Swedish Academy to reform after controversy postpones Nobel prize

Phillip Cunningham
May 14, 2018

The Swedish Academy says it will now annouce the 2018 victor along with the 2019 victor next year, reports BBC.

Following a scandal surrounding allegations of sexual assault by Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of former Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson, the academy has made a decision to postpone the award ceremony.

"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".

The Academy only awards the prize for literature, so other Nobel Prizes are not affected.

We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the academy before the next laureate can be announced.

However, this year, the Swedish Academy, who nominates the candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature, has decided not to hand out the prize. Sara Danius, the academy's permanent secretary, and the first woman to hold the post, cut all ties with Arnault and commissioned an independent report from an outside law firm.

The academy said: "Work on the selection of a laureate is at an advanced stage and will continue as usual in the months ahead but the Academy needs time to regain its full complement, engage a larger number of active members and regain confidence in its work, before the next Literature Prize victor is declared". "None of this affects the awarding of Nobel prizes 2018 in other award categories". Mr Arnault denies the allegations.

Technically, Swedish Academy members are appointed for life and not able to resign, though they could leave their chairs "empty" by not participating in meetings and decisions. Arnault was also accused of leaking the name of the victor in advance at least three times.

In a damning statement last week following an investigation, the secretive institution acknowledged in a news release that it was "in a state of crisis following a period of strong disagreement between members over important issues".

Arnault, a French photographer who has attended many Swedish Academy events, faces multiple claims of sexual assault and harassment, first reported in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter late past year. She was replaced by Anders Olsson, who said the Academy would postpone this year's awards "out of respect".

The Swedish Academy's annual meeting at the Stock Exchange Building in Stockholm, December 20, 2017.

Though the academy has courted controversy in the past, for example, by awarding the 2016 prize to American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, debate has mainly focused on literary merit rather than the institution itself. That, in turn, sparked widespread protests in Sweden, as it looked like a woman was being punished for male behavior; Swedish media, meanwhile, speculated how much the global #MeToo campaign influenced the academy's decision.

The Swedish Academy said in an April statement that it "deeply regrets that the letter was shelved and no measures taken to investigate the charges".

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