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Entertaining and well-informed discussion at Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet among a couple of top level critics and publishers about the Nobel. A few points:

Leaks were far more common back in the day, but there was a gentlemen's agreement between the Academy and some trusted cultural editors; the Academy would let them in on the winner beforehand, and they would have time to write but wouldn't publish until afterwards. Author Per-Olov Enquist ruined it by breaking the vow of silence in the late 80s and publishing the winner beforehand. Publisher Svante Weyler notes that the most common source of leaks these days is if someone sees an agent at the Frankfurt Book Fair get a phone call and then start hunting for champagne at 12.45. They don't believe there are any actual leaks before then, but note that the Academy is made up of individuals ("VERY individuals") and that a certain mystique concerning possible leaks and infighting is part of the deal with the Nobel. Also, no complete unknowns ever get it; 9 out of 10 winners are on the list that everyone discusses anyway, so it's very rare for the winner to be a complete surprise.

The people who know right now would be the members of the Academy, the people working at the Academy's library, and probably the head of the Nobel foundation - about 25 people.

The stuff about not knowing which Thursday it's announced is probably largely for show these days.

In terms of sales, the national August award is probably more lucrative than the Nobel. Weyler: "An August award can save a small publisher, but if I get a Nobel, I know my grandchildren get to drink champagne."

The Nobel's greatest time was perhaps the post-war years; from 1946 and 15-odd years ahead, they landed bull's eye after bull's eye - in contrast, there are some recent winners (they name Fo and Gao) who have already started to fall out of favour.

Dead White European Men. The concept of literature has widened, though, and at the same time the pool of possible winners has. "The Nobel Prize is extremely conservative and sometimes reactionary - that's part of that sort of literature." It's not supposed to be a trailblazer, there are others that encourage change and development better than the Nobel.

The book business needs prizes, needs successes, needs Big Authors to survive and continue to be diverse - the Nobel is the only time in a year when translated literature is front and centre, even in Sweden.

Engdahl's comment about US literature is "one of the most entertaining literary provocations of the last decade."

Favourites this year: Adonis, Roth and Oates are out. The speculation should have started in earnest last week, but this year it's been unusually quiet at the newspapers since everyone just discusses Ladbrokes odds instead; "the betting firms have ruined it for us know-it-alls." Nobody knows where they got Mo Yan from. The panelists' favourites: Munro, Esterhazy ("he will get it in my lifetime, but I plan to live a long time"), DeLillo, McCarthy. ("I publish a few of the Academy members, so I stopped guessing since I got it right three years in a row" - Weyler).
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Nobel Prize 2012 · General discussion