Academy man quits over Nobel winner

A member of the organisation that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature has resigned – in protest against last year's winner. Swedish Academy member Knut Ahnlund, an author and literature professor, says that the award to Elfriede Jelinek has stripped the prize of value.

Two members of the eighteen member academy have refused to take part in the organisation’s work since 1989. Kerstin Ekman and Lars Gyllensten suspended their involvement after fellow academy members refused to issue a statement condemning the fatwa against Salman Rushdie.

Ahnlund writes in Svenska Dagbladet that after a detailed examination of Jelinek’s work, he considered that her writing was one dimensional – a mass of text shovelled together without traces of artistic structure, empty of ideas but full of clichés and violent pornography.

He asks how Jelinek could have been awarded the prize, and which faction was behind the decision. He says he believes that certain academy members allowed themselves to be impressed by her attacks on the Austrian middle-class, but also suspects that most members of the committee have not read Jelinek’s entire canon of 20-30 books.

“I speak from experience when I say that you can’t do this over a week or a month,” writes Ahnlund.

“It is sheer slave-like work.”

Ahnlund argues that last year’s literature prize has damaged progressive forces and has confused the public’s view of literature.

Ahnlund has been a member of the Swedish Academy since 1983.

The winner of the Literature Prize will be announced on Thursday – a week after the recipients of the medicine, physics, chemistry and peace prizes were named.

The delay in awarding the prize has caused rumours of a split over Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, who is facing trial in his homeland for saying in a newspaper interview that Turkey was responsible for genocide against Armenians and Kurds. The trial comes at a sensitive time for Turkey, as it starts negotiations to join the European Union.

Knut Ahnlund argues that last year’s controversial choice could force the Academy to choose a winner who will restore the prize’s standing.

TT/The Local