Nobel academy member ‘friends with Mo Yan’

The relationship between this year’s Nobel Laureate in Literature, Mo Yan, and academy member and translator Göran Malmqvist is much closer than previously believed, raising questions about a possible conflict of interest in the decision.

Nobel academy member 'friends with Mo Yan'

Sveriges Television (SVT) reported on Tuesday that Mo Yan penned the foreword to Malmqvist’s latest book, with the Nobel winner describing how the two have known each other for a long time.

SVT reported earlier about a potential conflict of interest within the academy as Malmqvist has translated Mo’s work into Swedish – and rules stipulate that an academy member is not allowed to make any profit from the selection of the prize winner.

However, the Academy’s permanent secretary, Peter Englund, said that Malmqvist’s translations would not be earning any money as the translator had claimed that any proceeds from the translations would be donated.

Furthermore, Malmqvist is an expert on Chinese literature, a fact Englund claimed adds to his capability of helping choose a winner:

“It would be absurd if his competency within this field would bar him from taking part in this,” Englund told Sveriges Radio (SR).

Despite the strict academy rules stating that a member should not be included in a prize discussion if they have “a private relation” to a possible laureate, the revelations have cast doubt over the decision.

Furthermore, it also came to light that Mo had been friends with Malmqvist’s wife for the past 15 years.

In the preface to the Swede’s new book, My Goldfish Can Sing Mozart, Mo refers to Malmqvist as “The Recluse on the Southern Slope”, writing four pages about the pair’s friendship, according to SVT’s translation

Meanwhile, Englund remained staunch that despite the connections between the two writers, there were no grounds for further actions.

“We do not see any conflict of interest here,” he said.

The Local has so far been unsuccessful in reaching the Swedish Academy for comment.

TT/The Local/rm

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