Who will win the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature?

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  • Haruki Murakami (T-shirt anthologue; odds 5-1)
  • Ko Un (South Korean poet canceled; odds 34-1)

Here are two things I believe. The first is that this whole Sally Rooney bucket hat thing was concocted as a psychological operation by Penguin Random House – which somehow persuaded Farrar, Straus and Giroux that literary hat making was the future of marketing – to hijack the attention of much more embarrassing clothes from PRH. thematic object: a book by Haruki Murakami on his collection of T-shirts. Just in case you missed it: Murakami’s new book is literally a collection of photos of his shirts, with descriptions of those shirts. It is called Murakami T: The T-shirts I love. It’s a new low for literature. (There’s also, incredibly, an unrelated Uniqlo T-shirt collaboration.) Anyway, the second thing I believe is that, despite the shirts, Haruki Murakami is not going to win the Nobel Prize, not this year and probably never. (Maybe he’ll win when the Nobel committee is made up mostly of Gen X audio fidelity enthusiasts.) Murakami remains the betting favorite as he is one of the most popular literary fiction writers. And yet, his status as – arguably – the most famous international writer of literary fiction is almost certainly what will keep him from winning the Nobel Prize. The only thing that gives me pause is that after Tokarczuk, Handke and Glück, we probably need a popular writer. But still, this is not the year of Murakami. Sweden doesn’t really have ideal weather for t-shirts anyway.

As for Ko Un, there remains a cautionary tale of using the Nobel Prize betting odds as a guide in determining who will actually win the Nobel Prize. Ko Un has remained a betting favorite despite a sexual harassment scandal literally taking him out of South Korean textbooks. Yes, in a post-Handke world anything is possible. But Ko Un is not going to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

These poets are not going to win

  • Anne Carson (Canadian poet, playwright, translator, essayist, former deity, shadow on the wall, grove of trees gently swaying in the wind, 8-1 chances)
  • Charles Simic (American poet; odds 26-1)
  • Homer Aridjis (Mexican poet; 26-1 odds)
  • Linton Kwesi Johnson (Jamaican dub poet; odds 34-1)

I’ll be honest: Carson intrigues me, and in various drafts of this piece I’ve included her as a favorite. She should be defeated by two simple facts: she is a poet and she writes in English. And yet, is Carson a poet? Does she write in English, or do the weird marks she makes on a block of wood before sending it to New Directions (who then packs them in a special edition priced at 74.99 $) just seem to be written in English? No one seems to know what it is, although I understand the Democrats earmarked several million dollars in the budget reconciliation bill to research to find out. Anyway, the poets (all) managed to get even more boring after Glück’s victory, and the world is pretty screwed up right now. The last thing we need are two Nobel Prize winning poets in a row. it does not happen!

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