October 8, 2019
Two Nobel prizes in literature to be awarded next week
by Athena Bryan
The Swedish Academy is set to announce two more Nobel laureates next week, after it did not hand out the prize last year.
The postponement last year was the result of a sexual abuse and financial misconduct scandal, which led to several resignations from the Swedish Academy. To read our past coverage in chronological order try here, here, here, and here.
With an eye to refurbishing their image, they will be announcing both the 2018 and the 2019 prizes next week. The chair of the Nobel prize in literature committee, Anders Olsson, noted it was time for the jury to “widen” their “perspective,” away from Eurocentric, male writers.
For a bit of context, 14 out of 114 literature laureates have been women. That’s just over 12%. So even if both go to women, well-intentioned as they may be, now is always a good reminder that cosmetic gestures towards inclusivity, especially after your committee turned a blind eye to the harassment of women in properties owned by the academy for over 20 years, across several countries, and had been reported to the academy as early as 1996, are just that: cosmetic gestures towards inclusivity.
The committee, which hilariously refers to itself as The Eighteen, became The Twelve, after six members withdrew from deliberations last year, while two others were compelled to remove themselves as well. So if you are counting along at home, that went down to Ten.
The academy is up and running again after the king of Sweden appointed an emergency interim chair. That’s right, the king of Sweden stepped in. If you forgot they still had a functional monarchy like yours truly, his name is Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, and he does things like appoint interim chairs to the Swedish Academy after the husband of one of their members tips people off that Bob Dylan is gonna win and the rest fall apart in a spell of incomprehensible infighting.
The Guardian has written nice and thoughtful stuff about the elitism and corruption that are fundamentally baked into such institutions, and took a deep dive into the prestigious literary cliques of Sweden that make up the Academy (which is worth a read if only to make Bob Dylan’s utter disregard and contempt for them feel actually kind of funny and gratifying in retrospect).
But, as has been the prevailing pattern in the series of reckonings that have reverberated around the Western world between 2016 and 2017, we have arrived at 2019 and decided that the institutions will stand, and we will uphold the crumbling structures that are perfectly designed to promote corruption, stagnation, and empty intellectual browbeating—but now, with women!
So here is the list of our likely Nobel laureates:
- Lyudmila Ulitskaya
- Maryse Condé
- Margaret Atwood
- László Krasznahorkai
- Olga Tokarczuk
- Ma Jian
- César Aira
- Antjie Krog
With any luck, the two new winners will take the Fourteen previous female winners up to Sixteen, which, again, is not even as many members as it takes to sit on the committee and painstakingly inch towards the conclusion that someone who isn’t a man who writes in a Western European language might earn the their top honor. Huzzah.
Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.