Why was this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature postponed?

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MAY 4, 2018

The Swedish Academy announced on Friday that it would postpone this year’s Nobel Literature Prize and that it would be awarded in 2019.

What led them to come to such a decision?

The scandal

In the wake of the #MeToo movement last year, 18 women levelled allegations against Jean-Claude Arnault, an acclaimed French photographer. He was running a cultural project funded by the Swedish Academy and is also married to one of the committee members, poet/writer Katherine Frostenson.

Mr. Arnault has denied all the allegations. However, several members resigned, including Ms. Frostenson and Professor Sara Danius, the Head of the Academy.

The Academy was also hit with several allegations of conflict of interest and suspicions of leaking Nobel Prize winners’ names, issues which led to a rift in the committee. The Academy members, who are elected by secret ballot and hold positions for life, usually keep matters of the committee private, but that changed with members publicly lashing out against each other.

Has the prize been cancelled before?

The institution, founded in 1786, has on seven previous occasions chosen to reserve the prize: in 1915, 1919, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1936 and 1943.

“On five of those occasions, the prize was delayed then awarded at the same time as the following year’s prize,” the Academy said in a statement.

The last time that the Nobel Prize had been cancelled was in 1943, during World War II. The prize money was reserved until the following year, and the amount was added to the foundation’s ‘restricted funds.’

What now?

In a statement released on its website, the Academy said, “It needs time to regain its full complement, engage a larger number of active members and regain confidence in its work, before the next Literature Prize winner is declared.”

But commentators have said that the global image of the Academy has been ‘seriously tarnished.’

The Nobel Foundations board has also gone on to say that, ‘The confidence of the academy following this scandal has been seriously damaged. It takes a long time to restore this damaged confidence.’


Courtesy/Source: The Hindu

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