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STOCKHOLM, Oct 11 (AFP) - The Nobel prize for literature, one of the most keenly-awaited awards of the Nobel season, will be announced on Thursday, the Swedish Academy said, amid speculation the jury this year could switch tack and honor a non-fiction author.
While the list of possible winners appears largely the same as in recent years, featuring US novelists Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates, Ismael Kadare of Albania, Israeli Amos Oz and Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer, the Swedish Academy might just have a surprise in store, pundits say.
"The Academy has spoken of wanting to broaden the prize, which could open the door for instance for literary journalists like Poland's Ryszard Kapuscinski," Eva Bonnier, head of Sweden's Bonnier publishing house, told AFP.
"Kapuscinski is a possibility. It would be very exciting if the Academy decides to go in that direction," agreed Ola Larsmo, a freelance literary critic who writes for Sweden's paper of record Dagens Nyheter.
Speuclation is just that, though -- speculation. Larsmo pointed out that the Academy is keeping tight-lipped about this year's laureate ahead of the announcement at 1100 GMT Thursday.
Horace Engdahl, head of the Swedish Academy, acknowledged that "it is important that the prize develops as literature develops".
If the award ends up going to a non-fiction writer it would not be the first time, he told AFP, pointing out that Alfred Nobel, the awards' founder, did not specify in his will whether it had to go to a fiction writer.
Since the first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901, several non-fiction writers and non-poets have won, including Bertrand Russell in 1950 for his philosophical writings and Winston Churchill three years later for his historical texts.
However the majority of prizes have been awarded to fiction writers and poets.
If the academy sticks to tradition this year, authors like Algerian Assia Djebar, Dutch Cees Nooteboom, Belgian Hugo Claus, Somalia's Nuruddin Farah and Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri are thought to be among the front-runners.
Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, who was recently charged in Turkey with "public denigration of the Turkish identity" for remarks he made about the country's massacre of Armenians, is also considered a leading candidate.
Last year, the prize went to Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek.
That award came as a complete surprise to most Nobel observers and was so controversial that it continues to make waves today.
On Tuesday for instance, a member of the Swedish Academy said he was resigning to protest the choice.
"Giving the Nobel Prize to Elfriede Jelinek has destroyed the value of the award for the foreseeable future," Knut Ahnlund wrote in a column published in the daily Svenska Dagbladet.
Ahnlund, who has been a member of the academy since 1983 but who has not actively participated in the jury work for nearly a decade, said he would officially hand in his resignation over last year's choice.
The Nobel Literature Prize is traditionally made public on a Thursday. It will be the sixth and last of the 2005 Nobel Prizes to be awarded.
Each Nobel prize this year carries a prize sum of 10 million Swedish kronor (1.1 million euros, 1.3 million dollars), to be shared if the award is given to more than one laureate.
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