Will the Nobel Prize in Literature go to a Russian writer or will the Swedish Academy opt for a more discreet Nordic author? The prestigious literature prize, awarded on Thursday, could make an overtly political choice, according to experts.
Literary circles which have been speculating for weeks will be set for 1:00 p.m. (11:00 GMT) when the Swedish Academy will reveal the lucky winner.
The name of the Russian novelist and Kremlin opponent Lioudmila Oulitskaïa, compared by critics to the giants Leo Tolstoy or John Steinbeck, often comes up in predictions.
Anti-Putin, she rebels against political power Russian since the start of the war in Ukraine, denouncing a “senseless” offensive.
For Björn Wiman, cultural editor-in-chief of the daily Dagens Nyheter (DN), the Academy would send “a very political message” by distinguishing this author exiled in Germany.
< /p> Salman Rushdie, May 18, 2023 in New York © AFP – TIMOTHY A. CLARY
But his heart leans towards Salman Rushdie, anticipated for many years: “It's time for him to win, if that's the case, I would tip my hat to the Academy” because that would salute freedom of expression. The famous British writer is being pursued by a fatwa pronounced by Iran for his “Satanic Verses” (1988) and was the victim of a serious attack in August 2022.
The Swedish Academy could also, as it often does, reward a pen less known to the general public, such as that of the avant-garde Chinese writer Can Xue or the Norwegian Jon Fosse, playwright whose plays are the most performed in Europe.
These names, alongside that of Australian writer Gerald Murnane, feature in the top 5 betting sites whose predictions have proven surprisingly correct in recent years.
Norwegian writer Jon Fosse, November 16, 2022 in New York © Getty – Dia Dipasupil
“But it still remains very difficult to guess and know” how the members of the Academy decide, who say they do not take current societal or political debates into account when awarding the award, underlines Lina Kalmteg to AFP, literary journalist at Swedish Public Radio (SR).
And as with the other Nobel Prizes, the jury's deliberations are sealed for 50 years.
– A reflection of the times –
The members of the Academy take Alfred Nobel's will as a point of reference: the prize must be awarded to a writer whose literary work has demonstrated a “powerful ideal”.
A wish sometimes colored by the geopolitical situation of the world, notes Paul Tenngart, professor of literature at Lund University, in an article.
He takes the example of Ivan Bunin, the first Russian writer to be crowned in 1933, known for his extremely critical texts against the Bolshevik regime and whose work was banned in the USSR until the death of Stalin.
< /p> French author Maryse Condé, May 23, 2023 in London © AFP – JUSTIN TALLIS
As every year, the names of other “regular” nobel candidates are circulating, such as the Hungarian Laszlo Krasznahorkai, the Romanian Mircea Cărtărescu, the Frenchwoman Maryse Condé, the Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong'o or even the Somali Nuruddin Farah.
< p>Since the #MeToo scandal which shook the Academy in 2018, followed by the controversy caused by the awarding of the award to the Austrian writer Peter Handke due to his defense of the Serbs during the wars of the 1990s in the Balkans, the cenacle is trying to get a makeover.
Last year, the award went to Annie Ernaux, French author of a work recounting the emancipation of a woman of modest origins, who became a feminist icon.
And the previous edition had crowned the British novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, born in Zanzibar, who explores the torments of exile, anti-colonialism and anti-racialism.
“In recent years, there is a greater awareness around the fact that we cannot remain in a Eurocentric perspective, that we need more equality, that the price reflects the times,” says Carin Franzén, professor of literature at Stockholm University which hopes to see Canadian poet Anne Carson win the prize this year.
French author Annie Ernaux, during the award ceremony for her Nobel Prize in Literature 2022, December 10, 2022 in Stockholm © TT NEWS AGENCY – Christine OLSSON
To honor this ambition, the Swedish Academy consults external experts in order to understand the exact scope of works from other horizons.< /p>
In the meantime, the figures show that the road to equality is still long.
Since the creation of the prize, only 17 women have won the prestigious literary prize, out of a total of 119 winners. And for 16 French winners, an Arabic-speaking author was distinguished: Naguib Mahfouz in 1988 (Egypt).
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