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Nobel literature prize award postponed amid sexual misconduct claims

The Swedish Academy has been dealing with the fallout of allegations of sexual misconduct by the husband of one of its members and leaks of names of some prize-winners ahead of the formal announcements.

FILE: The old Stock Exchange Building, home of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. The Swedish Academy, a council of authors and linguists tasked with furthering the Swedish language, is responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize for literature. Picture: AFP.

STOCKHOLM - No Nobel Prize for literature will be given this year, following a scandal over sexual misconduct allegations that has seen a string of board members resign from the board of the Swedish Academy that awards it, the Nobel Foundation said on Friday.

The foundation said in a statement the intention was to award the 2018 prize next year, along with that year’s prize.

It is very rare for the award of Nobel prizes to be cancelled or postponed. The last time the literature prize was not awarded was in 1943, at the height of World War Two.

The date for this year’s award has not yet been announced, though it always occurs in the first half of October in conjunction with the presentation of winners in other fields.

The Swedish Academy, a council of prestigious authors and linguists tasked with furthering the Swedish language, has been dealing with the fallout of allegations of sexual misconduct by the husband of one of its members and leaks of names of some prize-winners ahead of the formal announcements.

Its members, elected for life, award the Nobel Prize for Literature each year. Past winners include Bob Dylan (2016), Doris Lessing (2007) and Samuel Beckett (1969). The controversy has prompted calls for the secretive institution to become more transparent.

Photographer and cultural figure Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to Academy member and author Katarina Frostenson, has denied all allegations, both of sexual misconduct and of leaking the names of the laureates.

Six of the Academy’s 18 members have stepped down following the controversy that surfaced late last year while two other members were already not participating in the academy’s work for other reasons.

The Swedish Academy said in a statement last month that it was suffering a serious crisis and acknowledged that trust in the institution, established by King Gustav III in 1786 and still under royal patronage, had been undermined.

Other Swedish institutions award the Nobel prizes for science. The peace prize winners are chosen by a Norwegian committee.

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