The Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature has confirmed that it plans to postpone this year's award following the sexual assault scandal which has rocked the organisation and led to nearly half the 18-strong Academy resigning their posts.
The 2018 laureate will now be awarded in parallel with the 2019 prize winner.
In a statement, the Academy said: "The present decision was arrived at in view of the currently diminished Academy and the reduced public confidence in the Academy. 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, engage a larger number of active members and regain confidence in its work, before the next Literature Prize winner is declared."
The postponement of the Prize is not entirely unprecedented, although this will be the first time for nearly 70 years that it has happened. Seven previous interruptions to the annual award have taken place, between 1915 and 1949. On five of those occasions, the prize was delayed then awarded at the same time as the following year’s prize.
The Academy said that its remaining active members have agreed that its "operative practices need to be evolved" and that it has begun a "comprehensive" process of change. "One of the purposes is to modernise the interpretation of the Academy’s statutes, principally the question of resignation of membership. In addition, routines will be tightened regarding conflict-of-interest issues and the management of information classified as secret. Further, internal work arrangements and external communication will be refreshed," the organisation said.
Anders Olsson, interim permanent secretary, commented: “The active members of the Swedish Academy are of course fully aware that the present crisis of confidence places high demands on a long-term and robust work for change. We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced. This, out of respect for previous and future literature laureates, the Nobel Foundation, and the general public.”
The postponement follows accusations of sexual assault over a period of many years by 18 different women against photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of Academy member Katarina Frostenson. Arnault has denied the allegations.
The Academy said last week that a legal investigation it had initiated into the assault claims and other issues, including allegations of breaches of secrecy over the identity of the Nobel Prize winners ahead of the awards, had now been put in the hands of the juridical authorities.
Last year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature was Kazuo Ishiguro.