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An alternate Literature Nobel Prize will be awarded

By July 14, 2018No Comments

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After the official Nobel Prize was suspended in May because of a sexual abuse scandal, more than 100 personalities of Sweden created the New Academy in order to launch an alternate prize. The shortlist is mainly female.

No Literature Nobel Prize this year — at least not the official one that was to be announced in October.

The prize was suspended until 2019, and the 2018 honor will be awarded alongside next year’s. The already unstoppable movement against sexual harassment and abuse, led by women and championed by #MeToo, reached the Swedish Academy to the point of forcing them to suspend the prize in May. Eighteen women denounced Jean Claude Arnauld, a person linked to the academy, for sexual violence and harassment. Just one month before the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Sara Danis, who happened to be the first woman to have held this post, had resigned because of the scandal, along with other six scholars (the wife of Arnauld included). Arnauld was charged with rape in June.

The suspension of the Literature Nobel Prize had only happened once, just after World War II, as Karina Sainz notes at the Voz Populi Spanish newspaper.

But there will be a prize — an alternate one.

More than one hundred writers, journalists, artists, scriptwriters, translators and lawyers, among other figures in the cultural Swedish world decided to launch their own award – a temporary one – that they will announce on October 14. To do so, the collective created the New Academy, a nonprofit organization that will work in the same vein as the official prize, with five committees, according to their manifest. The New Academy will be dissolved on December 11 after the award ceremony.

This alternate academy, its manifest reads, was also founded “as a reminder that literature should be associated with democracy, openness, empathy and respect.”

“In a time when human values are increasingly being called into question, literature becomes the counterforce of oppression and a code of silence. It is now more important than ever that the world’s greatest literary prize should be awarded,” the document continues.

Journalist and TV host Alexandra Pascalidou is a co-founder of the New Academy. She recently told The Local that she started calling people in order to found the organization, as soon as she heard the Swedish Academy had suspended the award.

“What is the Swedish Academy doing if they can’t even fulfill their work? That was the ultimate evidence that we need to save the prize, to do it with new joined forces and show them that something else is not only possible but necessary,” she said.

The voting for the prize will be public at the beginning and it will close on August 14. The nominees are included in a mainly female shortlist of 46 authors selected by various Swedish librarians. We can count at least 30 women writers among them, including Siri Hudsvet, Joyce Carol Oates, Jamaica Kinkaid, Margaret Atwood, JK Rowling, Patti Smith, Zadie Smith, Ngozi Adichie Chimananda, Maryse Condé, Anne Carson, Elena Ferrante, Arundhati Roy. There are other usual names, like Paul Auster, Cormac McCarthy, Haruki Murakami —a constant in the whis-list of fans—, Thomas Pynchon, Ian Mc Ewan, Don DeLillo.

There are no Latin American authors in the shortlist. On the other hand, there is a considerable number of American, Swedish and British writers.

The criteria for the nomination, the website states, considers literary fiction authors with at least two published works “who within the reader has entered the story of mankind in the world.”

The popular vote will single out three writers for the expert jury to decide and a fourth one will come from the nominations of the librarians.

The Literature Nobel Prize has been highly criticized and its reputation has been questioned after Bob Dylan was given the award in 2016. “There are still doubts about who and why they choose some authors and not others,” Sainz writes.

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