New Literature Prize Won't Let #MeToo Incident Get In The Way Of Celebrating Female Authors

"Why do the authors have to pay the price for this mess?"

There might not be a Nobel Prize for Literature awarded this year, but there's a new prize that's ready to take over and give the public a voice in choosing its finalists.

The New Academy Prize in Literature was recently created by journalist Alexandra Pascalidou and 100 other Swedish cultural figures, ranging from actors to novelists. It all began after Pascalidou spent months following coverage about the Swedish Academy's sexual assault scandal with Jean-Claude Renault, a former French-Swedish photographer, who is also accused of having leaked Nobel Prize winners multiple times since 1996. The scandal resulted in the organization's leader, Sara Danius, to resign back in April.

Pascalidou told The New York Times she was upset and then angry upon hearing that the Nobel Prize in Literature would not be awarded this year. 

"I just thought, 'Why do the authors have to pay the price for this mess?' " she said. 

It was at this point that she then thought, "How hard can running a prize be?"

Thanks to Pascalidou's persistence, the New Academy Prize in Literature soon became a reality. A winner will be announced on October 14 and will receive 1 million kronor, which is about $112,00.

But unlike the Nobel Prize, this literature prize is taking things a step further by getting the public involved in voting for three finalists by August 14. Librarians will choose the fourth finalist. 

Right now, authors such as J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, and Neil Gaiman are among the famous names gracing this year's ballot.

But the New Academy's prize is not about bringing attention to already well-known authors, it's about returning to the simple idea "that literature should be associated with democracy, openness, empathy and respect," despite the fact that a negative #MeToo situation got in the way of honoring female authors.  

In a statement on their website, the organizers also stressed the importance of needed a literature prize awarded in 2018.

"In a time when human values are increasingly being called into question, literature becomes the counterforce of oppression and a code of silence," they said. "It is now more important than ever that the world's greatest literary prize should be awarded."

Ann Palsson, the president of the New Academy's Prize jury and a book editor, also told The New York Times that she wants this price to "inspire people about books" in the same way Alfred Nobel, who the prize is named after, was once able to do.

"We just want to focus on something positive," Palsson said.

Cover image: Shawn GoldbergFeatureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

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