After the scandals, a new chapter for the Nobel in literature

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After the scandals, a new chapter for the Nobel in literature







© KEYSTONE/AP/Fernando Vergara


Barely out of a bad patch that has tarnished the most famous literary prize in the world, the Nobel for literature is awarded Thursday in Stockholm. The French Maryse Condé, the Russian Lioudmila Oulitskaïa and the Canadian Margaret Atwood are the favorites of the punters.

Literary critics polled by AFP lean more for the American-Caribbean Jamaica Kincaid, the Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Canadian poet Anne Carson, the Hungarian Peter Nadas or the French Michel Houellebecq. But all agree that the price is very difficult to predict this year.

The Swedish academy, which awards its 113th Nobel on Thursday at 1 p.m., keeps the vote of its 18 members secret until the last moment. No name in the running is ever confirmed until the records are lifted fifty years later.

Only to be able to compete with that of peace for the title of most famous of the Nobel, the price of literature struggles to emerge from one of the most troubled periods of its history, however long and eventful.

From #MeToo to Handke

At the end of 2017, the Swedish academy had been plagued by dissensions over how to handle the charges against a Frenchman, Jean-Claude Arnault, husband of an academician and influential figure in the Swedish cultural scene, since convicted of rape.

The scandal had torn the institution apart in the midst of the #MeToo cataclysm, throwing a harsh light on the backstage of an academy plagued by intrigue and shaking the Nobels and even the image of a Sweden champion of transparency, probity, modernity and equality.

Trembling on its foundations, the temple of letters had to postpone the 2018 price. Barely enough time to get out of the water that he had plunged head first into it, rewarding in October 2019 the Austrian writer Peter Handke, to the sulphurous pro-Milosevic positions.

The jury had stood firm, claiming to have judged exclusively the work and not the man. But in the face of this storm, the debates on the truly literary nature of the work of Bob Dylan, the surprise winner in 2016, were only few things. The academy has always preferred shadow candidates to celebrities anyway.

In the prize list by country, France is in the lead for literature, with fifteen laureates, the first of which, the forgotten Sully Prudhomme, or giants like Camus (1957) or Sartre, the only writer to have refused it of his own accord. , in 1964. The language of Molière is on the other hand preceded by that of Shakespeare, with 29 English-speaking authors awarded.

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