The Swedish Academy which decides the Nobel Prize for Literature said on Friday it would not make the award this year because of a sexual misconduct scandal that has caused turmoil in its ranks and led to a string of board members stepping down.
The prize, one of the world’s most prestigious cultural honors, is awarded in early October and a postponement or cancellation has not occurred in decades.
|Nobel Literature prize award postponed amid turmoil over sex scandal
But the usually secretive Academy acknowledged it needed time to restore public trust after allegations against the husband of one of its members and the admission that the names of some prize-winners had been leaked.
The Academy, composed of Sweden’s literary elite, said it aimed to award two prizes in 2019, including the 2018 one.
“We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced,” Anders Olsson, who is interim Permanent Secretary of the Academy, said in a statement.
The turmoil caused by sexual allegations against the husband of one of the board members is unprecedented for the Academy, a revered institution established by King Gustav III in 1786 and still under royal patronage.
King Carl XVI Gustaf led public comment welcoming the body’s decision on Friday. “This decision shows that the Academy now intends to focus on restoring its reputation,” he said in a statement.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said it was important that the Academy “now tirelessly continues to work on regaining (public) confidence.”
Though the Academy has courted controversy in the past, for example by awarding the 2016 prize to American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, debate has usually focused on literary merit rather than the institution itself.
It found itself suddenly at the center of attention after allegations of sexual harassment and assault were made by 18 women against photographer and cultural figure Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to Academy member and author Katarina Frostenson. He denies the allegations.