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No Literature Nobel prize as academy fights sex scandal

By Mercy Adhiambo | Published Sat, May 5th 2018 at 09:12, Updated May 5th 2018 at 09:20 GMT +3
Jean-Claude Arnault was accused by 18 women of sexual assault. [Photo: Courtesy]

The Swedish Academy which awards the laureate for literature has cancelled the prize this year, after being entwined in allegations of sexual misconduct.

They have instead announced they will present two awards in 2019.

Trouble started in the academy last November when French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who ran a cultural project with funding from the Swedish Academy, was accused by 18 women of sexual assault.

The women reported that Arnault abused them in the properties belonging to the academy. The scandal created a rift among members of the organisation.

When a vote to remove Mr Arnault’s wife who is the academy’s committee member was floated, a deeper rift emerged. Majority voted against her removal while others felt the issue was not handled with the seriousness it deserved, prompting those who wanted her removed to resign. 

This and accusations of conflict of interest, leaking of Nobel winners’ names, and claims of misappropriated funds caused further discomfort.

A wave of resignations followed, including Frostenson and head of the academy, Prof Sara Danius.

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In a statement, the academy said work on the selection of a laureate is at an advanced stage and will continue as usual in the months ahead but the Academy 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.

The award has been given for more than 100 years, and this is the first time since world war two that it has been postponed.

In a media interview, The Nobel foundation’s executive director Lars Heikenstein described the incident as ”terrible”.  ”Everyone understands that this person has no say in the decision about who receives the Nobel Prize in literature, but when an institution that elects a Nobel Prize laureate is in a situation like this there is obviously a risk that it affects the Nobel Prize negatively,” he said.

They cut all ties and funding to Mr Arnault, who runs a cultural club in Stockholm, shortly after the allegations came to light.

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