Nobel literature prize postponed over sexual misconduct scandal

Participants in a manifestation show their support for former Academy member and Permanent Secretary Sara Danius who stepped down last week, in Stortorget square in Stockholm, Sweden April 19 2018. (Fredrik Persson/TT News/REUTERS)

Participants in a manifestation show their support for former Academy member and Permanent Secretary Sara Danius who stepped down last week, in Stortorget square in Stockholm, Sweden April 19 2018. (Fredrik Persson/TT News/REUTERS)

The Nobel Foundation announced on Friday that it supports the Swedish Academy’s decision to postpone the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature, saying that it intends to award the prize in 2019 instead.

The foundation said the reason had to do with a crisis within the Swedish Academy, the institution that is responsible for selecting the award winner.

“One of the circumstances that 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,” a press statement from the foundation read.

In a press release issued on Friday, the Swedish Academy said the work on the selection of a laureate is at an advanced stage and that the academy needs time to “regain confidence in its work, before the next Literature Prize winner is declared”.

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The decision comes after a string of sexual assault allegations made against the French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of academy member and poet Katarina Frostenson.

Arnault was also accused of leaking the names of seven former Nobel winners. Arnault’s lawyers have denied both claims.

Frostenson has quit since the allegations were made public in November last year.
The permanent secretary Sara Danius was ousted on April 12 and four other members of the institution have left the academy in protest over the mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations.

The allegations and Danius’s ousting sparked several all across Sweden.

Protesters, including the Swedish minister for culture and democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke, have posted images of themselves wearing high-necked blouses with bows, one of the former permanent secretary’s signature fashion statements, to show their solidarity with Danius.

The Nobel Foundation said that the decision will not have an impact on the awarding of the prizes in the other Nobel categories.

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law. Read more from Sarah Smit

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