For the first time since World War II, no Literature Nobel will be awarded this year. The Swedish Academy that selects the laureate took the big decision as it found itself engulfed in a sexual scandal that shattered its credibility. Other annual Nobel prizes will not be affected since the academy only awards the Literature Nobel.
The 18-member academy has promised to clean itself up and offer the award next year to two winners.
The current crisis began in November last in the wake of the global #MeToo campaign, when Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published testimonies of 18 women who claimed they were raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Jean-Claude Arnault, whose wife is academy member Katarina Frostenson. Some of these shocking incidents reportedly happened at the academy’s properties in Stockholm and Paris.
Other allegations against him include groping Sweden’s crown princess Victoria. Arnault, an influential figure in the art world and a close friend of a bunch of academy members, denied all the charges.
Within the academy there were calls for Katarina’s resignation. When its permanent secretary Sara Danius ordered a probe, she was eased out of her position, which triggered a fresh round of anger. Later, six of its members, including Sara, quit.
The ‘resignations’ paralysed the academy as its meetings need a quorum of 12 but it had only 11 active members since one had already been inactive for over a couple of decades.
The problem also lay with the academy structure. Till this week, there could be no resignations as all appointments were for life. Those who quit could only be termed inactive.
All that is now changing, with King Carl XVI Gustaf, the academy’s patron, tweaking the structure to let members inactive for two years resign and induct new ones.
“We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced,” the academy’s interim permanent secretary Anders Olsson said.