Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Betting on books

If I was the gambling type, I might have made a quick buck this month with some clever literary bets. Two of my favourite novels of the past year have just been crowned with two major literary prizes. And I'm not saying this with the wisdom of hindsight; I've got my blog to prove it!

In May I posted a piece on an Afrikaans novel which impressed me so much that I simply had to share my enthusiasm with as many people as possible, even though this blog usually deals only with English books: And last week my enthusiasm was richly rewarded when Sonja Loots's Sirkusboere won the South African M-Net Prize. Well done, Ms Loots.

Even bigger and better is the Man Booker Prize which was won by Hilary Mantel - once again! - for Bring up the Bodies, about which I raved in my previous post: With this achievement Mantel becomes the first woman to win two 'Bookers' and the first author to be crowned for a novel (Wolf Hall) as well as its sequel. Brava to the marvellous Mantel.

But all this trumpet blowing is actually just a way of easing into a rather embarrassing confession. Because when it comes to the biggest literary prize of all, also announced this month, I've bombed completely. To my shame I've never read anything written by the Chinese winner of the Nobel Prize,  Mo Yan. To be perfectly honest, I didn't even know his name until last week. Although if I'd been the gambling type, I would have noticed his name on the Ladbrokes list of possible winners, with the rather high odds of 8 to 1.

Although not as high as the odds against Bob Dylan (12/1), whom I would have bet on if I was into betting. Not because I believed that he would win, but because I would have really loved it if an old rock 'n roll poet won this most respectable of all prizes. So if I had to bet on the Nobel Prize, I would certainly have lost whatever I might have made with the M-Net and the Man Booker.

Thank heavens I'm not the gambling type, after all.

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