James English at Public Books:
What was the Nobel Prize in Literature? Everyone seems to think it’s over. December 10 is the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death and the date on which the prizes in his name are traditionally awarded. This year, for the first time ever, the Prize in Literature has been entirely omitted from the ceremony: no medal, no presentation speech, not even the announcement of an absent or unwilling laureate. The Swedish Academy has retreated deep into rehab to deal with its multiple and scandalous dysfunctions, and the very future of the prize it has overseen for 117 years has been called into doubt.
Since May, when an exasperated Nobel Foundation forced this hiatus on the Academy by freezing its prize money, observers have increasingly seen the crisis in Stockholm as terminal. Most people expect the prize to be reestablished on some footing or other next year. Either the Academy, fitted out with some new members and supplementary bylaws, will resume its usual responsibilities, or a different institution will be put in charge, a new literary academy uncompromised by crimes and cover-ups and free from the rot of old-boy privilege. But either way, it is thought, the symbolic value of the prize has been fatally diminished.