10th October, 2019
Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is among the favourites to clinch the Nobel Literature Prize as the Swedish Academy crowns two laureates on Thursday, after postponing last year’s prize over a sexual harassment scandal.
Experts say the academy will seek to avoid ruffling any feathers with this year’s choices as it bids to move on from the scandal that saw the husband of one of its members jailed for rape.
Ahead of the announcement at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT), when it will reveal one winner for 2018 and one for 2019, some other names creating a buzz are poet Anne Carson and novelist Margaret Atwood, both of Canada, Polish writer and activist Olga Tokarczuk, and French Guadeloupean Maryse Conde, according to betting site Unibet.
Stockholm’s literary circles have also speculated about Romanian poet and novelist Mircea Cartarescu, Polish writer Hanna Krall, Antiguan-American author Jamaica Kincaid, South Korean writer Han Kang and Joyce Carol Oates of the United States.
Dating back to 1786, the Swedish Academy 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 delay in 70 years.
Now revamped with new members and statutes, it is widely expected to pick writers who will not spark further controversy, and at least one is almost certain to be a woman, literary critics interviewed by AFP predicted.
Only 14 of the 114 literature laureates since 1901 have been women.
The Academy does not release a shortlist. While possible winners are always anyone’s guess, the speculation is even more rampant this year given the many changes within the institution.
Among many other names cited as possible winners are Chinese fiction writer Can Xue, Japanese author Haruki Murakami and Russian novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya.
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.