Haruki MurakamiJapanese writer long tipped for Nobel recognition poised to see off rivals including Joyce Carol Oates and Ko Un, say bookies (The Guardian)

After years of hovering in the wings, this could be Haruki Murakami‘s year to clinch the Nobel prize for literature – at least if you go by the odds offered by Ladbrokes on the Japanese author, who is 3-1 favourite.

Other favoured contenders include US author Joyce Carol Oates (6-1), Hungarian writer Peter Nádas (7-1), South Korean poet Ko Un (10-1), and Alice Munro, the short story writer from Canada (12-1).

It is a preposterous twist of Kafkaesque proportions that the 2012 Nobel Prize winner in literature has endorsed censorship as a necessary evil. The Chinese winner, Mo Yan, who made the pronouncement in Stockholm on Thursday, has tarnished the prize and insulted writers everywhere who are risking their lives to tell truth to power.

In retrospect, Mr. Mo’s selection was always going to be fraught. Some condemned it from the start, saying the author was too close to the government apparatus of his country. He is a member of the Communist Party and vice-president of a party-approved writers’ association. As well, he is well known for being among a select group of Chinese authors chosen to write out, in their own hand, excerpts from Mao Zedong’s (in)famous speech on the responsibilities of artists under communism for a commemorative book.

Isn’t it time we called bullshit, once and for all, on the Nobel Prize? I’m not talking about the Peace Prize — though that’s a parcel of yuks all of its own. First Barack Obama — who hasn’t made peace anywhere at all, and whose prosecution of the war on terror has seen him described as “George W Bush on steroids” — and now the European Union. Already, I’m imagining tense negotiations in Brussels over who, exactly, gets to put the diploma into his downstairs loo.

But no: it’s a given that the Peace Prize is kind of a joke. What about the Nobel Prize for Literature? Has there ever been an instance of so manifest an absurdity accorded such reverence — such a tottering edifice of pomp erected on such shallow foundations?