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Nobel prize in literature to be awarded twice this year

Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka

Two Nobel prizes in literature will be awarded this year, to make up for the lack of one in 2018 while the scandal-plagued Swedish Academy attempted to get its house in order, it was announced on Tuesday.

Last year’s Nobel was withheld for the first time since 1949 after the Swedish Academy, the august institution that selects the winners, was hit with a sexual misconduct scandal that saw the husband of one member imprisoned for rape. Following a meeting on Tuesday, the Nobel Foundation, which executes Alfred Nobel’s will, announced that “the steps that the Swedish Academy has taken and intends to take will create good opportunities for restoring trust”, and that laureates for both 2018 and 2019 will therefore be announced this autumn.

The most significant change to the prize is the appointment of five independent and external members, who will help the Swedish Academy to select the Nobel laureates “for the next few years”. How the winner is chosen has long been a closely guarded secret: what is known is that around 200 nominations are reviewed by the Academy in February, with a shortlist decided on by May and the final five authors studied over the summer. Archives detailing the jury’s reasoning are only opened to the outside world 50 years after the event.

Awarded to the author who, in the words of Alfred Nobel’s will, has written “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”, the literature laureateship is worth 9m Swedish krona. British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro was the last recipient, in 2017.

Last year, Guadeloupean author Maryse Condé was awarded an “alternate Nobel”, the New Academy Prize in Literature, a one-off award intended to fill the void left by the cancellation of the official prize.