The Nobel Prize season begins on October 1 with the announcement of the prize for physiology or medicine.
But one award will not be announced this year: the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The Swedish Academy said in May it would not name a literature laureate this year, following accusations of sexual abuse and other wrongdoing by people connected to the academy.
Anders Olsson, the Academy’s permanent secretary, said at the time that the group needed time to rebuild public trust before choosing the next laureate.
The Swedish Academy will instead name two literature laureates in 2019.
Members of Sweden’s cultural society have come together to create a replacement literature award this year. The group released the names of four possible winners of the so-called “New Academy Prize.” The winner will be announced on October 12.
Scandal at the Academy
The scandal that has hit the Swedish Academy involves photographer Jean-Claude Arnault. He is the husband of Swedish Academy member and writer Katarina Frostenson.
At least 18 women have accused Arnault of rape or sexual assault. Some of the assaults are said to have happened at properties owned by the Swedish Academy.
For many years, Arnault and Frostenson ran an organization in Stockholm that held readings and performances by well-known people, including past Nobel laureates. The Swedish Academy gave money to the organization.
Arnault’s rape trial in Stockholm ended last week. He is now waiting for the court’s decision. He has repeatedly denied all the charges against him.
Arnault has also been accused of leaking the names of literature prize winners before they were announced, including past laureates Bob Dylan and Harold Pinter. The academy operates a highly secretive selection process.
Swedish Academy members found themselves unable to make a decision about Frostenson and Arnault’s future with the academy. This led to strong fighting within the organization. Members insulted each other in media reports.
Three of the 18 members resigned after the academy’s leadership decided to let Frostenson remain in her position. The academy’s permanent secretary then resigned in protest. Later, Frostenson also left the academy.
A Difference Prize
After the scandal, 100 of Swedish society’s most important cultural members established the New Academy Prize.
Unlike the Swedish Academy, the New Academy’s nomination process is not secretive. The New Academy asked Swedish librarians to nominate writers for the prize. The public then got to vote for the 47 nominees that the New Academy received.
Three top vote winners – plus one candidate chosen by literature experts – made up the shortlist of four nominees. They are Britain’s Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami of Japan, Canadian Kim Thuy and Maryse Conde of Guadeloupe.
The New Academy required that the shortlist have two women and two men.
Gaiman wrote on Twitter that “winning would not make me any happier than being on that list makes me.”
However, Murakami said he would not accept the prize. His name was removed from the list.
Most in the literary world agree with the Swedish Academy’s decision to not name a laureate in 2018.
Maria Schottenius, a Swedish literature critic, said, “This is the best decision they could make.” She added that the academy will have a chance to rebuild itself and be ready to award the prize next year.
Nobel Prizes are awarded in science, medicine, literature and peacemaking. Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel provided money for their establishment after his death.
This is the first time since 1949 that the literature award has been delayed. Japanese-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro won the prize last year.
I’m Susan Shand.
Susan Shand wrote and adapted this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
laureate – n. someone who has won an important prize or honor for achievement in an art or science
assault - n a violent physical attack
replacement - n. a person or thing that takes the place someone or something else
scandal – n. an occurrence in which people are shocked and upset because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong
confidence – n. a feeling or belief that someone or something is good or has the ability to succeed at something
librarian - n. someone who works in a library