As we reported here previously, there will be no 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature. A number of wide-ranging allegations going back some twenty years were brought against Jean-Claude Arnault, a photographer who is married to Nobel academy member Katarina Frostenson, which the Academy failed to handle, and refused to address after the story broke, resulting in a large number of panel members refusing to take part in the award. Additionally, suspicions of financial conflicts of interest and the alleged leaking of the names of seven Nobel literature laureates in advance further tarnished the reputation of the Academy and its award.
We mourn for those who have suffered as the result of predatory behavior, and the refusal of those with the power to effect change to step up. In a different way, we also grieve for the loss of a 2018 Nobel Prize Winner, mostly because it allows us a moment to reflect on a life time of literary output and contributions to our worldwide reading society. However, all hope is not lost, in part because Librarians Are Awesome.
As reported by The New York Times, Swedish journalist Alexandra Pascalidou, enraged by the unfolding sex scandal, decided to take matters into her own hands. So she started her own award. Ms. Pascalidou, with the help of over 100 prominent Swedish cultural figures, including actors, novelists and a rapper, founded the New Academy Prize in Literature. The prize will award one million kronor, or around $112,000 to the winning author, and a banquet will be held in their honor, just as is held by the Nobel Prize itself. As stated in the award’s opener, “In a time when human values are increasingly being called into question, literature becomes an even more important counterforce to stop the culture of silence and oppression.”
Online voting for the award, which selected three of the four shortlisted authors, closed on August 14. The final shortlisted author will be chosen by Sweden’s librarians. The rules of awards enforce a gender quota on the shortlist stage, stipulating that it comprises two men and two women. On August 30, the shortlist was announced. We present it below with the short bio offered on the award’s website. Click on the author’s name to get links to the NOBLE catalog and see their work:
Born 1937 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, Maryse Condé is considered one of the Caribbean’s most outstanding authors. She has written some twenty novels and received several prestigious awards. She has been an Emeritus Professor at Columbia University, New York, but now lives in Guadeloupe and France. In her work, she has described how colonialism has changed the world and how those affected take back their heritage.
Born 1949 in Kyoto, Haruki Murakami has lived in the US and currently resides in Tokyo. He is one of our most celebrated authors and translators. His work fuses pop culture with a fierce magic realism. He has received several prestigious international awards and is also mentioned as a Nobel Prize-candidate.
Born 1968 in Saigon, Vietnam, Kim Thúy left her country as a boat refugee when she was ten years old and grew up in Canada. She is known for her short and elegant stories about being a refugee and an immigrant. Her stories paint the colors of Vietnam and the scents and flavors too, as well as the perils of exile and search for identity.
Born 1960 in Portchester, England, Neil Gaiman currently lives in Wisconsin, USA. He is a screen writer, author and editor who started his career as a journalist. His graphic novel Sandman was a huge success only outranked by Superman and Batman in sold copies. He has received several international awards and is a true superstar in the fantasy community.
The only real drawback to this story is the way the media has covered the announcement of the short list. Gaiman and Murakami were mentioned in headlines across the United States and Europe. Twitter erupted with the news of two beloved male authors being nominated. But the female nominees were only listed in secondary and tertiary paragraphs (to be fair, both men called out reporting, as did a sizable online readership). Considering the reason that the award was developed in the first place–as a result of sexual abuse and the sidelining of (largely women) victims’ pain–and by whom–a determined and pioneering woman, it’s really disappointing that the spotlight wasn’t big enough to encompass all four writers equally.
But we are.
…Because librarians are awesome.