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For the first time since 1949, Nobel Prize for Literature will not be awarded in 2018. The reason is not the lack of the worthy candidates, but the sex scandal around the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize.
One of the royal academies was founded by Gustav II in 1786. It consists of 18 members - famous Swedish writers, scientists, public figures whose works are considered exemplary. This membership is very prestigious. The main task of the Academy is to support and develop the Swedish language and literature.
Swedish Academy in Stockholm
Since 1901, it has been the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Since then, the institution has been one of the most influential in the world in this field. Interestingly, it has often been criticized. However, never before claims to the academy were as serious as now.
Famous Swedish photographer and French-born director Jean-Claude Arnault occurred in the center of the scandal, the husband of poetess Katerina Frostenson, who was elected a member of the academy in 1992.
Katharina Frostenson and Jean-Claude Arnault
Since autumn of 2017, the largest edition of the country, Dagens Nyheter, has published a series of revealing materials, in which 18 women (including academics) against the background of the #MeTo campaign accused Arnault of sexual harassment. It was noted that several episodes occurred in the Forum cultural center, which belongs to the couple, and the Swedish Academy has been one of its sponsors. Also, the facts of financing certain Arnaud projects from the Nobel Foundation were established.
In April, the media published the results of a lawyer's investigation, commissioned by the Academy itself. Seven independent witnesses (names were not published) reported that the "representative of culture" ("the husband of one of the members of the Academy") in different years prematurely revealed the names of at least seven Nobel laureates: Wislava Shimborska in 1996, Elfriede Jelinek in 2004, Harold Pinter in 2005, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio in 2008, Patrick Modiano in 2014, Svetlana Alexievich in 2015 and Bob Dylan in 2016
Here it is worth noting that until the last moment the winner's name is kept in the strictest secrecy, while members of the Nobel Committee on Literature use fictional aliases to discuss candidacies instead of real names.
The Swedish police began an investigation, although the authorities warned that some of the charges were too old to be examined. The Academy severed all ties with Arnault and his club.
After the publication of the internal investigation, three members of the academy immediately announced their resignation - Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund. The media wrote that this became a sign of disagreement with how the academy "makes decisions".
April 12, the permanent secretary of the academy Sara Danius and scandalous Frostenson left. In an official statement published on the academy's website, nothing was reported about the reasons for the decisions, except that Frostenson relinquished her duties in the academy and hoped that the institution will continue its activities.
At the same time, Danius told reporters that she resigned from her position, not on her own.
Later, the writer and translator Sara Stridsberg also announced her retirement.
The situation was aggravated by the public accusations of members of the academy against each other. Thus, in particular, Horace Engdahl called Sara Danius "the worst secretary in history," and colleagues who retired were "losers."
According to the rules valid as of today, all members of the Academy are appointed for life. That is, they cannot be replaced with new ones until death, even in the case of their resignation.
At the same time, a quorum of 12 people is required to elect new members of the academy, although eight people and a simple majority vote are enough to vote for the award of the Nobel Prize. Considering all previous resignations (before and after the scandal) 10 members remained in the academy. The world began to speak with grave concern about the threat of self-liquidation of the institution.
King Charles XVI Gustav interfered into the situation, calling the conflict in the academy "extremely sad." First, he held a meeting with Danius (before her resignation), on which he urged her to solve the problem. And subsequently allowed members of the academy to leave the position of their own free will. According to the changes made by the king, the academy will have the opportunity to decide that a member who does not take an active part in the work of the institution for two years should be considered retired.
The media have already dubbed the situation "the destruction of the Tower of Babel," "the effect of the bomb dropped on the stock exchange building," noting that there were not much chance of rehabilitation.
At the same time, according to a poll conducted by Novus social center, 62% of respondents lost confidence in the Nobel Prize for Literature because of the scandal.
In addition, there was a serious threat that, against the backdrop of the #MeToo campaign, potential laureates could abandon the Nobel Prize. In this regard, the cancellation of the award this year seems to be the only way to "whiten" the reputation of the academy.
The name of the current laureate will be announced, most likely, together with the winner of 2019.
The Academy emphasizes that the selection of laureate continues, but the institution needs time "to attract more active members and restore confidence in the work."
The Nobel Prize Fund supported the academy's decision, assuring that other branches of the award will not affect this situation. Would the Academy deal with the situation? But, it seems, they are trying to save "Tower of Babel" from the "fall".