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Controversy on Noble Literature Prize 2019

The 233 years-old Swedish Academy faces another controversy as the two external members, Kristoffer Leandoer and Gun-Britt Sundstrom left the Nobel literature prize committee Monday, November 2, 2019.

The Academy canceled Noble Prize award 2018 as one of the jury members of the academy was alleged of being involved in a sex scandal.

Criticism Against the Award to Austrian, Peter Handke

The role of the external members is to assist the committee in choosing the candidate for the prize. The Academy had been strongly criticized since Noble Literature Prize 2019 was awarded to Austrian writer Peter Handke.

The award to Handke received sharp criticism across the globe as his standpoint in regard to the Balkan wars was considered misleading. Handke portrayed Serbia as the victim of the war that happened in the 1990s.

Another incident was that he attended the funeral ceremony of the former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic who had been convicted of crimes against the genocide of Bosnia Muslims during the war. Milosevic died in 2006 in The Hague when a trial for war crimes was pending against him.

Quitting Two External Members of the Committee

Asking about the reason for leaving the committee, Kristoffer Leandoer replied, he had “neither the patience nor the time to wait for the committee to complete its reforms.” He has been a critic who pressurizes for a systematic change in the academy.

He wrote in a Swedish newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, “The Academy and I have a different perspective on time, one year is far too long in my life and far too short in life of the Academy.”

He denied the allegation that his leaving of the committee had nothing to do with the existing controversy against Handke.

However, Gun-Britt Sundstrom revealed in a statement published in a newspaper, Dagens Nyheter that the choosing of Noble award to Handke was unfair and a politically manipulated move.

Paying Respects to Their Contributions

The Academy confirmed that Leandoer and Gun-Britt Sundström both had left the Nobel committee on Monday. According to the Academy, the committee is now made up of four members of the Swedish Academy and five external members.

Paying regards to the contribution of the external members, Mats Malm, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy stated, “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 organized for the 2020 Nobel prize in literature.”

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