Följande är ett litet utdrag från Taiwan Journal of East Asian Studies, volym 7, nummer 1, och en uppsats betitlad ”On the Art of Translation”, skriven av innehavaren av stol nummer fem, Göran Malmqvist. Den är av intresse för alla som undrar hur Akademien hanterar detta med författare som skriver på språk som ledamöterna själva ej behärskar:

I firmly believe that a Japanese manual concerning the maintenance of a Mazda automobile may be efficiently translated into languages such as Swedish and Swahili. The question is whether this applies also to the translation of a literary text. This question is of course of great concern to those whose task it is to judge the literary quality of a work, the original text of which is not accessible to them. All members of the Swedish Academy are able to read works in a least three European languages (English, German and French); some members have a good command of other languages, such as Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. When judging literature written in languages other than these, members of the Academy have to rely on translations.

I shall here try to give you some idea of the time and energy that are sometimes spent to ensure a fair adjudication of a literary oeuvre accessible only through translation. In 1960, the Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature by the Japanese PEN Club. In the following year the Academy requested Per Erik Wahlund, an eminent Swedish writer and literary critic, to submit a report on Kawabata’s work. Wahlund, who was greatly interested in Japanese literature, though he lacked competence in the language, submitted a report, based on translations into English, German and French of some of Kawabata’s novels, translated by Edward Seidensticker, Donald Keene, Professor in Japanese Language and Literature at Columbia University, and others.

As the next step, the Academy sought the expert advice of two Japanologists, Howard S. Hibbett, Professor in Japanese Language and Literature at Cambridge University and Donald Keene. Having received positive reports from these two experts, the Academy approached a learned Japanese scholar, Sei Ito, who in his report commented on the literary qualities of both Kawabata’s original works and the existing translations. Before Kawabata was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1968, members of the Academy had had ample opportunities to acquaint themselves with his works, through translations.