The Swedish Academy said on Friday it would postpone this year’s Nobel Literature Prize for the first time in almost 70 years, following sexual abuse allegations and other issues within its ranks that have tarnished the body’s reputation.
“The Swedish Academy intends to decide on and announce the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2018 in parallel with the naming of the 2019 laureate,” it said.
The academy, founded in 1786, has on seven previous occasions chosen to reserve the prize: in 1915, 1919, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1936 and 1949.
“On five of those occasions, the prize was delayed then awarded at the same time as the following year’s prize,” the academy said in a statement.
The Nobel Foundation presumes that the Swedish Academy will now put all its efforts into the task of restoring its credibility as a prize-awarding institution and that the Academy will report the concrete actions that are undertaken, said a Nobel Prize organisation’s official statement.
We also assume that all members of the Academy realise that both its extensive reform efforts and its future organisational structure must be characterised by greater openness towards the outside world, added a Nobel Prize organisation’s official statement.
The body has been plunged in crisis since November, in the wake of the global #MeToo campaign, when Swedish newspaper of reference Dagens Nyheter published the testimonies of 18 women claiming to have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Jean-Claude Arnault, an influential figure on the Swedish culture scene.
Arnault, the French husband of Academy member and poet Katarina Frostenson, has denied the allegations.
The revelations have sowed discord among the Academy’s 18 members about how to move forward, and in recent weeks, six of them have chosen to resign, including permanent secretary Sara Danius.
“The active members of the Swedish Academy are of course fully aware that the present crisis of confidence places high demands on a long-term and robust work for change,” the Academy’s interim permanent secretary Anders Olsson said in the statement.
“We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced,” he said.
About Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prize is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural, or scientific advances. The will of the Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel established the prizes in 1895.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards the Nobel Prize in Physics, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel; the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; the Swedish Academy grants the Nobel Prize in Literature; and the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded not by a Swedish organisation but by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
(With agency inputs)