Chaos and controvery over the Nobel Prize for Literature

The strange story of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature appears to be drawing to a close with the notice by the committee that the prize will be announce Thursday, 11:00 a.m. GMT. But just before, judge Knut Ahnlund resigned in protest . . . of last year’s prize (given to Elfriede Jelinek)! All the more strange is the rumor that the committee has been split this year over the choice of Oran Pamuk.

“MYSTERY surrounded the resignation of a member of the Nobel Academy yesterday, 48 hours before the prize for literature is due to be awarded, amid speculation of a split over whether to honour a dissident Turkish writer.

Knut Ahnlund said he had resigned in protest over the awarding of the prize last year to the little-known Elfriede Jelinek, of Austria, whose work he described as ‘violent pornography’. Mr Ahnlund, 82, did not explain why he had waited almost a year before lodging his protest, increasing talk of a rift among members over the award for this year.

The announcement of this year’s literary honours had been delayed for a week after the academy was reported to have disagreed on whether to anoint Orhan Pamuk, 53, who has upset authorities in his country by campaigning for official recognition that Turkey had carried out genocide against the Armenians after World War I. He has been charged with ‘public denigration of the Turkish identity’, and a prize for him would be certain to anger Turkey.

Mr Ahnlund wrote in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper that Jelinek’s work was ‘a mass of text that appears shovelled together without trace of artistic structure’.

The 2004 prize, he said, ‘has not only caused irreparable damage to all progressive forces, it has (also) confused the general view of literature as art. After this, I cannot even formally remain in the Swedish Academy.’

Jelinek is known to the right-wing Austrian media and political parties as ‘the red pornographer’.”

Here is a piece by Jelinek on Zacharias and Stefan Zweig.