Nobel Prize guessing game includes nod for climate activist Thunberg



STOCKHOLM, Lennart Simonsson (dpa)– Next week's 2019 Nobel Prize award announcements include the return of the literature prize after last year's postponement following a sexual assault scandal that engulfed the Swedish Academy. The prize for medicine opens the award week, and many tip Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg for the peace prize.
This year's Nobel Prize announcements include a double treat for fans of literature. Laureates for both 2018 and 2019 will be announced on October 10 by the Swedish Academy, which selects the literature award.




Last year, the academy postponed the 2018 literature award announcement after a sexual assault scandal and alleged breaches of conflict-of-interest rules created a deep rift in the institution.
A shake-up of the academy ensued. It included the addition of five external members to the Nobel Committee that prepares a short list. Several members also left the academy, including poet Katarina Frostenson. Her husband, Jean-Claude Arnault, was convicted in December 2018 on two counts of rape.
Mats Malm, academy spokesman since June, described the current mood in the academy as "very constructive" during a panel discussion at the recent Gothenburg Book Fair. 
"It has been painful. There are bruises," he said of the crisis.
Unlike other prestigious literary awards, the academy does not publish its list, making guesswork tricky. The 2016 pick of US singer-songwriter Bob Dylan surprised many.
The academy has informed dpa that it considered 194 candidates for 2018, and 189 for 2019. The names - and deliberations - are sealed for 50 years.
Online betting site Unibet's top names for the literature prize were all women: Canadian author and poet Anne Carson, Caribbean-born Maryse Conde of the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe and Can Xue of China.
Other familiar names were Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Haruki Murakami of Japan and Margaret Atwood of Canada.
The addition of an external committee "was a good decision and could help shift focus from internal divisions in the academy," said Stefan Helgesson, professor of English at Stockholm University.
Helgesson said US-Caribbean author "Jamaica Kincaid was an obvious candidate," adding that a "drawback" might be that she writes in English, which has often been honoured. 
Conde - who in 2018 won an alternative, provisional Nobel literature prize - was another author who could be considered, he added.
Mikael van Reis, a former culture editor of the Goteborgs-Posten newspaper, said it was hard to tip the academy's picks. His personal favourites include Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, winner of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her novel "Flights."
"She is a very interesting author," he said, noting that Tokarczuk has been both lauded and criticized for "The Books of Jacob," a 900-page epic set in the 18th century.
The award week opens on Monday with the announcement of the medicine or physiology prize, followed by the prizes for physics on October 8, chemistry on October 9, literature on October 10, peace on October 11, and economics on October 14.
The prizes were endowed by Swedish industrialist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel with the exception of the Nobel for economic sciences, which was first awarded in 1969. Each prize is worth 9 million kronor (908,000 dollars). 
The Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo received 301 nominations this year for the Peace Prize, the fourth-highest tally since the first award in 1901.
Judging from online bets, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has inspired a global movement calling for climate action, is the top favourite.
Several researchers said they don't rule out a win for Thunberg, who at age 16 would be the youngest Nobel prize laureate ever.
"The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has honoured environmental activism in the past; the prize is not always about wars and armed conflict. I think that somehow this teenager has issued a clarion call that people have heard," said Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 
Smith also mentioned US whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked classified documents on US military involvement in Vietnam to the press in 1971, as a worthy candidate.
"I think we need whistleblowers. Democracy needs them, and [needs to] encourage future Ellsbergs by honouring him," he said.
Norwegian historian Asle Sveen, who has specialized in the history of the Peace Prize, said that Thunberg was "very likely being considered, but I think the committee will select Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia."
"Ahmed secured a peace deal with Eritrea after many years of war and has launched a democratic reform process. That would be in line with Alfred Nobel's will," he said.
Peter Wallensteen, senior professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University, noted that Thunberg has succeeded in mobilizing young people around the world to political action.
A shortlist compiled by Henrik Urdal, who heads the Peace Research Institute in Oslo that is not affiliated with the Nobel prize, was topped by three other youth activists: Hajer Sharief of Libya, Ilwad Elman of Somalia, and Nathan Law Kwun-chung of Hong Kong.
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Tuesday, October 1st 2019
Lennart Simonsson (dpa)
           


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