Margaret Atwood, Kim Thúy and Anne Carson nominated for alternative Nobel Prize

In response to the cancellation of the 2018 Nobel Prize for literature, Swedish librarians have started their own international literary prize.
(From left): Margaret Atwood, Kim Thúy and Anne Carson are the Canadians nominated for the New Prize in Literature. (Liam Sharp/Jean Francois/Peter Smith)

In response to the postponement of the 2018 Nobel Prize for literature, Swedish librarians along with other members of the arts and culture community have started their own international literary prize.

The New Prize in Literature is a one-time award founded by the nonprofit The New Academy. The organization aims to raise at least 1 million kronor (approx. $149,900 Cdn) in donations for the grand prize.

Canadians Margaret AtwoodKim Thúy and Anne Carson have been nominated for the prize by Swedish librarians, who have come up with a longlist of 46 writers from around the world. 

"The New Academy was founded to warrant that an international literary prize will be awarded in 2018, but also as a reminder that literature should be associated with democracy, openness, empathy and respect," reads the organization's statement online.

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

One of the distinct differences between the New Prize in Literature and the Nobel Prize is that the public is now invited to vote online for the author they believe most deserving of the award. The three authors with the most votes will be considered by a jury for the prize, along with a fourth writer, based on nominations from the librarians of Sweden. The winner will be announced on Oct. 14, 2018.

Atwood, author of classics like The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin and Oryx and Crake, is considered a perennial favourite to win the Nobel. Her many literary accomplishments include the Man Booker Prize, Scotiabank Giller Prize and Governor General's Literary Award.

Carson is another decorated Canadian writer whose books include Autobiography of Red, Antigonickand Red Doc>. The poet and novelist was the first woman to receive England's T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry.

Thúy is the author of three acclaimed novels: Ru, Man and, most recently, Vi. Her first book was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2002 and won Canada Reads in 2015, championed by Cameron Bailey.

The 46-person longlist includes writers from a wide range genres — ranging from fiction heavyweights like Haruki Murakami, Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, Zadie Smith and Elena Ferrante, to children's writers like J.K. Rowling and Meg Rosoff, to musician Patti Smith and bestselling sci-fi humorist Neil Gaiman.

The jury for the New Prize in Literature includes literature professor Lisbeth Larsson, librarian and journalist Marianne Steinsaphir, editor and critic Peter Stenson and librarian director Gunilla Sandin. The New Academy is comprised of 126 members of Sweden's arts and culture community. 

The Nobel Prize for literature — one of the richest, most prominent literary honours in the world — was called off this year by the Swedish Academy due to an ongoing scandal involving a string of sex abuse allegations and financial conflicts of interest. It's the first time since just after the Second World War that the prize is not being awarded. 

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