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Protesters outside the Swedish Academy building in Stockholm on April 19. Photo: Fredrik Persson/EPA.

Swedish Academy Postpones 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature after Sexual Abuse Scandal

The Swedish Academy, the independent cultural institution that has awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1901, announced today that it will postpone awarding this year’s prize following a sexual abuse scandal. It intends to name the 2018 and 2019 laureates simultaneously next year.

“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,” Anders Olsson, the interim permanent secretary said in a statement. “We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced.”

The controversy that prompted the institution arrived at this decision began last November when the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that eighteen women accused photographer Jean-Claude Arnault of sexual harassment. Arnault is a prominent member of Sweden’s cultural scene, who was accused of using his ties to the Academy to harass and assault women. He is married to author Katarina Frostenson, who is a member of the Academy. He also ran a club in Stockholm, which was partially funded by the Academy, that presents exhibitions and hosts other events.

Members of the Academy have since resigned in protest. There are now only ten active members, which is problematic since twelve are needed to elect new ones. In the past, once someone became a member of the Academy, they were appointed for life. After recent events, the institutions rules will be reviewed and amended in order to ensure its survival.

In response, the Nobel Foundation declared its support for the Academy. “Their decision underscores the seriousness of the situation and will help safeguard the long-term reputation of the Nobel Prize,” Carl-Henrik Heldin, board chair of the Nobel Foundation said.

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