The Nobel Prize for Literature has been cancelled for the first time in almost 70 years following six members of the Swedish Academy stepping down over allegations of sexual assault and harassment against the husband of a former Academy member. The academy said that the present decision was arrived at in view of the currently diminished Academy and the reduced public confidence in the Academy. The Nobel prize in Literature for 2018 will be announced in parallel with the naming of the 2019 laureate. Last year, Japanese-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro won the prize.
French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to former Academy member Katarina Frostenson, has been accused of sexual misconduct by 18 women in November. The alleged incidents reportedly happened at properties owned by the Academy. And last week, Swedish paper Svenska Dagbladet, citing three eyewitnesses, claimed that Arnault had groped Crown Princess Victoria at an Academy event in 2006, a charge that has been denied by the photographer. The Royal Family did not comment on the incident but issued a statement extending support for the #MeToocampaigm.
Jean-Claude Arnault denies all allegations, regarding both sexual misconduct and leaking the names of laureates, his lawyer told Reuters on Thursday.
What had sparked the string of resignations from the members was the Academy’s 18-member committee’s decision to vote against removing Frostenson from her role. The committee’s head, professor Sara Danius, was among those who stepped down in protest. Members of the Academy, technically, cannot resign as they are nominated to the positions for life. They, however, can stop taking part in the Academy’s activities.
It would be the first time since World War Two that the Academy has failed to award a Nobel Prize for Literature. There were no awards between 1940 and 1943, due to World War Two, while the American novelist William Faulkner received his prize a year late in 1950 when two prizes were handed out.
A postponement or cancellation of the prize is rare but not unprecedented. The rules of the foundation that administers the will of dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel mean prizes can be reserved until the following year.
The institution, founded in 1786, has previously chosen to reserve the prize on seven occasions: in 1915, 1919, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1936 and 1949 because no literature candidate was deemed worthy of the prize.
“On five of those occasions, the prize was delayed then awarded at the same time as the following year’s prize,” the Academy said in a statement.