Brow Beat

No Nobel Prize for Literature Will Be Awarded This Year, Because We Can’t Have Nice Things Anymore

A picture taken on May 3, 2018 shows the old Stock Exchange Building, home of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.
The old Stock Exchange Building, home of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. Fredrik Sandberg/Getty Images

And the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature goes to … no one. The Swedish Academy has announced that it will take the extraordinary step of not giving out the award this year because “a prize decision will not be perceived as credible” thanks to a sexual misconduct scandal that has thrown the organization into crisis. Instead, the body will wait until next year, when it will name two winners of the prize.

The man at the center of the scandal is Jean-Claude Arnault, a photographer who is married to Academy member Katarina Frostenson and has “close ties” to the organization. In November, he was accused of harassment and assault by at least 18 women in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, followed by allegations this year that he groped Victoria, Sweden’s crown princess, at an Academy event. Arnault has denied all such allegations via his lawyer.

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The ensuing scandal has led to infighting and the resignation of permanent secretary Sara Danius, among others. Carl-Henrik Heldin, the Nobel Foundation’s chairman of the board, released a statement on Friday affirming the decision to postpone the Literature Prize. “Their decision underscores the seriousness of the situation and will help safeguard the long-term reputation of the Nobel Prize,” he wrote. “The Nobel Foundation presumes that the Swedish Academy will now put all its efforts into the task of restoring its credibility as a prize-awarding institution and that the Academy will report the concrete actions that are undertaken.”

The announcement will not affect any of the other Nobel Prize categories.

Heldin’s full statement is below:

The Swedish Academy has decided to postpone the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature, with the intention of awarding it in 2019. According to the Swedish Foundations Act, the Nobel Foundation is ultimately responsible for fulfilling the intentions in the will of Alfred Nobel. During the past several weeks, we have pursued a continuous dialogue with the Swedish Academy, and we support Thursday’s decision.

In principle, the Nobel Prize shall be awarded every year, but decisions on Nobel Prizes have been postponed on a number of occasions during the history of the prizes. One of the circumstances that may justify an exception is when a situation in a prize-awarding institution arises that is so serious that a prize decision will not be perceived as credible.

The crisis in the Swedish Academy has adversely affected the Nobel Prize. Their decision underscores the seriousness of the situation and will help safeguard the long-term reputation of the Nobel Prize. None of this impacts the awarding of the 2018 Nobel Prizes in other prize categories.

The Nobel Foundation presumes that the Swedish Academy will now put all its efforts into the task of restoring its credibility as a prize-awarding institution and that the Academy will report the concrete actions that are undertaken. We also assume that all members of the Academy realise that both its extensive reform efforts and its future organisational structure must be characterised by greater openness towards the outside world.

 

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