The Swedish Academy took a year off to fix the Nobel Prize in literature. It’s still broken.

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The Swedish Academy took a year off to fix the Nobel Prize in literature. It’s still broken.

Oct 11 2019

Yesterday, The Nobel committee announced the winners of both the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature. The 2018 prize having been canceled last year due to controversy. Over to Ron Charles at The Washington Post to explain:

...Two years ago, the husband of one of the academy’s members was accused of multiple counts of sexual assault and eventually convicted of rape. The ensuing scandal tore apart the committee, exposing a history of lax regulation, a deep well of bad judgment and a vein of misogyny. Some members resigned, others refused to participate. The Nobel Foundation, which funds the award, raised serious concerns about the committee’s governance. The future of the literature prize seemed imperiled...

And then came Thursday’s announcement of the winners of the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prizes in literature. The big test: an opportunity to show that the committee members could, in fact, carry on Alfred Nobel’s vague instructions to select “the most outstanding work in an idealistic direction.”

First, the 2018 prize was awarded to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk for what the judges praised as “a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”

But then the other shoe — or jackboot — dropped, and any celebration of Tokarczuk’s work was hijacked by a fresh controversy: The Swedish Academy awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in literature to Peter Handke. He’s a controversial Austrian writer known for his sympathy for the late Yugoslavia leader Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused of genocide. Handke not only attended that butcher’s funeral, he delivered a eulogy...

... This is no way to demonstrate good judgment or to regain trust. It’s just another tone-deaf stunt by a group of Swedish snobs who command a disproportionate and undeserved wedge of the world’s attention.

Update 10/17: Writing an opinion piece in the New York Times, Bret Stephens argues that "we live in an age that is losing the capacity to distinguish art from ideology and artists from politics."

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