Nobel Literature prize postponed amid sexual misconduct scandal

ImageThe Swedish Academy’s annual meeting in Stockholm

ImageThe Swedish Academy’s annual meeting in Stockholm

The internal feud within the Swedish Academy - which only hands out one of the six Nobel prizes - was triggered by an abuse scandal linked to Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden who is also the husband of poet Katarina Frostenson, an academy member.

The Swedish panel that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature said Friday that it would take the extraordinary step of not naming a laureate this year - not because of a shortage of deserving writers, but because of the infighting and public outrage that have engulfed the group over a sexual abuse scandal.

The decision not to award one was motivated by the lack of foreign confidence in the Swedish Academy, which awards it, after a series of scandals.

This is the first time since 1949, that the jury which handles the world's most prestigious literary awards will not announce a victor this year, but would announce two winners in 2019.

As it stands, only 11 members are in place, which is partially the reason that the statement specified that the "Academy's operative practices need to be evolved" and that "One of the purposes is to modernise the interpretation of the Academy's statutes, principally the question of resignation of membership".

The last time the institution delayed a prize announcement was in 1949, when William Faulkner received the prize a year later, when Bertrand Russell was also honoured.

When a member - for whatever reason - steps away from academy duties, that seat has historically remained vacant until the individual's death.

The controversies that the Swedish Academy finds itself in has shaken the Swedish establishment.

The investigation, released to the public this spring, found irregularities in the academy's finances and alleged that both academy members and relatives off members had experienced "unwanted intimacy" from Arnault.

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

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

Novelist Sara Stridsberg, who was a vocal supporter of Danius, subsequently became the sixth member to withdraw in a month.

A plaque depicting Alfred Nobel at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony 2008 in Oslo City Hall on December 10, 2008 in Oslo, Norway.

The Nobel Prize for literature is among the world's most prominent, universally accepted and lucrative cultural honours (winners receive approximately $1.3 million Cdn).

"The strong woman who tried to clean up the Swedish Academy was forced to leave".

Heldin says the academy's decision underscores the seriousness of the situation and will help safeguard the long-term reputation of the Nobel Prize. "With this scandal you can not possibly say that this group of people has any kind of solid judgment". There are prizes that offer more money for excellence in other fields, such as the Templeton prize for progress in religion, but they have nothing like the prestige and name recognition of the literature prize. American playwright Eugene O'Neill was awarded the 1936 prize a year later, in 1937, at the same time as that year's victor received his prize.

This year's other Nobel prizes will go ahead as usual.

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