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Literature Nobel date set, few new names in focus

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The Swedish Academy said on Friday it will announce the 2007 Nobel Laureate in Literature on October 11, with odds-makers tipping well-tried names to take a prize that often goes to the obscure or controversial.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes, which takes bets on the literary world’s most prestigious award, has Italian novelist and essayist Claudio Magris as its favorite, followed by Australian “bush” poet Les Murray and American novelist Philip Roth.

Swedish poet Thomas Transtromer lies fourth on the list with Syrian-Lebanese poet Adonis in fifth.

Barring Murray, all have been suggested as possible winners in years past.

The short list for the 10 million Swedish crown ($1.54 million) prize is closely guarded and the winner is often a surprise -- sometimes obscure enough to send reporters and literary scholars scurrying to reference books or the Internet.

But Ladbrokes has called it right for three years running with the leader in its wagering winning the Nobel, including last year’s winner, Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk.

Pamuk was seen as a politically-charged choice in a year that saw him charged with violating a hotly debated law prohibiting insults to “Turkishness.”

The Swedish Academy says politics played no role.

“It was a decision taken on purely literary grounds. There is never a political aim in the Academy’s decision,” Academy head Horace Engdahl told Reuters in an e-mail interview this week.

“There is sometimes a political effect, but in that case it is unintended and usually not calculable in advance.”

Ladbrokes spokesman Nick Weinberg said the bookmaker had its own specialists who draw up its list of possible winners.

“We have a number of experts who really have their ear to the ground when it comes to Nobel prizes,” he said.

“They keep track of newspaper headlines, speeches of previous winners, any trends that become apparent -- people of a certain age win in a certain year or whatever.”

Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement, said if he had the power to choose, he would give Nobel honors to Boston-based British poet Geoffrey Hill.

He called Hill “the greatest poet of religious doubt in our age -- an age which has a strong need of serious religious doubters -- a poet who can be tragic and comic as only the most serious can.”

Stothard also pegged Roth as a front-runner.

“But this has never been an easy field to describe or predict,” he said.

“I expect the winner to be a writer whom the literary pundits will talk long and sagely about -- but only after they have consulted their reference books.”

The winner will be announced at 1 p.m. Stockholm time (1100 GMT) on October 11, the Swedish Academy said on its Web site.

While all other Nobel Prize dates are known well in advance, the date of what is deemed the literary world’s top honor is never revealed until a week before the announcement.