Who will win the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature? Everything you need to know about the candidate nomination and selection process

This Thursday, at 13 o’clock in Stockholm (8 in the morning in Argentina), Mats Malm – permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy – will read the verdict of the jury that will award the 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature. The ritual is not less exciting because it is repeated. Every reader in the world has their winner in mind. We all want to see the success of writers who have moved us with their books, opening up unthinkable universes for us, because that impact of reading is indelible.

The triumph of the eminent Tanzanian narrator Abdulrazak Gurnah last year seems to leave the African continent with few chances, despite the profuse wealth of literature that has been produced. But, it is already known that the Swedish Academy is always ready to surprise.

Above all, after the purge suffered by a scandal of sexual abuse and name leaks that forced the suspension of the delivery in 2018, to elect two candidates in 2019 (Olga Tokarczuk 2018 and Peter Handke 2019)and to seal since then, tight and tight, the candidacies that reach the final stretch.

Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner in 2021. Photo EFE

Over the years there are names that are repeated and fall under that label of “eternal Nobel Prize winners”, such as the Japanese Haruki Murakami, the Romanian Mircea Cartarescu, the French Michel Houellebecq, the Canadian Margaret Atwood, the French Annie Ernaux, the Czech Milan Kundera, or the Spanish Javier Marías, recently deceased.

Among the names that are heard in betting or on social networks, there is also an Argentine: César Aira, who in 2019 was ranked number 22 in a major British bookmaker.

Of course, nothing prevents that, with an eye on current geopolitics and taking into account the regions that have not won a Nobel for some time, bets circulate names of European, Asian and, to a lesser extent, Latin American writers.

French writer Annie Ernaux. Photo EFE/CATI CLADERA

French writer Annie Ernaux. Photo EFE/CATI CLADERA

Especially if they are authors from countries that have been left out of the running a few years ago: the Baltics, the Scandinavians, Portugal or Brazil, the Ukraine or India, Greece or Romania, Australia or Korea, to name a few.

On Monday the Nobel Prize race began with Medicine and on Thursday the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature will be unveiled. But what is the nomination and selection process like?

The selection

As detailed on the Nobel Prize website, which covers all disciplines, it is the literary academies, societies and institutions, critics, professors of literature, linguists and persons “qualified” according to the regulations, who can nominate a writer with a letter of argument, provided they have been invited by the Nobel Prize Committee for Literature, which has representatives in different regions of the world.

In our country, one of the institutions is the Argentine Academy of Letters. Previous award winners can also submit names.

The Swedish Academy, responsible for choosing the laureates, is made up of 18 members (only six women). But it’s the Committee of the Nobel Prize for Literature –composed of about five members– the one that does the cumbersome preliminary work of evaluating the nominations and makes its recommendations to the Academy. It is worth clarifying that no “self-application” is allowed.

Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize in 2010. AFP Photo / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND

Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize in 2010. AFP Photo / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND

The process of nomination and selection of candidates starts in September of the previous year with the invitation to organizations, academies and “qualified” personalities to propose names. In February 2022 the dynamic work begins. The list is drawn up with applications from all over the world landing in Sweden as of January 31. The list of 220 candidates is submitted for the approval of the Academy.

In April the preliminary list is ready with an average of between 15 and 20 selected. Everything is done in total secrecy. A “short list” of five candidates arrives in May, whose pruning is also done by the Committee and raised for consideration by the Academy.

Between June and August, during the hot boreal summer, members of the Swedish Academy they lavish themselves with the reading of the works of the five who reached the final stretch. The Nobel Committee in turn prepares detailed reports on the candidates and their work. But since the candidates write in different languages, the academics – mostly polyglots – also read different translations of the candidates on the “short list”.

Gabriel García Márquez won it in 1982. AP Photo

Gabriel García Márquez won it in 1982. AP Photo

A month before the winner is announced, in September, the members of the Academy meet to debate the merits of the candidates and the values ​​of their works, as well as the contributions they have made both in literature and in their circles of influence. .

Finally, the first Thursday of October, the door of the Swedish Academy opens, and before a group of accredited journalists, the central text of the ruling and the name of the lucky person are read winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, while the murmur of the reporters is heard live and immediately the name of the winner begins to circulate in networks and media.

Really some winners have been surprised with their choice in funny situations. In 2007 to the deceased Doris Lessing The call from the Academy surprised her returning from shopping and, overwhelmed by the news, she attended the British media sitting on the steps of her house.

In October 2010, Mario Vargas Llosa he thought he was the butt of a joke when he was told from Stockholm that he had won the Nobel. At that time he was in New York preparing his class for the course writing philosophy at Princeton University.

