Unlike the announcement of the Booker Prize, which is preceded by a long list and then by a short list, stretching the process to three months, the nominees for the Nobel Prize for Literature are never revealed. Instead, it is left to literature pundits to speculate ahead of the announcement and it quite often happens that the winner is someone wholly unexpected.
Salman Rushdie is considered a prime contender this year, but then again, he was considered a contender last year too, when the prize went to French feminist writer Annie Ernaux. Rushdie was stabbed while ascending the stage to deliver a public lecture in the USA in 2022, but this apparently failed to cut any ice with the Nobel committee.
The other favourite this year is 80-year-old Russian author and Kremlin critic Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Her books are about the need for religious and racial tolerance, and how women are shaping new gender roles. She has moved to the forefront of Russian political debate in recent years and accused Putin of “Stalinising” the country.
Then there is 70-year-old Chinese short fiction writer Deng Xiaohua, better known by her pen name Can Hue. Her abstract style and unconventional narrative form have attracted a lot of attention from critics. For those who struggle to find meaning in her stories, Can Hue says, “If a reader feels that this book is unreadable, then it is clear he is not one of my readers.” If Can Hue wins, it will reinforce the public perception that the work of Nobel laureates are mostly unreadable.
Also in the running this year is 67-year-old Romanian novelist, poet, short story writer and essayist Mircea Cartarescu, a Professor at the University of Bucharest. Cartarescu’s name has come up as a possible winner for many years, like 81-year-old Hungarian novelist and playwright Peter Nadas.
The contender from the African continent is Kenyan Writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who writes in his native language Gikuyu. His work has been widely translated and his famous short story The Upright Revolution, or Why Humans Walk Upright is available in over one hundred languages.
One of the best-known writers considered a contender for the Nobel is Canada’s Margret Atwood, whose books have been made into popular TV serials. One of these is The Hand Maid’s Tale, starring Elizabeth Moss, Ann Dowd and Joseph Fiennes.