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.
The Bookseller reports that in all, forty-eight bookshops are competing, from nine regions of the UK and are all hoping to win in their local area before going forward to compete for the overall, nationwide prize.
Here are the shortlisted books for each region. We have some of the bookshops listed in our bookshop section so the ones featured are linked:
Behrouz Boochani is a failed asylum seeker from Iran who has been held on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for almost six years. The place doesn’t get much coverage for an offshore detention centre that holds failed refugees indefinitely, and maybe it should but all that might be about to change as Boochani’s book is about his time on the island and his attempted journey to safety.
This year’s winners have been announced by Poets & Writers, and the well-deserving recipients of the 2019 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award are:
Reginald Dwayne Betts – “for mentoring individuals involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems and for his efforts to reform these systems.”
Reginald Dwayne Betts writes memoirs and poetry. His most recent collection of poetry, Bastards of the Reagan Era, won the 2016 PEN New England Award in Poetry. While his memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival and Coming of Age in Prison, is just the beginning of his campaigning to reform the criminal justice system in the UK. He has also made numerous visits to prisons and juvenile detention centres, where he shares his poetry and talks about the power of reading, literacy and mentoring those in incarceration.