Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 cancelled after sexual assault scandal

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Stockholm, May 4 (IANS) The Swedish Academy that decides the Nobel Prize for Literature said on Friday that it won’t announce the award for 2018 in the wake of a sexual and financial scandal that has engulfed the organisation.

The Academy, one of Sweden’s most highly respected institutions, made the announcement on Friday morning following a meeting of its remaining 10 active members late on Thursday.

The decision came after a string of sexual assault allegations made against French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, a leading cultural figure in Sweden and husband of Academy member and poet Katarina Frostenson. Six Academy members, including her, stepped down following the crisis.

For the first time in 75 years, the jury will not unveil a winner this year. The Academy said it will now announce the 2018 winner along with the 2019 winner.

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“We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced,” Academy’s Permanent Secretary Anders Olsson 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”.

The Nobel Foundation said in a press release that “the crisis in the Swedish Academy has adversely affected the Nobel Prize. Their decision (the Swedish Academy) 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 foundation said.

Arnault, who ran a cultural project with funding from the Swedish Academy, has been accused by 18 women of sexual assault and harassment, first reported in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in late 2017. Several of the alleged incidents reportedly happened in properties belonging to the Academy.

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Arnault is also facing the accusation that he touched Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria inappropriately at a Swedish Academy event over a decade ago. Another accusation is that he leaked the names of seven former Nobel winners.

He has denied all the allegations.

The Academy later cut all ties with Arnault and the organisation voted against removing his wife Frostenson from its 18-person committee. There were additional claims that some Academy staff and members’ relatives had experienced “unwanted intimacy” at the Arnault’s hands.

Followed it, there was a wave of resignations including Frostenson and Academy head Sara Danius.

The Academy is also under fire for contravening its own conflict of interest regulations by providing funding to the Kulturplats Forum, the cultural centre run by Arnault and Frostenson.

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Carl-Henrik Heldin, Chairman of the Board of the Nobel Foundation, said that they now expect “the Academy to put all its efforts into restoring its credibility and called on members to show greater openness towards the outside world in the future”.

The Nobel Prize for Literature was postponed on seven previous occasions since its launch in 1901, six of which occurred during World War I and II.

–IANS

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