Amid leadership crisis, Nobel may fail to award Prize for literature in ’18

Kazuo Ishiguro, laureate in literature 2017, gives a speech during the Nobel banquet during the banquet for the Nobel Prize laureates in Stockholm, Sweden, 10 December 2017. EPA-EFE/Fredrik Sandberg EPA-EFE/Fredrik Sandberg SWEDEN OUT

Amid leadership crisis, Nobel may fail to award Prize for literature in ’18


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The Swedish Academy could fail to nominate a 2018 Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Swedish Radio reported on Wednesday.

There are precedents to this seemingly cataclysmic event. During certain periods of war and socioeconomic turmoil in Europe the Nobel prize for literature was not awarded: 1914, 1918, 1935 and from 1940 to 1943. This time is unique, as the suspension is related to the credibility of the Swedish Academy, or lack thereof.

The Academy is in deep crisis following the resignation of the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, on April 12.

Danius’ leadership was undermined by her predecessor, who challenged her handling of a scandal involving sexual abuse, conflict of interest, and the leaking of Literature Prize winners.

The sexual abuse scandal involved Mr. Jean-Claude Arnault, married to a member of the Academy, Mrs. Katarina Fronstenson. In November 2017 Mr Arnault allegedly received financial support from the academy to set up a cultural club in Stockholm, which raised the question of conflict of interest. Mr  Arnault also faces allegations of sexual abuse. He denies all charges.

The former Secretary of the Academy, Horace Engdahl, wanted the Academy to deal with the issue more discreetly. He wrote an open letter to the Swedish daily Expressen calling Danius the worst Secretary since the foundation of the Academy in 1786.

In support of Mrs Danius, four more members of the Academy have resigned. Academy members are life-long and cannot resign or be dismissed. In effect, they abstain from their duties.

Sources within the Academy apparently believe that the institution may not have the public credibility to announce a winner at this point in time. The Swedish press and academia seem to confirm this view.

Asked to comment on these rumours, the interim Secretary of the Academy Anders Olsson has committed to a statement in the future.

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