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And 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature winner is…

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
09 October 2019   |   4:18 am
After a two-year hiatus, the Swedish Academy is set to announce 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature winners. Already, the chances of literary enthusiasts guessing...


After a two-year hiatus, the Swedish Academy is set to announce 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature winners. Already, the chances of literary enthusiasts guessing the winner of the most prestigious prize in letters have doubled.

Though the Nobel Prize for Literature has long been difficult to predict — with the academy regularly crowning dark horses at the expense of those waiting patiently— that has not stopped the bookmakers from compiling their yearly odds.

Tomorrow, the Academy will announce not one Nobel literature laureate but two, as the prize seeks to move on from a year of unprecedented scandal. The announcement was postponed last year after a sexual abuse and financial misconduct scandal, which led to a series of resignations at the Swedish Academy, which runs the award.

Jean-Claude Arnault, whose wife Katarina Frostenson was a member of the Academy until she quit in January over breaches of secrecy, was convicted of rape in October 2018 and jailed for two years.

According to agency reports, this year’s prize sets sights on diversity after year of scandal. The head of the award’s committee is confident the prize can make a comeback by avoiding the ‘male-oriented’ and ‘Eurocentric’ perspective that has dominated judging in the past.

Last week, the Nobel Prize site posted a video in which Anders Olsson, chair of the Nobel Committee in the Swedish Academy, explained how the Nobel Prize in Literature is decided.

Olsson made some clarification about this year’s selection-process, revealing in the process that there is an eight-author-strong list of finalists — just one list, for both the 2018 and 2019 prizes — from which the two laureates will be selected. He suggested the Academy wouldn’t be as Europe-and male-focused as previously.

iven that the last two winners – Kazuo Ishiguro and Bob Dylan – both write in English and just 14 of the 114 literature laureates are women, Olsson acknowledged this week the need for the jury to ‘widen’ its ‘perspective’.

“We had a more Eurocentric perspective on literature and now we are looking all over the world,” he said. “Previously it was much more male-oriented. Now we have so many female writers who are really great, so we hope the prize and the whole process of the prize has been intensified and is much broader in its scope.”

The 233-year-old Academy has since made changes it billed as improving its transparency and clearing the way for the double awards tomorrow.

According to agency reports, Canadian poet and essayist Anne Carson is this year’s top seed. There is also Maryse Condé, Lyudmila Ulitskaya and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. Margaret Atwood, who on Monday, will know whether she made it in this year’s Booker Prize is also tipped for literature’s biggest prize.

Also inching for the title is the writer many have described as forever bridesmaid, Milan Kundera. Other names seen as strong contenders include Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai and Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, as well as perennial candidate Haruki Murakami. There is equally Ismail Kadaré.

Carson, the 69-year-old Canadian poet, essayist, translator and professor of Classics, in 2000, was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She has also won a Lannan Literary Award.

With background in classical languages, comparative literature, anthropology, history, and commercial art, Carson blends ideas and themes from many fields in her writing. Ancient Greek literature, Sappho, Simone Weil, Homer, Virginia Woolf, Emily Brontë, and Thucydides influence her. She frequently references, modernises, and translates Ancient Greek literature. She has published 20 books as of 2016, most of which blend the forms of poetry, essay, prose, criticism, translation, dramatic dialogue, fiction, and non-fiction.


Like Murakami, the 80 years old Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a perennial candidate. He is an award-winning, world-renowned Kenyan writer and academic who writes primarily in Gikuyu. His work includes novels, plays, short stories, and essays, ranging from literary and social criticism to children’s literature. He is the founder and editor of the Gikuyu-language journal, Mũtĩiri.

From his debut novel, Weep Not, Child, to The River Between, which has as its background the Mau Mau Uprising, and described an unhappy romance between Christians and non-Christians, Devil on the Cross to Matigari ma Njiruungi translated as Matigari into English by Wangui wa Goro he has majorly focused on alienation as central focus of his literature of liberation.

The 76 years old Ulitskaya from Russia is strongly tipped to emerge victorious. Ulitskaya is an internationally acclaimed modern Russian novelist and short-story writer who, in 2014, was awarded the prestigious Austrian State Prize for European Literature for her oeuvre. In 2006 she published Daniel Stein, Interpreter, a novel dealing with the Holocaust and the need for reconciliation between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Ulitskaya herself belongs to a group of people formed by the realities of the former Soviet Union, who see themselves ethnically and culturally as Jews, while having adopted Christianity as their religion.

Ulitskaya’s first novella, Sonechka, published in Novy Mir in 1992, almost immediately became extremely popular, and was shortlisted for the Russian Booker Award. Her works have been translated into several languages including English, and received several international and Russian literary awards, including the Russian Booker for The Kukotsky Enigma.

Maryse Conde, one of the Caribbean’s most renowned authors, is equally a strong favourite. Last year, she won an award created to replace last year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, which was suspended.

The Guadeloupian author, 82, has written more than 20 novels, including Desirada and Segu.

The alternative prize was set up by an organisation calling itself the New Academy, comprising more than 100 Swedish writers, artists and journalists. The four shortlisted writers were among a list of 47 authors nominated by Sweden’s librarians, before voting was opened worldwide.