The Nobel Prize in Literature will not be awarded this year amidst the academy’s sexual assault allegations against the organisation that manages the prize. Founded in 1901, the Nobel is one of the oldest and most prestigious cultural awards. But should we still be putting this literary award on a pedestal?
The prize does not have the best track record when it comes to acknowledging female geniuses, to say the least. Only 49 of 896 Nobel laureates are women, and only 4 of these women are women of colour. 26 of these 49 women won the Nobel prize for Literature or Peace, which seems to suggest that the Academy seems to prefer to award women for their contribution to ‘soft’ sciences rather than ‘hard’ sciences. Furthermore, while the world went crazy over Bob Dylan winning the Literature Prize in 2017, not a single woman won that year in any of the six categories. 0. Zip. Zero. None. Nada. The big O. So while the recent news is shocking, the Nobel Prize already demonstrated a disregard for women way before these sexual abuse allegations surfaced.
Luckily, some have fought against this disregard, battling the gender bias in our literary award culture. One woman who has stood for women writers all over the world is Kate Mosse, the founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Almost 25 years ago, sparked by the Man Booker shortlist of 1991, a group gathered to discuss why women’s writing was not getting the same traction as their male counterparts. On the 1991 Booker shortlist, there was not a single female author; even though out of all the books published in the United Kingdom that year, 60 percent were women. Even more shocking, only 8 percent of novels shortlisted for the major literary prizes that year were written by women. Kate Mosse wanted to change this, and she was extremely successful.
This year marks the 22 years of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. 22 years of celebrating excellence, originality, and accessibility in writing by women. 22 years of battling the gender bias in the literary prize culture. “Don’t get me wrong,” Kate Moss said in an interview last year, “the Women’s Prize for Fiction is a literary award, not a political campaign; its purpose is to celebrate excellence, to promote voices, to connect writers with readers worldwide. But it is part of a shared commitment to keep women’s voices valued and heard, to keep them in the public arena.” In light of the #metoo movement and the scandal surrounding the Nobel Literature Prize, women’s voices matter more than ever. And you’re gonna hear them roar.
Claret Press salutes the wonderful women writers that have been shortlisted this year for the Women’s Prize Fiction for their excellent, exceptional, entertaining, and life changing novels.