In a shock decision there was no Nobel Prizes this year after the Academy fought off a scandal centred round Jean-Claude Arnault. Arnault’s wife Katarina Frostenson is a well known poet and sits on the Academy. Sara Danius, the first woman to lead the Academy led the protest but those who wanted to play down the scandal ousted her from her post.
The scandal continued with many members resigning in protest, leaving the Academy in crisis due to its own rules. It looked as though the entire Nobel Prize Academy might have been disbanded forever but it was ultimately saved, although 2018 will be the first year in 69 years that the awards have not been given.
The details of the scandal were vague but this week a Swedish prosecutor in Stockholm has brought rape charges against Jean-Claude Arnault, bringing to light the seriousness of the scandal.
Arnault has long been considered the cultural gatekeeper in Sweden and beyond, running the Forum in Stockholm and receiving financial support from the 232 year old Swedish Academy. He is married to one academy member and is close to others but as more women come forward, the scandal has become too big to sweep under the rug.
A number of women have come forward and accused Arnault of using his sway in the arts world and his connections to the Academy to pressure young women in the arts to have sex. As many as 18 women have come forward, but some crimes happened too long ago to be dealt with in Swedish law. However, Arnault has been charged with two counts of rape, both involving the same woman in a case that dates back to 2011. It’s also thought the number of women involved may be much higher but artists are scared to speak out for fear of ruining their reputation for speaking out against the well respected behemoth that is the Swedish Academy.
The episode has put Arnault at the heart of the prominent #MeToo movement in Sweden, and even Crown Princess Victoria came forward to say Arnault had groped her at an event.
The respected Academy cancelled this year’s prizes in light of the scandal the first time this has happened since 1949. Then, two prizes were awarded in 1950, but Lars Heikensten, director of the Nobel Foundation, said in a radio interview there might not be a literature prize next year, either as the Swedish Academy needs to do much more to win back the public’s trust.
This year’s entries were shortlisted to the following:
The all-male group nominated for their strange or gross depictions of sex included Gerard Woodward, William Wall, James Frey, and a particularly rapey scene written by Haruki Murakami (dude, gross, don’t do that).
The winner was announced at a lavish ceremony hosted by retro pop star Kim Wilde at the In & Out (Naval & Military) Club in London.
James Frey and his book Katerina won with his awkward and cringe-worthy passage describing… Well, you know.
Last year’s winner was Christopher Bollen, an American novelist whose passage describing the protagonist’s love interest is both weird and utterly unsexy:
“She covers her breasts with her swimsuit. The rest of her remains so delectably exposed. The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles.”
The award is administered by the Children’s Book Circle and the organisation chose Morpurgo because of how he has inspired a deep passion throughout his career.
Now three years later, journalist Philippe Lancon who was injured in the deadly attacks has won the Femina Prize, a prestigious award for his book, Le Lambeau, an account of the attack and how it has affected Lancon’s life.
This year the award has added a new category for poetry, alongside the seven existing categories. Books are My Bag asked you to vote and you did so in your thousands and the winners are now in for the Books are My Bag Readers Awards, sponsored by National Book Tokens.