COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – Following weeks of internal bickering, sex-abuse allegations and a financial investigation by police, the body that hands out the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature announced Friday that no prize will be awarded this year.
Instead, the academy said two Nobel Prizes in Literature will be handed out next year, the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize. The decision was made Thursday at a weekly meeting of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on the grounds that the group was in too deep a crisis to choose a Nobel winner properly.
“The present crisis of confidence places high demands on a long-term and robust work for change,” said Anders Olsson, the academy’s permanent secretary. “We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced.”
It will be the first time since 1949 that the prestigious award has been delayed. Last year, Japanese-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro won the prize.
“It has occurred before. This year we’re doing it because we’ve had a very, very unusual situation, with conflicts in the academy and a weakened academy in terms of the number of members,” Olsson told Sweden’s TT news agency.
The internal feud within the academy – which only hands out one of the 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 academy has admitted that “unacceptable behavior in the form of unwanted intimacy” took place within its ranks, but its handling of the allegations has shredded the body’s credibility, called into question its judgment and forced its first female leader to resign.
A debate over how to face up to its flaws also divided the group’s 18 members – who are appointed for life – into hostile camps and prompted seven members of the prestigious institution to leave or disassociate themselves from it.
The Swedish Academy has now agreed to review its century-old operating practices.
It said that “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.”
The Nobel Foundation reacted promptly, saying it presumes the academy “will now put all its efforts into the task of restoring its credibility as a prize-awarding institution.” It also demanded that the group report publicly “the concrete actions that are undertaken” to ensure that it is a body worthy of the honor of choosing Nobel laureates.
“We also assume that all members of the Academy realize that both its extensive reform efforts and its future organizational structure must be characterized by greater openness toward the outside world,” Carl-Henrik Heldin, the chairman of the Nobel Foundation Board, said in a separate statement.
King Carl XVI Gustaf – the body’s patron who had suggested changes within the institution after members began to leave – said the decision “shows that the Academy now intends to focus on the restoration of its reputation.”
Last fall, Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden’s largest newspapers, published sexual misconduct claims from 18 women against Arnault, who runs a cultural center the academy used to help fund. The Svenska Dagbladet paper reported last month that among those groped by Arnault was Swedish Crown Princess Victoria 12 years ago.
Arnault also has been suspected of violating century-old Nobel rules by leaking names of winners of the prestigious award – allegedly seven times, starting in 1996. It was not clear to whom the names were allegedly disclosed.
Bjorn Hurtig, the lawyer for the 71-year-old Arnault, has denied the allegations, telling The Associated Press that his client is the victim of “a witch hunt.”
Last week, Swedish police announced a financial investigation into the books of
The world’s most prestigious prizes in science, medicine, literature and peacemaking have been withheld 49 times in all since the honors based on the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel began in 1901.
The Nobel literature prize was not given out on seven occasions, primarily due to war but also in 1935 because no candidate was deemed worthy of the prize. On seven other occasions, the literature award has been postponed, as has been proposed in this case.
Swedish Academy member Goran Malmqvist told Sweden’s TT news agency that the postponement was “a really good decision.”
“We’re in a crisis and it will take time to rebuild it again,” he was quoted as saying.
He also criticized the leaking of winners’ names before they are announced.
“We have to shut up. People mustn’t start betting and make money on that,” he told TT.
About the same week next year that the Swedish Academy will announce two Nobel Literature Prize winners, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, a separate body, will announce who gets the coveted Nobel Peace Prize for 2019.
U.S. Republicans have nominated U.S. President Donald Trump for the 2019 Nobel Peace award for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table.
Yet Europeans, who feel uneasy about Trump, smile when they hear that he could theoretically get the peace prize.
“Being nominated does not mean that you actually get the prize. It is pretty ridiculous to have such hopes,” Hasse Jakupsen, 52, said in Copenhagen, Denmark.