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„In my opinion, Bob Dylan was... a questionable choice“

The Nobel Literature Prize is awarded by the Swedish Academy. Following the scandal surrounding Academy member Katarina Frostenson and her husband Jean-Claude Arnault, a new Nobel Committee was formed on November 19, 2018 to decide the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Nobel laureates in this category. The new committee consists of ten members, including five external experts. The master’s student at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU) and literary critic Rebecka Kärde was appointed as one of the external jurors for the Nobel Literature Prize.

Rebecka Kärde
Rebecka Kärde
Photo: Anders Karlin

First of all, congratulations on being appointed to the Nobel Literature Prize Jury! How did this come about? When did you catch the Swedish Academy’s eye?

Rebecka Kärde: I’ve been writing literary reviews for around six years now, including three years for the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Last spring, the Academy chose me for their Critic’s Award. This was my first clue that they knew about my work and appreciated it. However, I had never had any personal contact with Academy members, so the invitation came totally out of the blue!

How should the Academy reinvent itself to restore its good reputation and remain fit for the future?

The Academy needs to make urgent changes after the sexual assault scandal to show that they take these matters seriously. Appointing external jurors is an important step towards this. I hope that each member will take responsibility for what happened and dismantle the patriarchal and nepotistic structures that have pervaded the Academy in the past and empowered the violence committed by Jean-Claude Arnault.

Is there any past decision by the jury of the Nobel Literature Prize that you would personally undo?

In my opinion, Bob Dylan was... a questionable choice.

Do you have any secret favourites or insider tips for the Nobel Literature Prize?

Of course! But I'm not going to give anything away.

It was worth a try.

What is your favourite book and who is your favourite author?

This question is naturally impossible to answer. But I can tell you that Thomas Bernhard and Inger Christensen are two of my favourites. At the moment, I’m also being completely swept away by Russian author Andrei Platonov.

And finally: how helpful would you say your studies at Humboldt University will be for your future work as a juror?

I’m studying classical philology and specializing in Greek studies at Humboldt-Universität, so we mostly focus on authors who died a long time ago – a good quality for an author to have, I would say. A historical perspective is not just helpful but completely necessary when studying and analysing literature. Even the concept of “literature” is not fixed or preordained; it changes over time.

This interview was conducted by Kathrin Kirstein, online editor at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.