For the first time since 1949, the world’s most prestigious honor for achievement in literature will not be bestowed, due in part to a sexual abuse scandal that has embroiled the Swedish Academy, the group announced Friday morning.
“The present decision was arrived at in view of the currently diminished academy and the reduced public confidence in the academy,” the Swedish Academy said in a statement.
The cancellation of the Nobel Prize for Literature, last awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro, is largely due to the accusations that were made against Jean-Claude Arnault, a major Swedish cultural figure who is married to a member of the Swedish Academy, author Katarina Frostenson. It was reported by the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in November of last year that 18 women alleged sexual harassment and physical abuse by Arnault over a two-decade period; later, allegations of a conflict-of-interest over a literary club he and Frostenson ran, and of leaking names of prior Nobel laureates, swelled.
Arnault’s attorney Björn Hurtig says that his client denies all the allegations, arguing he’s become “the victim of a witch hunt” and that they “may have been made with the sole purpose of harming” him, according to The Guardian. Public prosecutors have said that they are dropping parts of their probe due to lack of evidence, however the bulk of the investigation continues.
Three members of the Swedish Academy resigned earlier this year in the wake of the decision not to suspend Frostenson. Meanwhile, Sara Danius, the organization’s first woman chief official, lost her position after publicly severing ties between Arnault and the Academy.
“We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence … before the next laureate can be announced,” said interim Permanent Secretary Anders Olsson, explaining the decision to cancel. “This is out of respect for previous and future literature laureates, the Nobel Foundation and the general public.”
Other recent winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature include musical artist Bob Dylan, dramatist Harold Pinter, and poet Tomas Tranströmer.