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Literature

Thanks, but no thanks. Celebrated Japanese writer Haruki Murakami snubs ‘alternative’ Nobel

The new prize was established after the Swedish Academy decided to postpone this year’s award of the Nobel Prize in Literature due to sexual and power harassment allegations that rocked the institution

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 11:59am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2018, 9:26pm

Japanese author Haruki Murakami, a finalist for the “alternative Nobel Literature Prize”, has withdrawn his nomination, telling organisers he wants to focus on work and avoid the spotlight.

The New Academy Prize in Literature was founded by more than 100 Swedish intellectuals in protest after the Swedish Academy, which selects Nobel laureates, postponed this year’s award over long-standing ties to a man accused of assaulting several women during the peak of last year’s #MeToo wave.

The New Academy said in a Facebook post on Saturday that Murakami, the author of Norwegian Wood and who’s often tipped for the Nobel Literature Prize, “expressed his gratitude at being nominated, writing ‘It … is a great honour for me.’”

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“Murakami then said his preference is to concentrate on his writing, away from media attention, and asked that his nomination be withdrawn,” in an email, the academy added.

The alternative honour serves to denounce “bias, arrogance and sexism”, according to its founders who include authors, artists and journalists.

Swedish librarians nominated 47 authors who were later voted on by 32,000 “people from around the world”, leaving four authors on the shortlist: Vietnamese-Canadian author Kim Thuy, Britain’s Neil Gaiman, Maryse Conde of France and Murakami.

Juan Antonio Perez Sobrado, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, commented on Facebook that Murakami withdrew his nomination because “he knows the writer selected” for the alternative prize will lose “the opportunity to win the real Nobel Prize for Literature”.

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Several other authors tipped for the Nobel appeared on the librarians’ list of nominees including Canadian Margaret Atwood, the Americans John DeLillo and Joyce Carol Oates, and the Israeli Amos Oz.

Authors who have never been tipped for the Nobel, including J.K. Rowling, writer of the popular Harry Potter series, and novelists Sara Stridsberg and Kerstin Ekman, who have resigned from the Swedish Academy, were also listed by the New Academy.

Picked by a jury after the popular vote, the winner of the “New Literature Prize” will be announced on October 12.

Murakami, 69, has won several literary prizes, such as the Franz Kafka Prize in 2006, the Jerusalem Prize in 2009, and the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award for 2016.

Additional reporting by Kyodo