You might not think the unveiling of the Nobel Prize for Literature would pose as much of a betting opportunity as horse racing, boxing matches, or virtually any sporting event. You'd be wrong.
The prize is set to be announced Thursday, and as the hour steadily approaches, Ladbrokes, the U.K. gaming company, is continuing to furiously track the odds of a hundred potential winners. The critically acclaimed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami currently leads the pack, boasting projected odds of 3/1, while American author (and frequent tweeter) Joyce Carol Oates follows closely behind with 6/1 odds. (Bob Dylan, if you're wondering, drags behind with a 50/1 chance of winning, by Ladbrokes' count.)
The strangest development, though, concerns a relative unknown who has surpassed well-heeled talent to shoot from 100/1 to 9/1 odds in a brief window of time. That would be Jon Fosse, a Norwegian author, poet, and playwright who has been steadily making a name for himself since the early 1980s. Having tried his hand at a veritable laundry list of modern literary genres—essays, novels, poetry, short fiction—Fosse is now regarded as a preeminent modern playwright. His work has been translated into dozens of languages. He has won tremendous honors in France and his native Norway.
But he is not yet a household name stateside, certainly compared with his top competition for the prize. And he only published his first play in 1994, after years as a journalist and novelist.
What gives? As we've previously covered, the bookmakers' methods have little to do with the actual quality of the literature. They're just thumbing through blogs and mainstream media outlets in a mad dash to figure out which authors are getting the most buzz in the weeks leading up to the announcement. This method, however unscientific and fraught, has provided Ladbrokes with an impressive accuracy rate in past years. As one Ladbrokes spokesperson put it to The New York Times, it's a matter of "tak[ing] the temperature of the literary world."
Fosse's temperature is pretty hot right now. Ladbrokes cut its odds on the playwright dramatically after noticing several surprisingly large bets on him in his home country of Norway. According to the company, "Fosse has come from out of nowhere to become the hottest writer, and it's not inconceivable that he could become favorite to win before the announcement is made."
Fosse himself, though, can't be of much assistance to those placing bets. If he does go on to win the big prize, he'll find out only half an hour before the announcement is made.