Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o huele a Nobel
Algo curioso ocurrió hace casi un mes en la casa de apuestas Ladbrokes. El escritor de Kenia Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o empezó a trepar desmesuradamente, hasta el punto que la casa de apuestas tuvo que suspender el sitio ante la oleada repentina. Actualmente, han restaurado el site y el africano ha subido en menos de 24 horas de 50/1 a 20/1 de probabilidades, y está en el puesto 12. Por otra parte, un comentario del interlocutor de Ladbrokes ha puesto todas las señales de alerta: al parecer, la súbita alza en las apuestas de Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o se debe a que un importante cliente sueco apostó fuerte por él. ¿Se trata de un soplo? Ahora mismo, resulta innegable suponer que por lo menos el keniata se encuentra entre los cinco finalistas, si acaso no es ya el ganador. ¿Tendremos que aprender a pronunciar Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o? La nota en The Atlantic Wire (en inglés).
Dice la nota:
We qualify this post with the disclaimer that nobody will truly know who wins the Nobel Prize for Literature until the Swedish Academy announces the laureate one fine October morning (the secretive Swedes don’t even reveal the date in advance). As such, what precedes the news is largely guesswork. The winner could be Philip Roth, finally. Or a Romanian neo-absurdist playwright you’ve never read. Or, heck, Snooki. The point is, nobody knows anything.
And yet. And yet.
Yesterday, the British website Ladbrokes released its annual Nobel odds, with Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami in the lead. The site’s odds were parsed by the literary community all day, as they will be in the weeks to come. This morning, however, on what was only Day Two of Nobel Watch, observers noticed a curious event taking place on the site:
The writer in question is the Kenyan novelist, playwright and essayist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, acclaimed for works like the novel Wizard of the Crow and the memoir In the House of the Interpreter. Ngũgĩ’s odds had been 50/1 before trading on his Nobel chances was suspended; when it was restored, the odds were 50/1 again. But the suspension may have nevertheless been telling, implying that Ngũgĩ is indeed one of the five finalists for the Nobel, if not the presumed winner.
That’s because, as Ladbrokes press representative Alex Donohue explained to The Atlantic Wire, the site suspends betting only when there is “a sudden large bet or bets.” Could there merely have been a surge of enthusiasm among fans of Ngũgĩ? Sure, but, as Donohue explained, such a show of enthusiasm for a writer’s Nobel chances “doesn’t usually happen this soon” in the process, with potentially a full month left until the announcement (last year, Chinese novelist Mo Yan was awarded the Nobel on Oct. 11).
But then, Donohue dropped a bombshell: one of the “decent bets” — we think “decent” is a British euphemism for “huge” — came “from a Swedish customer.” That’s obviously relevant because the Swedish Academy awards the Nobel, suggesting that someone with inside knowledge of its workings may have placed the bet. At the very least, it could imply that an insider knows that Ngũgĩ is a finalist.
Michael Orthofer of the Literary Saloon, who has an excellent analysis of his own, tells The Atlantic Wire, “He’s been my top African candidate for the past couple of years, and I still rate him highly — wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s a finalist, or wins it.”
Indeed, Ngũgĩ seems to fit the Swedish Academy’s bill in many respects, from his literary talents to his political engagement. In the 1960’s, he renounced writing in English for his native Gikuyu, in what would become a longstanding battle against the legacy of colonialism. His first novel in that language, Devil on the Cross, was written from prison in toilet paper. He remains engaged in politics to this day, writing last spring for The New York Times on Kenya’s struggle to achieve democracy.
Were he to win, Ngũgĩ would be the first male African writer to win the Nobel since Wole Soyinka in 1986. Naguib Mahfouz won in 1988, but the Egyptian novelist’s sensibilities are firmly placed within the Middle East. The last African writer to win the Nobel was J. M. Coetzee in 2003. He is South African but lives in Australia.
If this morning’s surge in bets is a clue, then Ngũgĩ could soon be heading to Stockholm.
Escritor peruano. Autor de las novelas "El viaje interior, "La disciplina de la vanidad" y "Un lugar llamado Oreja de perro".
Blog de noticias literarias y talleres on-line de escritura para escritores y ejecutivos.