'Crisis' at Swedish Academy jeopardises 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature

'Crisis' at Swedish Academy jeopardises 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature may not be awarded this year, following the sexual assault scandal that has rocked the Swedish Academy which governs the prize.

Earlier this week (Thursday 26th April), a meeting took place among the Academy's members to discuss whether the Prize should go ahead this year, however no consensus was reached. A further meeting, and a decision, is expected on 3rd May. 

Per Wästberg, who heads the panel that awards the prize, told the Guardian: "The Swedish Academy yesterday [26th April] discussed the Nobel prize and came to no decision. After our next Thursday meeting there will most probably be a statement on whether we will award a prize this year or reserve it for next year, in which case two prizes for literature will be announced in October 2019."

The Swedish Academy released a statement earlier this week confirming "unacceptable behavior in the form of unwanted intimacy" had taken place at its functions and the Prize's reputation had "suffered greatly" from publicity surrounding recent events. 

Its comments - in which the Swedish Academy admitted it was "in a state of crisis" - follow accusations of sexual assault by 18 different women against French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to an Academy member, Katarina Frostenson. Arnault has denied the allegations. The photographer is also accused of being part of a breach of the Academy's secrecy rules by leaking the names of past Nobel prize-winners in advance, which again he has denied.

Five members of the Swedish Academy have now stepped down from their duties, including permanent secretary Sara Danius. Appointments to the Academy are for life, forcing the King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf to step in with a plan to change its statues by royal decree.

The Academy statement said a legal investigation it had instituted into the assault and secrecy breach claims, and a further matter, had "now been put into the hands of the juridical authorities". It said: "In coming weeks, the Academy aims to produce a plan to re-establish public confidence, and eventually return to fertile cooperation among a complete roster of active members." Changes will be made to the Academy’s regulations as well as its organisation and work practices, it said. 

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.