The remarkable Belarusian storyteller Svetlana Alexievich she was ironing and doing some housework when the news from the Swedish Academy surprised her. The journalist who has shocked the world with her frank and insightful work received the reporters who showed up at her “little apartment” with sorrow.

Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke won the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature, in a simultaneous award ceremony. / Photo: Clarin

Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke won the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature, in a simultaneous award ceremony. / Photo: Clarin

The Swedish Academy also has another premise in its regulations. Until 50 years after his last candidacy, it is not possible to know why superlative writers like Borges or James Joyce or Virginia Wolf were never elected. In the case of Borges, the term will be fulfilled in 2035.

The oldest member of the institution, created in the 18th century by King Gustav III of Sweden, took his permanent seat in 1997 and the most recent in 2020, after the “purification” carried out to recover the credibility put in check in 2018.

Given the tumultuous international geopolitics it should not be ruled out that, no matter how purist they may be, the members of the Academy feel tempted to annoy some authoritarian governments or please others, as they have done in the past.

This was the case, among others, with the Chinese Mo Yan (red sorghum) in 2012, whose election angered his country’s government; with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Gulag Archipelago) in 1970, which irritated the Soviet “nomenklatura”, and with Nadine Gordimer (better today than tomorrow) in 1991, who denounced apartheid and whose victory upset the South African government.

Maybe, just maybe, a Ukrainian author or dissident of the authoritarianisms that devastate our time will be the next Nobel Prize for Literature 2022.

the bets

In a press conference he gave when he received the Formentor Prize for Letters in 2021, Aira had been skeptical about the possibility of receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature and he had stressed that “these prizes must be justified and the justification is not literary. An award has never been given for how good the books are but for the defense that was made of this or that.”

Another writer who always sounds like a possible Nobel Prize for Literature is Salman Rushdie but this year after the attack he suffered in New York when he was stabbed in the middle of a conference, his name leads the rankings, at least that of the Unibet bookmaker.

Rushdie it is a benchmark for freedom of expression because it has lived through the experience of censorship and persecution, ever since Ayatollah Khomeini issued a “fatwa” in 1989 calling for the novelist to be killed and promising to reward his murderer with $3 million.

The writer Salman Rushdie. Photo Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The writer Salman Rushdie. Photo Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The recent attack that he suffered and left him in a “critical condition”, activated the alerts regarding the crossings between reality and fiction, and for this reason a campaign was started for him to be awarded the Swedish award, as a way of giving a global message also for freedom of expression and creation. In doing so, the Swedish Academy Letters committee would incorporate a political and conjunctural turn, echoing the attacks against freedom of thought.

After Rushdiein order of appearances so far, Unibet places the Frenchman second in the ranking Michel Houellebecqfollowed by the Kenyan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’othe American Stephen Kingthe French annie ernauxthe American Gabrielle Lutz, the French Pierre MichonCanadian poet Anne Carsonthe China Can Xuethe Japanese Haruki Murakamithe American Robert Cooverthe French Helene Cixousthe norwegian Jon Fossethe Russian Lyudmila Ulitskayathe Canadian Margaret Atwoodthe Guadeloupean Maryse Conde and the writer born in Antigua and based in the United States, Jamaica Kincaid.

Noah Jitrik, candidate

Earlier this year, a group of artists, writers and intellectuals nominated the writer and literary critic Noé Jitrik. In the letter they sent to the Swedish Academy they highlighted his “original and surprising writing”, his literary work which “has seminally and illuminatingly combined a social ethic with a political commitment” and his voice “unmistakable for the abrasive smoothness of his writing”. The writer suffered a stroke in early September during a trip to Colombia.

The Argentine Noah Jitrik.

The Argentine Noah Jitrik.

The critic’s nomination was the initiative of a group of writers headed by Adrián Desiderato, Louise Valenzuela, Roberto Ferro, Mempo Giardinelli and Juan Chaneton, who were later joined by names such as the Mexican Elena Poniatowska, the painter Luis Felipe Noé, the Chilean writer Diamela Eltit and the Mexican critic Adolfo Castañón, among many other signatories from different poles of the social arc. and cultural, including among them the biologist Alberto Kornblithh or the former Minister of Science Roberto Salvarezza.

Among their considerations, the signatories assure that the deed of Khitrik “He unfolded in narrative, poetry, essay or literary criticism, genres that, with efficiency and fullness, the writer offers us with the happy subjective disposition of one who, in short, ennobles and justifies, with his literature, human life. “, says the text.

With information from agencies


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Who will win the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature? Everything you need to know about the candidate nomination and selection process