See below for update. The Nobel Prize for Literature winner will be named from Stockholm Thursday morning, and, if the Ladbrokes odds are to be believed, no Member of the Tribe stands a particularly strong chance. The most likely may surprise you: Put money down on E.L. Doctorow at 22:1 odds. He is followed shortly by Amos Oz (25:1), Philip Roth (33:1), Shlomo Kalo (45:1), A.B. Yehoshua (50:1), Jonathan Littell (66:1), and, last but certainly not least, Bob Dylan (100:1), who is my personal pick. (Actually, my personal pick is Roth, but don’t expect the Nobel Committee—which has famously overlooked James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Vladimir Nabokov, and many other great authors—to honor, of all things, an American.) The award is given only to living writers; t he last Jew to win was Joseph Brodsky, in 1987.
Next week brings Britain’s Man Booker Prize announcement. Here we have a stronger rooting interest: Harold Jacobson, whose nominated The Finkler Question was reviewed by books critic Adam Kirsch today, is one of only six names on the shortlist. His book remains, however, the underdog at 7:1 odds; Tom McCarthy’s C is the 2:1 favorite.
UPDATE: No idea how I missed the four (4!) Jewish Nobel laureates since Brodsky, especially since I knew that three of them were Jewish (have to plead ignorance on Jelinek). But as more than one commenter pointed out, Nadine Gordimer, Imre Kertész, Elfriede Jelinek, and Harold Pinter, have won since Brodsky. Which means, of course, that five Jews have won the award since 1987. The number of Americans? One (Toni Morrison).