Nobel Prize for Literature's future depends on Academy 'restoring trust'

Nobel Prize for Literature's future depends on Academy 'restoring trust'

The Nobel Prize in Literature may not be awarded in 2019 unless trust is restored in the Swedish Academy that administers the prize, the Nobel Foundation’s executive director Lars Heikensten has said.

The Swedish Academy has been dogged by scandal following allegations of sexual misconduct made towards one of its associates, which led to nearly half the 18-strong Academy resigning their posts.

In the wake of the allegations, the academy called off the 2018 prize, saying instead that it would be awarded in parallel with the 2019 prize. However, Heikensten has now said the 2019 prize may also be postponed unless trust is restored in the academy.

Writing on the Nobel Prize’s website, Heikensten said: “The Swedish Academy’s goal is to make its decision on the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature and to announce it together with the 2019 Prize. We hope that this will be the case, but it depends on the Swedish Academy restoring its trust.”

According to the executive director, the harassment scandal triggered a “crisis” in the institution and has brought other issues out into the open including conflicts between the individuals involved and more structural, organisational issues within the Academy, related to, for example, rules on confidentiality and conflicts of interest.

Heikenstein suggested that more transparancy and openness is necessary for trust in the organisation to be restored. He argued that the Academy had cultivated a "closed culture over a long period of time", which was was "likely to be challenged at one time or another".

"Personally, I am convinced that greater openness towards the outside world would be good for the Swedish Academy," he said. "It will strengthen the institution long-term and enable it to re-establish confidence. I believe that in the end something good will come out of this situation, even if that of course has not been the feeling during recent weeks."

The Swedish Academy’s decision does not affect the work of selecting Laureates for the Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Peace and Economic Sciences. The selection processes for these prizes are handled by other independent institutions.

Japanese-born British writer Kazuo Ishiguro won the Prize in 2017. In 2016 it was reluctantly scooped by US singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, who to the embarrassment of the Academy took weeks to acknowledge the win.