Each year, literature fans around the world eagerly await the announcement of the Nobel Literature prize winner, but this year they may be disappointed. For the first time since the end of World War II, the institution that picks the winners — the Swedish Academy — may be forced to postpone the announcement, according to media reports that appear to be based on internal discussions. The announcement was expected Thursday.
The Swedish Academy’s interim secretary indicated in an interview with Swedish radio last week that the committee was discussing a possible postponement of the prize and said that “clarity on that point will come soon.” At least one of the committee members has publicly advocated for delaying the announcement. So far, six members of the 18-person committee have suspended their activities.
In a damning statement last week following an investigation, the secretive institution acknowledged in a press release that it was “in a state of crisis following a period of strong disagreement between members over important issues.” The statement was a surprisingly frank assessment of the organization’s own failings in regards to sexual harassment and upholding secrecy arrangements in place ahead of the Nobel prize winner’s announcement.
But on Saturday, the Academy’s woes worsened further as details emerged about an alleged sexual harassment scandal. Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet quoted three sources describing a 2006 incident in which French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of former Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson, allegedly groped the heir to the Swedish throne, Crown Princess Victoria, during an Academy event.
Most Read Nation & World Stories
The Swedish Academy did not respond to several calls on Monday.
In response to the revelations, the Swedish royal family expressed its support of the #MeToo movement, but did not comment on the specific 2006 incident. Alleged perpetrator Arnault has denied that the incident happened and has also rejected similar, separate accusations.
Last year, 18 women accused Arnault of having committed sexual assaults or having harassed them, with several of them believed to have occurred on the property of the Swedish Academy. After Arnault’s wife Frostenson was removed from the institution’s committee in response to the allegations, a number of other members vowed to give up their active membership, even though they are not allowed to resign from it.
Committee members are part of the 18-person body for life, which is why their de-facto resignations have thrown the academy into deep trouble. (A reform of the organization will soon allow members to leave voluntarily, so that they can be replaced by successors.)
In their statement last week, the Nobel prize-awarding institution confirmed that it had tasked a legal firm to investigate to what extent senior members were aware of the sexual harassment and assault allegations prior to the public protest.
“The investigation revealed that unacceptable behavior in the form of unwanted intimacy had indeed taken place, but the knowledge was not widely spread in the Academy. Neither was the Academy aware of anything that might be described as criminal sexual assault,” the Swedish Academy defended itself last Tuesday, even though it acknowledged that a letter containing detailed allegations about incidents at an associated organization in 1996 “was shelved and no measures taken to investigate the charges.”
“The reputation of the Nobel Prize in Literature has suffered greatly from the publicity surrounding the Academy’s crisis,” the Academy wrote.