The journalist Alexandra Pascalidou has spent months watching a sexual abuse and corruption scandal unfurl at the Swedish Academy, the august body that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature.
At first, she was upset. Then, as a Swede, embarrassed. But when the academy took the extraordinary step of canceling this year’s prize, she became a little angry, too. “I just thought, ‘Why do the authors have to pay the price for this mess?’ ” she said in a telephone interview on Friday.
That led her to another question: “How hard can running a prize be?”
Now, Ms. Pascalidou — with the help of over 100 prominent Swedish cultural figures, including actors, novelists and a rapper — has started her own prize. The winner of New Academy Prize in Literature will be announced on Oct. 14, and will receive one million kronor, or around $112,000. There will also be a banquet in the winner’s honor, just as there would be for a Nobel laureate.
But there is one big difference between the prizes: You can be involved in this one.
Voting opened on the prize’s website this week with a 46-strong list of nominees, selected by Swedish librarians. Rather than the highbrow and sometimes obscure names usually touted for the Nobel, this list includes J.K. Rowling, alongside the singer Patti Smith, the British fantasy writer Neil Gaiman and the Nigerian-born novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
There are also 12 Swedes, plus Zadie Smith, Donna Tartt and the French author Édouard Louis, 25, who is acclaimed for his books showing the brutal reality of working-class life in France.
Some authors who have been tipped for the Nobel are absent, such as the South Korean poet Ko Un and Salman Rushdie.
The voting, closes on Aug. 14, will decide three finalists. Librarians will choose a fourth. A panel made up of a literature professor, two librarians and two literary editors will then choose the winner.
Ms. Pascalidou said the prize was not trying to replace the Nobel. In fact, the organizers plan to disband after this year’s ceremony. But she wants it to draw attention to what is wrong at the Swedish Academy, she said. “What we’d like to see is something new — a Swedish Academy that is contemporary, open to the world, inclusive, transparent.”
But she added that she did not expect the Swedish Academy to start involving librarians, let alone the public, in its decisions. “I don’t think they will adopt what we’re doing as these are people who express very elitist views on librarians. That’s very sad. Why do they think people in the academy are the only ones that know about literature?”
The Swedish Academy did not respond to a request for comment.
Ann Palsson, a book editor and president of the New Academy Prize’s jury, said that she wanted the prize to inspire people about books in the same way the Nobel once had. “We just want to focus on something positive,” she said.
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