December 3, 2019

Two members resign from committee established to reform Nobel prize for literature


Two people have resigned from a committee that was established to oversee reforms to the Swedish Academy’s Nobel prize for literature. This puts the net resignation count for any committees or institutions relating to the Nobel prize in literature at ten, with no signs of slowing down.

First: a bit of backstory. The Swedish Academy postponed the 2018 Nobel prize in literature after a sexual abuse and financial misconduct scandal effectively shut down operations. Several people resigned from the Swedish Academy at that time as an act of protest to the charges, the punishment, and everything above.

Hoping to move on, this year the Swedish Academy awarded two Nobel prizes in literature: one for the year they missed and one for 2019. There was much speculation that these awards might serve as preliminary corrective steps for the Swedish Academy, which has been increasingly perceived of as an out-of-touch, corrupt, misogynistic and Euro-centric institution.

After the announcement this October, one winner, Olga Tokarczuk, was unanimously applauded, but the second, Peter Handke, was condemned by PEN America among other prominent literary and intellectual voices for his denial of the genocide of Muslims in Sarajevo.

Fast-forward to this week, Kristoffer Leandoer and Gun-Britt Sundström have resigned from an external committee that was established to reform the culture of the Swedish Academy and prevent the disaster of the 2018 award from happening again.

In what we can only construe to be an incredibly advanced form of Scandinavian shade, Leandoer announced his resignation and noted:

The Academy and I have a different perspective on time, one year is far too long in my life and far too short in the life of the Academy.

This is honestly one of the most savage barbs thrown around in this conflict so far, and this includes an academy member calling out “rotten macho values and arrogant high-handedness” and a former academy member calling them “a clique of bad losers.” So, yes, the praise that we are now bestowing on Kristoffer Leandoer really means something.

For the record, Leandoer says his resignation has nothing to do with the Handke controversy, which somehow makes it sound even worse.



Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.