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Literature Nobel due on Thursday as scholars scuffle

October 11, 2005

By Stephen Brown

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The Swedish Academy will announce
this year’s winner of the Nobel literature prize on Thursday,
amid a scuffle among its scholars over last year’s selection of
Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek.

As the Academy gave the date on which it would announce the
2005 winner, Academician Knut Ahnlund gave notice he was
quitting in disgust at the 2004 laureate, whose writing he
called “whinging, unenjoyable, violent pornography.”

In a signed newspaper article he said giving the prize to
Jelinek — which surprised even Austria — “caused irreparable
harm to the value of the award for the foreseeable future.”

Ahnlund did not explain why he had waited a year after the
prize was awarded to Jelinek to announce he was quitting, but
Academy President Horace Engdahl suggested the move was timed
to spoil this year’s prize announcement.

“This very possibly has something to do with the fact that
this week the Academy will announce this year’s winner,”
Engdahl told TT news agency.

There was no immediate response from Jelinek.

The world’s top literary award, worth 10 million crowns and
given by the king in December, is usually announced on one of
the first two Thursdays in October.

Unlike the Nobels for peace, medicine, physics, chemistry
and economics, the literature prize date is only announced two
days beforehand. The Web site www.nobelprize.org said on
Tuesday it was scheduled for Thursday after 1 p.m. (0700 EDT).

But the lack of news last week gave rise to speculation the
18 Academy members were split, with a British paper reporting
that the divisive choice was Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk.

The Academy, which has awarded the prize founded by
dynamite millionaire Alfred Nobel since 1901, never leaks its
shortlist.

But a rare indication of scandal inside the ivory tower of
the Academy — motto “genius and taste” — came with the news
of Ahnlund’s resignation. “After this I cannot even formally
remain in the Swedish Academy,” he wrote.

Engdahl said Ahnlund had not participated in Academy
meetings for nearly 10 years and was not privy to discussions
leading to Jelinek’s selection.

“He knows nothing about the discussion that led to the
choice of Elfriede Jelinek so what he says in this article of
his must be seen as empty speculation,” Engdahl told TT.

The choice of Nobel laureates is often dismissed as obscure
when the winner comes from outside the publishing mainstream of
Anglophone authors translated into dozens of languages.

The 2003 prize for South African J.M. Coetzee — whose
novels written in English are widely read — was a popular
choice.

(Additional reporting by Niklas Pollard)




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