Nobel literature postponed for one year

Grail novelists, poets and playwrights for over a century, the Nobel Prize for Literature will not be awarded this year, victim of the #moiaussi blast that caused the implosion of the Swedish Academy.
The name of the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature will be designated and announced at the same time as the 2019 laureate, announced Friday the Swedish Academy in a statement, a first for nearly 70 years.

The latter “are fully aware that the current crisis of confidence forces them to a long and energetic reform work,” said Anders Olsson, his acting permanent secretary, quoted in the statement.

“We think it’s essential to give ourselves time to restore confidence before the next winner is chosen,” he added. “And this for the sake of respect for past and future winners.”

Created in 1786 on the model of the French Academy, the academy is caught in turmoil since the revelations of the movement #moiaussi that splashed at the end of 2017.

In recent weeks, six of the 18 elders, including perpetual secretary-in-office Sara Danius, have announced they will give up their seats. Two members did not participate for a long time in his work, reducing to ten the number of active academicians.

According to the statutes of the Academy, at least 12 active members of the 18 seats are needed to choose a new member.

A Frenchman at the heart of the scandal

On April 25, the Academy had already announced “discuss” a possible postponement of the price, “given the situation in which the academy is located, and for the sake of reward,” said Peter Englund one of the resigning academicians.

The crisis goes back to November, in the middle of the #moiaussi campaign, when the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter published the testimonies of 18 women claiming to have suffered violence or sexual harassment of a Frenchman, Jean-Claude Arnault, married to the Academician Katarina Frostenson, back since.

The academy in November broke off all ties with Mr Arnault and his cultural center Forum ran the intelligentsia stockholmoise, which also had to go out of business following the scandal.

The criminal prosecutor’s office in Stockholm announced in mid-March that part of the preliminary investigation against him had been dismissed for want of prescription or lack of evidence. These are rapes and other assaults that occurred in 2013 and 2015. Unclassified facts were not disclosed.

Through the voice of his lawyer, questioned by AFP, Jean-Claude Arnault says he is innocent.

The institution is also at the heart of a financial inquiry related to the generous subsidy paid to the Forum Center, of which Mr. Arnault and his wife were co-owners.

Five reports

Before the 2018 edition, the attribution of the highest literary distinction in the world had been postponed five times since its creation in 1901. In 1949, the last postponement, the Academy had decided to postpone the announcement of the laureate invoking for that year that “none of the applications met the criteria set out in Alfred Nobel’s will”. A year later, the American writer William Faulkner received the honors for the year 1949.

According to the statutes of the institution, the price can be reserved until the following year.

Maria Schottenius, literary critic for the daily Dagens Nyheter interviewed by AFP, speaks of a “wise” decision taken by the academy, which will “fill the empty seats and come back with a stronger academy”, the next year.

The king, sponsor of the institution, also announced Wednesday a change in the statutes: its members, initially elected for life, can resign and be replaced during their lifetime. On the other hand, the new measure has no retroactive effect.


French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault and academician Katarina Frostenson in Stockholm, December 2011
French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault and academician Katarina Frostenson in Stockholm, December 2011


Thunderblow in the world of letters: the Nobel Prize for Literature will not be awarded this year. So decided the Swedish Academy splashed by the #moiaussi scandal. Here are five things to know about the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Academy.

The best endowed

The Swedish Academy awards 16 prizes, including the best-known and best-endowed (currently some $ 1.31 million CDN): the Nobel Prize for Literature. In his will, the inventor Alfred Nobel entrusted the Swedish institution with the mission of rewarding each year “the author of the most remarkable literary work of idealistic inspiration”. Since 1901, four to five members (out of 18) elected for three years are responsible for collecting and discussing nomination proposals before submitting a list of names to all academicians. The proposals are then discussed by all members of the Academy before an absolute majority vote.

350 proposals per year

The archives of the Swedish Academy are full of letters from the greatest names in literature and publishing, demanding more or less subtly the attention of academicians. Each year, it receives some 350 written proposals from former laureates, academics, organizations and other teachers from the literary and linguistic milieu. Each one puts forward the assets of his favorite, even slipping an offering to the attention of the academicians … a present often badly perceived. To be valid, the candidatures must be renewed every year and arrive before February 1st. The candidates must be alive and – in principle – have published in the year.

Seven white years and a refusal

The Nobel Prize for Literature has 114 laureates. The list, of a total of 110 grants, includes four dual awards. It was refused once, in 1964. The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre had then declined the reward, an unprecedented decision and especially not provided for in the Nobel testament. He remains to date winner, without having never received the prize money. In 1958, Boris Pasternak was forced to refuse the prize, under the pressure of the Soviet government. The Nobel Prize for Literature has also not been awarded seven times since 1901, mainly in wartime: in 1914 and 1918, in 1935 and 1940, 1941, 1942 and 1943.

French literature at the forefront

In France, France remains in the lead, with the highest number of laureates (15), whose first edition in 1901 rewarded Sully Prudhomme. Next come the United States and the United Kingdom, with 12 awards each. The language of Molière is however dethroned by that of Shakespeare, with 29 award-winning English authors since its creation.

The Salman Rushdie case

In the name of “the independence of literature”, academics had refrained from taking a stand on the Salman Rushdie case in 1989 (British author of the Satanic verses despised by Islamists) torn between supporters of a frank support for writer and guarantors of the neutrality of the Cenacle. Three members of the Swedish Academy, indignant at his silence, had left the benches without being allowed to resign. It took nearly three decades for the Academy to denounce in 2016 the fatwa aimed at the writer.

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