Lars Heikensten, director of the Nobel Foundation, which administrates the funds for the Nobel Prizes, said Saturday that there might not be a Nobel Prize in literature awarded in 2019, either.
STOCKHOLM — First, the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize in literature, was rocked by a sexual abuse and harassment scandal, spurring some members to say they would quit the institution.
Then, the first woman to lead the academy, Sara Danius, a literary scholar, was forced out over the mushrooming scandal.
This month, faced with accusations of financial wrongdoing and hints of a cover-up, the academy said it would postpone awarding the literature prize for the first time in 69 years, and instead name two winners in 2019.
Now, Lars Heikensten, director of the Nobel Foundation, which administrates the funds for the Nobel Prizes, said in a radio interview Saturday that there might not be a Nobel Prize in literature awarded in 2019, either, deepening the crisis at the 232-year-old cultural organization.
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Heikensten told the national broadcaster Sveriges Radio that the prize “will be awarded when the Swedish Academy has won back the public’s trust — and that means there is no deadline for 2019.”
Without naming names, he also urged the 10 remaining active members in the academy to consider leaving their seats.
“I think everyone needs to think about whether they are good for the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Prize and whether they will be good for the academy in the future, or is it better to step down.”
The Nobel Foundation administrates the funds for the prizes, but the will of Alfred Nobel, the industrialist and inventor, appointed the Swedish Academy as arbiter of the literature award.
Heikensten said that if the academy cannot resolve its problems, the Nobel Foundation could appoint a new institution to administer the world’s most prestigious cultural prize, a measure that would require a further amendment in the statutes.
“There are many who are ready to step in,” he said.
But addressing the idea of finding another institution to take over the literary prize, Per Wastberg, a member, said, “That is not possible, according to Alfred Nobel’s will and the law.”
The back-and-forth comments came at the end of a week of public squabbling among academy members and months of tortured drama prompted by a sexual-misconduct scandal that has decimated the Swedish Academy.
In November, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that 18 women had accused Claude Arnault, a cultural impresario with close ties to the academy, of abuse and sexual harassment.
Together with his wife, Katarina Frostenson, a poet and a member of the Swedish Academy, Arnault ran Forum, a cultural club that featured literary readings, concerts and exhibits and had received financial support from the academy for decades.
Arnault, a photographer, was accused of using his close ties to the cultural elite to commit sexual misconduct, particularly against aspiring writers and artists.
Through his lawyer, Arnault has denied all charges, some of which are still under police investigation.
In response to these revelations, Danius, then the academy’s permanent secretary, cut all ties with Arnault and Forum and convened an independent investigation into the academy’s ties to the club.
After the investigation, three academy members left the academy in disgust.
Danius was ousted as permanent secretary, and then left the academy.
Although the appointments to the academy are for life, an unusual intervention by the Swedish king, the academy’s protector, made it possible for members to leave the academy voluntarily.
In his radio interview, Heikensten said this was an opportunity to review the academy’s rules and make it more transparent. “I’m not sure that it should be a life term,” he said of membership.
The Swedish Academy has hired a mediator to help resolve this situation, Heikensten said.