Published: Mon, May 14, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Swedish Academy faces bumpy road ahead in reform

Swedish Academy faces bumpy road ahead in reform

The Swedish panel that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature said on Friday that it would take the extraordinary step of not naming a laureate this year - not because of a shortage of deserving writers, but because of the infighting and public outrage that have engulfed the group over a sexual abuse scandal.

The Swedish Academy gives unprecedented power and authority to its members.

'The 2018 Literature Nobel Prize will be designated and announced at the same time as the 2019 victor, ' according to a press release on the decision to alter the ceremony for the first time in almost 70 years.

It will be the first time since wartime 1943 that the prestigious award is not handed out.

Apart from the two world wars, the only time the literature prize was not awarded was in 1935, although there was no reason given for that omission. No worthy victor was found in 1935.

The Swedish Academy said the decision was arrived at in view of "the reduced public confidence" in the institution.

"In addition, routines will be tightened regarding conflict-of-interest issues and the management of information classified as secret", the academy announced.

Yet now we have writer, journalist and academy member Per Wästberg describing the scandal as "a stain on the Academy's reputation which can not be cleaned off", and Bjorn Wiman, culture editor at Dagens Nyheter, stating "the public's trust for the academy is perhaps below rock bottom..."

According to multiple allegations, Arnault assaulted women on Academy properties for more than 20 years. It would have been hard for potential winners to accept the prize with the academy in such turmoil.

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Arnault, a French photographer who has attended many Swedish Academy events, faces multiple claims of sexual assault and harassment, first reported in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter late a year ago. Arnault has denied the allegations.

First, Arnault's wife, Katarina Frostenson, stepped down as a member of the academy last month in the wake of the allegations and after an extraordinary intervention from Sweden's King and Prime Minister to minimize the swirling scandal.

A wave of resignations followed, including Frostenson and head of the academy, Prof Sara Danius.

A reform of the organization will soon allow members to leave voluntarily, so that they can be replaced by successors. Typically, 12 members are required for a quorum.

Three other members walked out in protest as a result - I say "walked out", as members of the Academy are appointed for life, and there is no formal means by which they could resign. This is out of respect for previous and future literature laureates, the Nobel Foundation, and the general public.

"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", Heldin said.

King Carl XVI Gustaf usually hands out all the Nobel Prizes except for the Peace Prize in December. And, he adds, the Nobel Prize is based on a lifetime of work, not one book in one year. American playwright Eugene O'Neill was awarded the 1936 prize a year later, in 1937, at the same time as that year's victor received his prize.

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