From his cell in Skogome, 500 kilometers from Stockholm, Jean Claude Arnaut, deep throat of the Nobel Prize for Literature, will continue today on television the award of the double prize with which the Swedish Academy will try to refloat its prestige, more sunk than ever. Except for two voluntary interruptions (in 1935 and 1949 it was declared "desert"), only the great conflagrations have been able to stop the untouched course of the most famous, and therefore most controversial, annual prize in world literature since its creation in 1901. Specifically , three terrible contests: the first, the Great War; the second, the one that ravaged the planet between 1939 and 1945 … and, finally, the third: the amazing and shameful civil strife at the Swedish Academy. A full-blown implosion that exposed the miseries of those who designate how beautiful and immortal there are in the world letters. The twilight of the Swedish gods.
Arnaut, a French electrician who arrived in Sweden in 1969 and turned into a «cultural character» of the Nordic country, alleged photographer and playwright married to Katerina Frostenton, herself a writer and member of the Swedish Academy, was in the collapse of the institution in 2018 the letter which stood out most of a house of cards under suspicion. Accused by 17 women of abuse and sexual harassment in November 2017, two of whose cases have taken him to prison, his release uncovered the sneaks he had been making on the prize winner before knowing it, and served to unravel bad practices in academia. The case unleashed a spiral of dimes and dirites that was resolved with a cataract of resignations. Result: an academy demediated and destroyed, without any credit.
Cornered, the institution asked for dead time: the year was postponed. It is not the first time that two awards have been awarded in one edition (the one in the year 49 was postponed to the next one after declaring itself "desert"), but the first in these strange circumstances. Many even consider the "repesca" unfortunate, an attempt to save the temporary unity of the prize and erase the trail of the most fateful year of the Nobel.
As almost always, the designs of the Academy are inscrutable. Of course, there are the classics: Haruki Murakami, Claudio Magris, Milan Kundera, Ismail Kadaré and, of course, our Javier Marías. Academics could opt for a heavyweight for one of the awards and a less known name for the other. But what seems clear is that the 2019 Nobels will be female, or they won't be. Nobody in the world comes to mind that the Academy does not reward a woman in this double call. Maybe even two. The sexual harassment scandal that has undermined the credibility of the institution seems to demand it. In addition, in times of vindication of the role of women in the arts, the Nobel continues to present an overwhelming list of male authors. 102 men have won it against 14 women. The last one was Svetlana Aleksiévich in 2015. The Canadian poet Anne Carson and the novelist Margaret Atwood, author of the popular "Housemaid's Tale", are well positioned in the pools. Lesser-known names that sound strong are also Maryse Condé and Can Xue.
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