longshots I would like to see discussed as worthy for consideration.

Philip Roth:

The author of the Nathan Zuckerman novels and 2004’s well-received novel “The Plot Against America” is a perpetual runner-up at the Nobels, but this year might be his year. The deciding committee has backed off of its recent criticism of American authors and Roth’s themes of Jewish identity might resonate with the committee this year.

Salman Rushdie:

Rushdie, who is best known as either the author of “Midnight’s Children” or for the controversy that surrounds his work “The Satanic Verses,” has never been awarded a Nobel prize.

His literary prowess is pretty much beyond question, but Rushdie’s biggest problem may be that he’s simply too controversial.


Adunis, who was born Ali Ahmad Said Asbar, is a Syrian poet who is frequently mentioned as a possible winner. Given the recent focus on the Arabic world, this might be his year.

Bob Dylan:

This may sound like a joke, but it’s actually quite serious. Dylan is frequently nominated for the award and is actually leading the odds on some websites taking bets over who will win.
Given the wide variety of things that Dylan has written and how comparable his lyrics are to poetry, there’s a pretty decent case to be made for Dylan.

Longshots I’d like to see get at least nominated:

Daniel Domscheit-Berg:

One of the founders of WikiLeaks, the activist Domscheit-Berg has since writen a memoir about his experiences.

Bret Easton Ellis or Chuck Palahniuk:

These two famous American authors are well respected, but probably too dark with their subjects.

Chad Thomas Johnston:

I’d love to see him win, but this one will probably come later in life.

Quentin Tarantino:

The major factor hurting this internationally respected filmmaker is his age — he’s probably too young to win.