Japanese novelist Murakami pulls out of Sweden’s ‘new Nobel’

The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has asked for his nomination for the 'New Nobel Prize’ to be withdrawn, so that he can concentrate on his writing.

Japanese novelist Murakami pulls out of Sweden's 'new Nobel'
The Japanese author Haruki Murakami in Odense, Denmark, to pick up the Hans Christian Andersen award. Photo: TT
More than 32,000 people voted for Murakami and three other three writers to join the shortlist for The New Academy Prize in Literature, which they could choose from a list of 47 writers selected by librarians in Sweden. 
But the Japanese magic realist, known for books such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, this week emailed the prize’s founders asking to be withdrawn so that he could “concentrate on his writing, away from media attention”. 
In a statement posted on the group's Facebook page, the organisers said that Murakami had in his email described the nomination as “a great honour” and wished the organisers success. 
“The New Academy regrets but respects his decision,” the group wrote on Saturday. 
Murakami’s departure leaves a shortlist of three: the British novelist and comic-book creator Neil Gaiman, the Vietnamese-Canadian writer Kim Thúy, and the French Guadeloupian author Maryse Condé. 
In the post, the organisers stressed that the other three nominees had all “expressed enthusiasm for their nomination.” 
The New Academy was founded by the journalist Alexandra Pascalidou in July, two months after the Swedish Academy announced it was postponing the award of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. 
“I decided to do it when I heard the news one morning that they wouldn't even manage to award the prize because of all the scandal,” Pascalidou told The Local after the new award was launched. 
“That was the tipping point. What is the Swedish Academy doing if they can't even fulfil their work? That was the ultimate evidence that we need to save the prize, to do it with new joined forces and show them that something else is not only possible but necessary.” 
The 232-year-old Swedish Academy was thrown into crisis in March when three members stepped down over the handling of accusations of sexual harassment, financial impropriety and the leaking of the identity of past prize winners. 
The organisation’s Permanent Secretary Sara Danius resigned shortly afterwards, and then in April the institution announced that the prize would be withdrawn. 
The scandal began in November when Jean-Claude Arnault, the French husband of Katarina Frostenson, one of the Academy’s members, was accused of sexually harassing 18 women in an exposé by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. 
An investigation commissioned from a law firm then unearthed alleged financial improprieties around Forum, Arnault's cultural venue, and also found that he had leaked the identity of the winner of the Nobel prize to journalists and others on at least seven occasions.  
When a majority of the Academy's members voted not to expel Frostenson, the three members stepped down in protest. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


US duo win Nobel for work on how heat and touch spark signals to the brain

US scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian on Monday won the Nobel Medicine Prize for discoveries on receptors for temperature and touch.

US duo win Nobel for work on how heat and touch spark signals to the brain
Thomas Perlmann (right), the Secretary of the Nobel Committee, stands next to a screen showing David Julius (L) and Ardem Patapoutian, winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

“The groundbreaking discoveries… by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates have allowed us to understand how heat, cold and mechanical force can initiate the nerve impulses that allow us to perceive and adapt to the world,” the Nobel jury said.

The pair’s research is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions, including chronic pain. Julius, who in 2019 won the $3-million Breakthrough Prize in life sciences, said he was stunned to receive the call from the Nobel committee early Monday.

“One never really expects that to happen …I thought it was a prank,” he told Swedish Radio.

The Nobel Foundation meanwhile posted a picture of Patapoutian next to his son Luca after hearing the happy news.

Our ability to sense heat, cold and touch is essential for survival, the Nobel Committee explained, and underpins our interaction with the world around us.

“In our daily lives we take these sensations for granted, but how are nerve impulses initiated so that temperature and pressure can be perceived? This question has been solved by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates.”

Prior to their discoveries, “our understanding of how the nervous system senses and interprets our environment still contained a fundamental unsolved question: how are temperature and mechanical stimuli converted into electrical impulses in the nervous system.”

Grocery store research

Julius, 65, was recognised for his research using capsaicin — a compound from chili peppers that induces a burning sensation — to identify which nerve sensors in the skin respond to heat.

He told Scientific American in 2019 that he got the idea to study chili peppers after a visit to the grocery store.  “I was looking at these shelves and shelves of basically chili peppers and extracts (hot sauce) and thinking, ‘This is such an important and such a fun problem to look at. I’ve really got to get serious about this’,” he said.

Patapoutian’s pioneering discovery was identifying the class of nerve sensors that respond to touch.

Julius, a professor at the University of California in San Francisco and the 12-year-younger Patapoutian, a professor at Scripps Research in California, will share the Nobel Prize cheque for 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million, one million euros).

The pair were not among the frontrunners mentioned in the speculation ahead of the announcement.

Pioneers of messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which paved the way for mRNA Covid vaccines, and immune system researchers had been widely tipped as favourites.

While the 2020 award was handed out in the midst of the pandemic, this is the first time the entire selection process has taken place under the shadow of Covid-19.

Last year, the award went to three virologists for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus.

Media, Belarus opposition for Peace Prize?

The Nobel season continues on Tuesday with the award for physics and Wednesday with chemistry, followed by the much-anticipated prizes for literature on Thursday and peace on Friday before the economics prize winds things up on Monday, October 11.

For the Peace Prize on Friday, media watchdogs such as Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have been mentioned as possible winners, as has the Belarusian opposition spearheaded by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Also mentioned are climate campaigners such as Sweden’s Greta Thunberg and her Fridays for Future movement.

Meanwhile, for the Literature Prize on Thursday, Stockholm’s literary circles have been buzzing with the names of dozens of usual suspects.

The Swedish Academy has only chosen laureates from Europe and North America since 2012 when China’s Mo Yan won, raising speculation that it could choose to rectify that imbalance this year. A total of 95 of 117 literature laureates have come from Europe and North America.

While the names of the Nobel laureates are kept secret until the last minute, the Nobel Foundation has already announced that the glittering prize ceremony and banquet held in Stockholm in December for the science and literature laureates will not happen this year due to the pandemic.

Like last year, laureates will receive their awards in their home countries. A decision has yet to be made about the lavish Peace Prize ceremony held in Oslo on the same day.