Mario Vargas Llosa bagged the Nobel Prize for Literature yesterday. We reporters in Kenya followed the announcement because much fervid speculation said that Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiongo might win.
Reading all the stories that offered up predictions of the eventual winner, it was hard not to think that journalists got played by companies like Ladbrokes and unibet, which took bets on the race.
Several reporters cited the odds put forward by Ladbrokes on various candidates. Some quoted a Ladbrokes spokesman as saying about Ngugi: “We’ve never seen anything like it. Ngugi was a rank outsider when we first looked at the candidates but we fear we’ve got it horribly wrong. Punters cant get enough of him and we’re dreading him being announced the winner."
What a great ploy. Surely the spokesman knew that he was not-so-obliquely telling people to bet even more money on Ngugi. He also must have known that people's chances of winning anything were tiny because the Nobel committee has a tendency to pick winners whom very few people have ever heard of. Herta Muller, anyone?
Reporters, meanwhile, crammed as many names into their stories as they could, apparently thinking that at least one would stick and they'd look OK. AP came in with 12 names but left out Vargas Llosa. AFP listed 19, including the plucky Peruvian.
Here's the list of names mentioned by AP: South Korean poet Ko Un, Syria's Adonis, Kenya's Ngugi wa Thiong'o, American novelist Cormac McCarthy, songwriter Bob Dylan, Algeria's Assia Djebar, Canadian writer Alice Munro, Americans Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates and Thomas Pynchon, Israel's Amos Oz and Claudio Magris of Italy.
And from AFP: Australian poet Les Murray, Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, American music legend and poet Bob Dylan, American novelists Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy and Joyce Carol Oates, longtime favourite author Don DeLillo, Ngugi wa Thiong'o of Kenya, Somalian Nuruddin Farah, Algerian novelist and poet Assia Djebar, Adonis of Syria, Ko Un of South Korea, Tomas Transtroemer of Sweden, Canadian Margaret Atwood, Israeli Amos Oz, Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, Japanese Haruki Murakami, Finnish author Sofi Oksanen, Paraguayan Nestor Amarilla.