Nobel Prize in Literature postponed after sexual assault scandal

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature will be postponed until next year, according the Swedish Academy, the body of writers and linguists that awards the annual prize (NBC News). The decision stems from a public relations crisis that has erupted following multiple accusations of sexual misconduct aimed at prominent French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, whose wife, Katarina Frostenson, is a member of the Academy.

On May 4, the Stockholm-based organization that hands out the prize said its 2018 winner will be announced next year along with the 2019 winner. This marks the first time since World War II that the prize has not been awarded (The New York Times).

According to a statement on the organization’s website: “The present decision was arrived at in view of the currently diminished Academy and the reduced public confidence in the Academy.”

The Swedish Academy has been engulfed in turmoil and infighting since at least 18 women accused Arnault of sexual harassment. The accusers include Crown Princess Victoria, heir to the Swedish throne (BBC). Arnault denies that he groped the princess at an Academy event in 2006. 

According to multiple allegations, Arnault assaulted women on Academy properties for more than 20 years. Dating to 1996, he’s also suspected of leaking information regarding prize winners before official announcements were made. Arnault has denied all of the allegations made against him. 

Arnault and wife Frostenson run a cultural club in Stockholm called Forum (The New York Times), that showcased exhibitions, readings and performances by prominent cultural personalities including Nobel laureates. Now closed, the club was partly funded by the academy, prompting allegations of a conflict of interest (The Guardian).

The scandal has led to the resignations of numerous Academy members, including Frostenson and Sara Danius, head of the Academy, leaving only 10 active members instead of the traditional 18.

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