Two Nobel literature prize committee members resign

Two Nobel literature prize committee members resign

Two members of the external Nobel literature prize committee have quit – one over the choice of Peter Handke as this year's winner and the other over the slow pace of reforms since the sexual assault scandal.

Gun-Britt Sundström, 74, and Kristoffer Leandoer, 57, both resigned from the five-strong panel of "external specialists" that had been set up to "reinforce" the committee of four for 2019/20. 

Refering to Handke's contentious win this year, Swedish author and literary journalist Sundström said the choice of 2019 laureate was "not just a choice about a body of work" and that she opposed the view that "literature is above politics".

Handke, an Austrian playwright, novelist and poet praised by the Swedish Academy for his "linguistic ingenuity", is accused of being an apologist for former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević. On the heels of his win in October, PEN America spoke out to say it was "dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succor to perpetrators of genocide".

Leandoer, a translator and writer, meanwhile said he had "neither the patience nor the time" for the Academy's reforms, which started last year following sexual assault allegations against the husband of a former member.

The scandal resulted in nearly half the Academy of 18 resigning their posts and the award's postponement in 2018.

"The Academy and I have a different perspective on time, one year is far too long in my life and far too short in the life of the Academy," wrote Leandoer.

Mats Malm, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, confirmed the departure of Sundström and Leandoer from the committee."We are grateful for the significant effort they made during the year and we are now reviewing how the work of the Nobel committee will be organised for the 2020 Nobel prize in literature," he said in a statement.