Nobel for Literature postponed because of sex-abuse scandal

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Nobel Prize in literature will not be awarded this year following sex-abuse allegations and other issues that have affected the public image of the Swedish Academy that selects the winner.

The academy said Friday the 2018 prize will be given in 2019. The decision was made at a weekly meeting in Stockholm a day earlier, on the grounds that the academy is in no shape to pick a winner after a string of sex abuse allegations and financial crimes scandals.

“We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced,” Anders Olsson, the academy’s permanent secretary, said in a statement. He said the academy was acting “out of respect for previous and future literature laureates, the Nobel Foundation and the general public.”

It will be the first time since World War II that the prestigious award is not handed out. Last year, Japanese-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro won the prize.

The Swedish Academy’s internal feud 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 later admitted in a report that “unacceptable behavior in the form of unwanted intimacy” took place within its ranks, but its handling of the allegations 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 its 18 members — who are appointed for life — into hostile camps and prompted seven members of the prestigious institution to leave or disassociate themselves from the secretive group.

At this week’s meeting, members agreed to review the academy’s operating practices, according to a statement released by the body.

The academy 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 that the 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 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.

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.

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” and the claims “may only have the purpose of harming” him.

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.

No Nobel prizes at all were awarded during the World War II years of 1940-42. The Nobel literature prize has not been given out on seven occasions so far: 1914, 1918, 1935 and 1940-43 — in 1935 because no literature candidate was deemed worthy of the prize.

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