Nobel Prize in Literature will not be awarded this year after sex abuse allegations

A string of Nobel committee members have quit recently including the head of the academy

The Nobel Prize gold medal awarded to Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez is exhibited at the National Library of Colombia in Bogota, on 17 April, 2015.
The Nobel Prize gold medal awarded to Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez is exhibited at the National Library of Colombia in Bogota, on 17 April, 2015.

The Swedish Academy has postponed the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature in the wake of a scandal over sexual assault allegations.

The crisis centred around the handling of allegations against the husband of an academy member, and led to her quitting along with the institution’s head and four other members.

The Nobel Foundation hopes that the decision “underscores the seriousness of the situation and will help safeguard the long-term reputation of the Nobel Prize.”

The 2018 winner will be presented alongside the 2019 winner next year.

The scandal broke last November when French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who ran a project funded by the Swedish Academy, was accused of sexual assault by 18 women – with some incidents allegedly taking place on Swedish Academy property. Mr Arnault denies the allegations.

The academy voted against removing his wife, poet and writer Katarina Frostenson, from the committee. Accused of conflict of interest and dealing with further scandal surrounding the leaking of Nobel winners’ names, a string of members exited their posts, including academy head Professor Sara Danius.

The Nobel Foundation’s statement in full:

‘The Swedish Academy has decided to postpone the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature, with the intention of awarding it in 2019. According to the Swedish Foundations Act, the Nobel Foundation is ultimately responsible for fulfilling the intentions in the will of Alfred Nobel. During the past several weeks, we have pursued a continuous dialogue with the Swedish Academy, and we support Thursday’s decision.

In principle, the Nobel Prize shall be awarded every year, but decisions on Nobel Prizes have been postponed on a number of occasions during the history of the prizes. One of the circumstances than may justify an exception is when a situation in a prize-awarding institution arises that is so serious that a prize decision will not be perceived as credible.

The crisis in the Swedish Academy has adversely affected the Nobel Prize. Their decision underscores the seriousness of the situation and will help safeguard the long-term reputation of the Nobel Prize. None of this impacts the awarding of the 2018 Nobel Prizes in other prize categories.

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. 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.

Carl-Henrik Heldin, Chairman of the Board of the Nobel Foundation’

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