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Friday 20 September 2019

Nobel Prize for Literature postponed as sex scandal engulfs Academy

Katarina Frostenson and Jean-Claude Arnault. Photo: Getty Images
Katarina Frostenson and Jean-Claude Arnault. Photo: Getty Images

Simon Johnson

The Swedish Academy that decides the Nobel Prize for Literature has said it will 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 prize-winners had been leaked.

The Academy, composed of Sweden's literary elite, said it aimed to award two prizes in 2019, 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, 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.

The Academy found itself 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 the couple.

Three members of the Academy's board resigned because of dissatisfaction over the way a probe into the allegations was conducted. The Academy's head and Ms Frostenson also subsequently stepped down, followed by a sixth member last week.

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

Mr Arnault denies all allegations, regarding both sexual misconduct and leaking the names of laureates, his lawyer said. State prosecutors opened an investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations, but said in March the probe into assaults alleged to have been committed between March 2013 and April 2015 had been dropped due to a lack of evidence and the statute of limitations having passed for some of the incidents.

Irish Independent

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