Swedish Academy to award two Nobel Literature Prizes after sex scandal

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STOCKHOLM: The Swedish Academy will crown two Nobel literature laureates this year, making up for lost time after it skipped last year’s prize over a sexual harassment scandal.

Experts say the academy will seek to avoid ruffling any feathers with this year’s choice of laureates as it seeks to move on from the scandal that saw the husband of one of its members jailed for rape.

Some names creating a buzz ahead of this year’s literature prize are Canadian poet Anne Carson, Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and French Guadeloupean Maryse Conde, according to betting sites such as Unibet.

Stockholm’s literary circles have also speculated about Romanian poet and novelist Mircea Cartarescu and Polish writer and activist Olga Tokarczuk.

The Swedish Academy, which dates back to 1786, is at pains to repair its reputation after the scandal exposed scheming, conflicts of interest, harassment and a culture of silence among its 18 members, long esteemed as the country’s guardians of culture.

The revelations shook Sweden, a Lutheran nation that prides itself on transparency and consensual democracy, and is intolerant of inequality.

Left in tatters by the debacle, the Academy, tasked with selecting the Nobel Literature laureate, postponed the 2018 prize until this year — the first such delay in 70 years.

Nobel sex scandal

Now revamped with new members and statutes, the institution will announce two winners, one for 2018 and one for 2019, on Thursday, October 10 at 1pm (1100 GMT).

It is widely expected to pick writers who won’t spark further controversy, and at least one is almost certain to be a woman, literary critics interviewed by AFP predicted, as women represent only 14 of the 114 literature laureates since 1901.

The Academy does not release a shortlist. While speculation about possible winners is always a guessing game, it is even more so this year given the many changes within the institution.

Among the many names cited as possible winners are Chinese fiction writer Can Xue, Japanese author Haruki Murakami, Russian novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, US novelist Joyce Carol Oates and Canada’s Margaret Atwood.

The Academy’s woes began in November 2017 when it disagreed about how to manage its close ties to Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault, accused and later convicted of rape.

Arnault is married to Katarina Frostenson, a member of the Academy who later resigned over the scandal at the height of the #MeToo movement against harassment of women.

The pair also ran a cultural club in Stockholm that received funding from the body.

Ultimately, seven members quit the Academy, including then permanent secretary Sara Danius.

“From having been associated with literature of the highest order, the Nobel Prize is for many now associated with #MeToo… and a dysfunctional organisation,” Swedish literary critic Madelaine Levy told AFP.

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