Set up in the wake of the cancellation of the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, following multiple allegation of corruption and sexual assault, a group of Swedish cultural figures came forward with its own literary prize to stand in for the prestigious prize and correct some of its historical wrongs in the process.
The New Academy Prize, founded by journalist Alexandra Pascalidou and approximately 100 Swedish cultural figures, invited readers to vote for their favourites to arrive at a shortlist of four writers from a longlist of 46, in stark contrast to the Nobel Prize’s opaque process.
Well, the readers have spoken. The four authors in the running for the prize are the master of fantasy, Neil Gaiman, Japanese literary superstar Haruki Murakami, Vietnamese-Canadian writer Kim Thúy and Carribean Francophone scholar and historical fiction writer, Maryse Condé. The New Academy said more than 30,000 votes were cast to select the shortlist, which was chosen from a longlist that included authors like Margaret Atwood and JK Rowling.
An expert jury will now deliberate and decide the winner, who will win one million kroner (approximately $112,000). The announcement will be made on October 12 and the prize will be awarded in a special ceremony on December 9. Its job done, the New Academy will be dissolved at the end of the year.
The shortlist of the New Academy Prize reinforces its mission to be more inclusive in terms of genre as well as gender. The Nobel Prize has historically been skewed in favour of male authors of “serious” literary fiction and this shortlist opens up an alternative imagining of award-worthy literature. While Neil Gaiman, beloved around the world, is unlikely to be awarded the Nobel due to the prize’s historical aversion for fantasy, Murakami has famously been bet on unsuccessfully for several years in a row. Some suggest this is because his books are bestsellers, earning him the nickname of a “Nobel bridesmaid”. Although it may be for an alternative prize, 2018 could finally be his year.