The New Academy, a body formed by group of Swedish intellectuals has created an alternative Nobel Literature Prize, claiming that the original award has been tainted by conflicts of interests, privileges and egotistical and discriminative practices.
According to the founders of the new award, which was created in anticipation of the return of the original Nobel prize next year, aims at promoting values such as democracy, transparency, empathy and respect.
This initiative was arrived at in view of the currently diminished academy and the reduced public confidence in the academy,” the institution said in a statement, citing “a crisis of confidence.”
Moreover, the New Academy has also criticized the recent choices of the Nobel Prize Committee such as bestowing the prestigious prize to Patrick Modiano in 2014 and Bob Dylan in 2016. The reputation of the Swedish Academy has also suffered as a result of scandals of misconduct pertaining to the husband of one of its members, who was accused of molestation, assault and rape by 18 women last autumn.
There have also been claims that the names of several Nobel Prize winners have been leaked by the same man, known as Jean-Claude Arnault.
It is worth mentioning that the new literature award — which carries a prize of one million kronor (around 97,000 euros, $113,000) raised from crowdfunding and donations — will be handed out at a December 10 ceremony, the same day as the Nobel banquet.
Librarians across Sweden have been asked to nominate up to two authors, with a deadline set for July 8. Authors with the most nominations will then receive votes online from the public in Sweden and abroad.
Based on the nominations and the vote results, a jury including publishers, literature professors, culture journalists and critics will shortlist four authors — two men and two women — and make the final choice.
The winner, who may come from anywhere in the world and must have published at least one literary work in the last 10 years, will be announced on October 14, in the same month as the Nobel Literature Prize would have been announced.
But some observers are skeptical about whether the New Academy can compare with the Nobel Literature Prize’s history of recognizing distinguished authors including Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, Boris Pasternak, Alice Munro and Doris Lessing, among others.
For Asa Linderborg, chief culture editor at daily paper Aftonbladet, it’s “deeply provocative” of the New Academy to use literature to promote moral values and even “the most disturbing ideas” can become high-quality literature.
“Art should be free. You cannot label it based on righteousness or evil. The New Academy is after total purity… total goodness,” Linderborg said.