Academy Opens Up Process for Nobel Prize for Literature

By Karl-Johan Norén: The questions about the Nobel Prize in literature and its awarding body—the Swedish Academy—are still very much ongoing, but yesterday it was announced that the Academy would change its process for the preparatory work. Instead of a select committee formed entirely from within the ranks of the Academy, the work of reading the various nominated authors and creating the shortlist would go to a committee made up of five members of the Academy and five external members.

According to Sweden’s The Local (“Swedish Academy to let outsiders help pick Nobel Prize for the first time in its history”) —

The venerable institution, which has awarded the Nobel Literature Prize since 1901, has been in crisis mode since November 2017, after a deep rift emerged among Academy members about how to manage its longstanding ties to a Frenchman accused – and now convicted – of rape.

For the first time in 70 years, the Academy postponed this year’s literature prize by a year while it attempts to sort out its problems.

On Monday, the Academy said in a brief statement that its Nobel Prize committee – usually made up of five members who recommend a laureate to the rest of the Academy – would in 2019 and 2020 also include “five external experts”, including critics, publishers and authors ranging in age from 27 to 73.

The Academy’s permanent secretary, Anders Olsson, told news agency TT the two-year appointment was “temporary”.

And the Associated Press story “Outsiders, Academy Members to Pick Nobel Literature Winners” adds:

The decision to build “a new Nobel committee” was taken “in consultation with the Nobel Foundation,” Anders Olsson, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said in a statement.

“What I understand is we run through (the names of) the prize nominees and discuss it. But I do not know exactly how it will go. We’ll see,” Rebecka Karde, a literary critic and one of those selected, told Swedish broadcaster SVT before the announcement.

One of these external members is of genre interest: Kristoffer Leandoer has worked as a literature critic, poet, and translator, but he has also written poetry and several YA novels which are openly supernatural horror or weird fiction. He was also a very appreciated Guest of Honour of the sf con Fantastika 2003 in Stockholm.

The question of there will be a Nobel Prize in literature next year (then probably awarding the prize for both 2018 and 2019) is still open. The idea of a committee at a remove from the Swedish Academy awarding the Nobel Prize in literature came from the Nobel committee, but they still want to see progress in the public confidence in the Swedish Academy.

7 thoughts on “Academy Opens Up Process for Nobel Prize for Literature

  1. It’s about FREAKING TIME, Swedish Academy!!!!!!

    Although it’s far too late to honor Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin or Harlan Ellison, it is heartening to know that there may be a chance that “genre writers” MAY have a shot at the Nobel Prize for Literature.

    And speculating who might grab that brass ring will be more than half the fun of it….

  2. @Kestrel
    Not just you. In fact, the only people who actually agree with the Nobel Prize for Dylan/Zimmerman are hardcore fans of his. I like his music myself, but it’s not Nobel Prize worthy.

  3. In fact, the only people who actually agree with the Nobel Prize for Dylan/Zimmerman are hardcore fans of his.

    I doubt that’s true.

    I can’t say I have strong opinions on whether he rated the award, but I don’t think it’s out of the question either, and I’m not a hardcore fan.

  4. People who insist on calling him Zimmerman rather than Dylan are pretty clearly advertising that they primarily feel a need to show their disrespect, for him personally, and perhaps his fans, more than for his work. I do recall that at the time much of the specific criticism of his work and its supposed unworthiness boiled down to complaints about aspects that reflected American poetic and folk traditions Europeans were less familiar with.

    ETA: I agree that Le Guin should have received a Nobel for literature, but it wasn’t Dylan who denied it to her.

  5. One change in the text I wrote (it really should have received another editing pass before publication); the last paragraph should have read:

    The question of there will be a Nobel Prize in literature next year (then probably awarding the prize for both 2018 and 2019) is still open. The idea of a committee at a remove from the Swedish Academy awarding the Nobel Prize in literature came from the Nobel Foundation, but they still want to see progress in the public confidence in the Swedish Academy.

    (The Nobel Prize is administered by the Nobel Foundation, which has a governing board mainly made up of representatives from the various bodies that award the specific prizes. So the Swedish Academy decides on the laurate on the prize in literature, but it is the Nobel Foundation which awards the money and presents the prize.)

    Some other commenters have noted that the Swedish Academy is a toxic environment for women. Even before this affair exploded, they had quietly lost one of their newly chosen female members, and this year has meant that a further four women have left the Academy either termporarily or permanently. There is currently only a single active woman in the Academy, and one newly chosen who will take up her chair next month.

    As for Dylan and Le Guin, I agree with Lis Carey. Both would have been worthy winners, but only one of them received the prize. A lot of the discussion here in Sweden has also centered on that a big trouble for the Nobel Prize in literature going forward is that this ongoing affair has hurt their ability to surprise and innovate in how we view literature.

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