This year’s Nobel Prize in Literature has been postponed in the wake of a sexual and financial scandal that has engulfed the Swedish Academy, the cultural institution responsible for awarding the prestigious prize.
The academy, one of Sweden’s most highly respected institutions, made the announcement Friday morning following a meeting of its remaining 10 active members Thursday evening.
“We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the academy before the next laureate can be announced,” Anders Olsson, the academy’s permanent secretary, said in a statement.
He said the academy was acting “out of respect for previous and future literature laureates, the Nobel Foundation and the general public.”
The decision does not affect the other Nobel prizes, which are awarded separately. This year’s laureate will be announced in 2019, the academy said.
The crisis centers on a string of allegations against Jean-Claude Arnault, a leading cultural figure in Sweden and husband of Katarina Frostenson, who was an academy member until she stepped down in the wake of the scandal.
Arnault, who has attended many Swedish Academy events, is facing multiple allegations of sexual assault and harassment, first reported in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter late last year. The academy announced the following day that it had cut all ties with Arnault.
He is also facing the accusation that he touched Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria inappropriately at a Swedish Academy event over a decade ago. In a statement emailed to CNN earlier this week, Arnault’s lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, said his client denied all the allegations.
The Nobel committee acknowledged the crisis had tarnished the wider organization, and welcomed the Swedish Academy’s announcement. “The crisis in the Swedish Academy has adversely affected the Nobel Prize.
Their decision underscores the seriousness of the situation and will help safeguard the long-term reputation of the Nobel Prize. None of this impacts the awarding of the 2018 Nobel Prizes in other prize categories,” it said in a statement.
The last time the literature prize was postponed was in 1943 at the height of World War II.
Six of the Swedish Academy’s members have stepped down from their positions in recent weeks, some reportedly in protest at the way the crisis has been handled. Traditionally, members must be approved by the king and keep their chairs for life.
The academy has also faced criticism for contravening its own conflict of interest regulations by providing funding to the Kulturplats Forum, a cultural center run by Arnault and Frostenson.