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Could Chinua Achebe Win This Year’s Nobel Prize in Literature?

Things Fall ApartThere Was A CountryIf you haven’t yet placed your bets behind Chinua Achebe winning the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, there’s still time. Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times is definitely backing him for the win. Over at the UK wagering house Ladbrokes, Japanese author Haruki Murakami has a 10 to 1 odds of winning, with Chinese author Mo Yan at a safe distance of 12 to 1 odds. The same top two contenders are in reverse order at Nicerodds.

Achebe’s 1958 novel Things Fall Apart placed the Nigerian author at the top of the heap of classic African novels of the twentieth century. He has the pedigree, but then again so do other African authors such as Nuruddin Farah and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. In a year that’s looking like it could go in an Asian or Middle Eastern direction, does an African novelist stand a good chance?

According to Ladbrokes, Achebe’s odds of nabbing the Nobel stand at 20 to 1. And this may increase with the publication of his “personal history of Biafra”, There Was A Country, later this year. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s name has also been put forward for consideration, and appears on both betting lists:

Nobody knows who will be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Nobody. Not the Swedish Academy, which is still reading through the works of the very secret short list of finalists. Not the most erudite international reader or spot-on fortuneteller. And certainly not me.

That said, I’m going to make some wild, barely founded guesses about some possible contenders.

Like, say, Chinua Achebe. Born in Nigeria, Achebe (pictured) is the author of one of the most enduring works of 20th century African literature: “Things Fall Apart.” Published in 1958, the novel chronicled the clash of cultures between the Nigerian protagonist and Christian missionaries. Achebe has been a politically involved writer — something the Academy often looks upon favorably — and he’ll turn 82 in November. He seems like a strong candidate.

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