Scan­dal de­lays No­bel lit­er­a­ture award

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - WORLD - Si­mon John­son and Jo­han Sen­nero

THE Swedish Academy which de­cides the No­bel Prize for Lit­er­a­ture said yes­ter­day it would not make the award this year be­cause of a sex­ual mis­con­duct scan­dal that has caused tur­moil in its ranks and led to a string of board mem­bers step­ping down.

The prize, one of the world’s most pres­ti­gious cul­tural hon­ours, is awarded in early Oc­to­ber and a post­pone­ment or can­cel­la­tion has not oc­curred in decades.

But the usu­ally se­cre­tive academy ac­knowl­edged it needed time to re­store pub­lic trust af­ter al­le­ga­tions against the hus­band of one of its mem­bers and the ad­mis­sion that the names of some prizewin­ners had been leaked.

The academy, com­posed of Swe­den’s lit­er­ary elite, said it aimed to award two prizes next year, in­clud­ing the 2018 one.

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

The tur­moil caused by sex­ual al­le­ga­tions against the hus­band of one of the board mem­bers is un­prece­dented for the academy, a revered in­sti­tu­tion es­tab­lished by King Gus­tav III in 1786 and still un­der royal pa­tron­age.

King Carl XVI Gustaf led pub­lic com­ment wel­com­ing the body’s de­ci­sion. “This de­ci­sion shows that the academy now in­tends to fo­cus on restor­ing its rep­u­ta­tion.”

Prime Min­is­ter Ste­fan Lofven said it was im­por­tant that the academy “now tire­lessly con­tin­ues to work on re­gain­ing [(pub­lic] con­fi­dence”.

Though the academy has courted con­tro­versy in the past, for ex­am­ple by award­ing the 2016 prize to Amer­i­can singer-song­writer Bob Dy­lan, de­bate has usu­ally fo­cused on lit­er­ary merit rather than the in­sti­tu­tion it­self.

It found it­self sud­denly at the cen­tre of at­ten­tion af­ter al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault were made by 18 women against pho­tog­ra­pher and cul­tural fig­ure Jean-Claude Ar­nault, who is mar­ried to academy mem­ber and au­thor Kata­rina Frosten­son. He de­nies the al­le­ga­tions. The academy pro­vided fi­nan­cial sup­port for a cul­tural club run by Ar­nault and Frosten­son.

Three mem­bers of the academy’s board re­signed be­cause of dis­sat­is­fac­tion over the way a probe into the al­le­ga­tions was con­ducted.

The academy also dis­closed that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion had shown that the names of some prize win­ners – the sub­ject of lively bet­ting – had been leaked.

Ar­nault de­nied all al­le­ga­tions, re­gard­ing both sex­ual mis­con­duct and leak­ing the names of laureates, his lawyer said.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: JACK GUEZ/AFP

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