The faux Nobel

The Swedish Academy canceled the awarding of a Nobel prize for literature in 2018 because of a sexual assault and harassment scandal that wracked the committee that would have made the decision on the award. While they try to sort all of that out and recover their reputation from the scandal, another group of Swedish cultural figures has stepped up to fill the void. The New Academy will present a prize in literature, adhering to the same schedule as the Nobel award.

The New Academy, however, is following a radically different process in selecting its winner. Rather than a small secretive panel choosing a winner, the more than 100 Swedish cultural figures who make up the academy asked for nominations from Sweden's librarians. 

There were 47 names put forward and those were opened up to a public vote, from which an expert jury selected a shortlist of four authors. Last week, the New Academy announced the names on that shortlist. They are: Neal Gaiman, described as "a true superstar in the fantasy community"; Haruki Murakami, "one of our most celebrated authors and translators"; Maryse Condé, "one of the Caribbean's most outstanding authors"; and Kim Thúy, a Canadian who was born in Saigon and whose stories "paint the colours of Vietnam and the scents and flavours too". 

I am familiar with and have read Gaiman and Murakami, but I admit Condé and Thúy are new to me and I look forward to making their acquaintance. The Nobel prize often brings attention to authors that I have not read before. I'm glad to see the New Academy is following in that tradition.

I think it is admirable that this group has chosen to make its selection process transparent. It is something the Swedish Academy should perhaps consider adopting. A statement from the New Academy makes their dedication to openness manifest: “The New Academy was founded to warrant that an international literary prize will be awarded in 2018, but also as a reminder that literature should be associated with democracy, openness, empathy and respect.” They have also said that the New Academy will be dissolved in December, once the prize has been presented. 

The Swedish Academy has said it plans to present two awards in 2019 - one for 2018 and 2019. That is, I suppose, if they can recover their tattered reputation in time.


  1. Well it is quite the dust up. I will be curious to see what happens next. Personally I thought the Swedish Academy handled this awkwardly but then again, it is an awkward situation. Conde and Thuy are new to me as well. (I have yet to figure out how to put those accent marks into comments on Blogger. But at least we have our email notifications on comments back.)

    1. Cut and paste is always my "go to" technique. I know there is a correct way to do it, but c&p is just so easy. Yes, thank goodness notifications are back. I was always worried I would overlook someone.

    2. C & p. Why didn't I think of that? Thanks!

  2. Nobel transparency...about time!


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