The Nobel Prize for Literature Won’t be Awarded for the First Time in Nearly 70 Years
What started as a sexual harassment scandal has devolved into a crisis of confidence.
This year, for the first time in nearly 70 years, there will be no Nobel Prize for Literature awarded.
The Swedish Academy—whose members are charged with deciding who wins the annual honor—announced on Friday that in light of a recent sexual harassment scandal and crisis of confidence, it would skip this year’s prize and, instead, award two in 2019.
At the center of the scandal is French-Swedish photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, whose wife is a member of the Swedish Academy. Arnault is himself closely affiliated with and supported by the organization.
When news of Arnault’s misconduct broke, Sara Danius, the Swedish Academy’s first female permanent secretary, cut ties with the photographer and commissioned an investigation into the academy to ensure its accountability, the New York Times reported.
Danius was dismissed for her response to the scandal and some criticized the organization as having made Danius take the fall for Arnault’s misdeeds.
Since then, several other members have resigned and the Swedish Academy has struggled to regain its footing. With the prize-awarding institution in such disarray, its members felt it better not to hand out the prize this year.
“I think this was a wise decision, considering both the inner turmoil of the Academy and the subsequent bloodletting of people and competence, and the general standing of the prize,” Peter Englund, a member of the academy, said in an email. “Who would really care to accept this award under the current circumstances?”
Englund’s sentiments were echoed by those of Bjorn Wiman, culture editor of the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, which first exposed Arnault’s years of sexual misconduct in November.
“It wasn’t possible under these conditions to appoint a winner, It would have been an insult to anyone who received it,” Wiman told Swedish Radio.
The decision reflects the far reach of the #MeToo movement against workplace sexual harassment and assault that grew in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood. It also shows that despite being one of the most gender-equal countries in the world, women in Sweden are still saying #MeToo and standing up to sexual abuse and gender discrimination.
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