May 24, 2018

Nobel Literature Prize postponed amid sex scandal

14 May 2018, 06:31 | Darrell Baldwin

ImageThe Swedish Academy’s annual meeting in Stockholm

ImageThe Swedish Academy’s annual meeting in Stockholm

For the first time in nearly 70 years there will be no Nobel Literature Prize this year, as the Swedish Academy that selects the laureate finds itself in turmoil over links to a man accused of sex crimes amid the #MeToo campaign.

The internal feud within the Swedish Academy - which only hands out one of the six Nobel prizes - was triggered by an abuse scandal linked to Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden and the husband of poet Katarina Frostenson, an academy member. Arnault, who is close with other Academy members, also co-owns with Frostenson a cultural center that received financing from the Academy. For the first time since 1943, there's a notable risk that no Nobel Prize in literature will be awarded this year. 'We think that it is necessary to take time to recover public confidence in the Academy before the next victor can be announced, ' he pointed out.

The Academy said it will now announce the 2018 victor along with the 2019 victor. "This, out of respect for previous and future literature laureates, the Nobel Foundation, and the general public", said Anders Olsson, interim Permanent Secretary, in a statement.

This week's decision won't affect awards in other Nobel Prize categories, Heldin added.

Dorotea Bromberg, of Swedish publishing house Brombergs, which has published four Nobel laureates, including JM Coetzee, said the academy's postponement "was a pity", but understood the reasoning. In a statement emailed to CNN earlier this week, Arnault's lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, said his client denied all the allegations. "We have decided not to award a prize after long and intense discussions".

Arnault also has been suspected of violating century-old Nobel rules by leaking names of winners of the prestigious award - allegedly seven times, starting in 1996. Apart from the prestige associated with being the jury of arguably the world's most coveted prize, memberships are for life and resignations imply vacant seats for the lifetime of the abdicating jury member. "Their decision underscores the seriousness of the situation and will help safeguard the long-term reputation of the Nobel Prize".

The academy's head and Ms Frostenson also subsequently stepped down followed by a sixth member last week.

The Swedish Academy has been engulfed in turmoil and infighting since at least 18 women accused Arnault of sexual harassment.

Several members have quit the body in protest over the academy's handling of the scandals.

The scandals have threatened to undermine the credibility of the award and attracted unprecedented scrutiny of the Academy, a highly secretive body whose choices of prize victor fascinate and often baffle literature lovers the world over.

The decision was reached at a meeting in Stockholm with the 2018 prize to be given in 2019. "If we can't do this then I think everyone should resign", the consensus now seems to be that confidence in the Academy has been shaken far too badly to award the Nobel Prize in Literature this year.

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