Around this time of year, the literary world would be abuzz over the latest Nobel Prize winner in literature. But this year’s prize has been postponed because of a sex abuse scandal.
At the center of the scandal is 71-year-old photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who, according to The Guardian, is accused of using his power to coerce women into having sex. Although powerful associates have covered for him, emboldened victims are finally stepping forward and joining the #MeToo movement to speak out against Arnault’s misbehavior.
The Swedish Academy, a panel of writers and scholars who have handed out the prizes since 1901, announced in May that it will be delaying this year’s literary award until next year. As for the awards, two people will be named winners in 2019 says the New York Times. While scandals such as this are far too familiar in this era, the Nobel Prize in literature has only been rescheduled once.
In all honesty, some people will miss the awards. Authors may not be discovered, publishers can’t use the prize as a powerful marketing tool and, of course, small groups of dedicated writers will be furious that their favorite writers won’t get recognition.
As for the actual readers, a year without the award will not cause us to riot and rage. The truth is that nobody is too hung up about the postponement.
The Swedish Academy has failed to attract much interest from American readers and publishers — seeing as they have resolutely ignored American literature for decades — and not many people care for foreign writers. As for those interested in reading the foreign award winners’ works, it is often hard to find an English translation.
Though some people might argue that the prize was their way of finding new passionate authors, most people agree that we won’t be deprived of falling in love with the works of a new writer just because the award is gone. Besides, literary scholars argue that the Nobel has actually managed to miss most of the important modern writers such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Aimé Césaire and many others.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean the Swedish Academy has been particularly incompetent in awarding the prize. The distinguished Swedish writers, linguists, literary scholars, historians and a prominent jurist always go through a lengthy process during which they critique and dissect the works submitted before voting for the best one.
However, different people will find inspiration in different things, making it impossible to rank literary works according to objective standards. The Academy is simply another group of readers with their own opinions, strengths and weaknesses, as the scandal has shown.
Though the Nobel Prize in literature will be back in 2019, I think the Academy made the right choice delaying the awards, and maybe more people will be interested in the awards by then.