Nobel Prize for Literature 2018 postponed amid sexual assault scandal

The Swedish Academy announced that there would be no Nobel laureate for literature selected in 2018. Instead, it will reveal two winners in 2019

(Photo:ALFREDNOBEL.ORG)
(Photo:ALFREDNOBEL.ORG)

The Swedish Academy announced on Friday morning that there would be no Nobel Prize for Literature this year, amidst a scandal over sexual assault allegation.

It will be the first time in 75 years that the secretive jury won’t be handing out the world’s most prestigious literary award.  Instead, it will reveal two winners in 2019.

The decision, announced at 9am Swedish time following a meeting on Thursday, comes after a string of sexual assault allegations made against the French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of academy member and poet Katarina Frostenson.

After the allegations were made public in November, three members of the 18-strong jury that selects the winner resigned in protest over the decision not to expel Frostenson. Arnault was also accused of leaking the names of seven former Nobel winners. He denies both claims.

Permanent secretary of the academy Sara Danius resigned on 12 April – to widespread protests in Sweden over the implication that she was taking the hit for male misbehaviour – as did Frostenson, after a three-hour meeting.

This, along with accusations of conflict of interest and the leaking of Nobel winners' names, divided the organisation.

Only 11 members are now in place. Of those, one, Kerstin Ekman, has been inactive since 1989, when the academy refused to condemn the fatwa issued over Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

Some academy members had argued that the prize should proceed to protect the tradition, but others said the institution was in no state to present the award.

An earlier statement from the academy said the Nobel Prize for Literature's reputation had suffered "greatly", promising a plan to restore public confidence in the organisation.

Apart from six years during the world wars, there has been only one year when the prize was not awarded. No worthy winner was found in 1935.

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