The Nobel Prize for Literature Award has returned. This time, it will be a double award, one for the winner of the suspended 2018 award, and the 2019 winner during the award coming up later in the year.
This announcement by the Nobel Foundation, is in line with last year’s decision following the scandals that rocked the Swedish Academy, the body that elects the winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature when the #MeToo movement reached Sweden, leading to the suspension of the award.
Scandals of conflicts of interest, breaches of confidence, and economic misconduct, within the academy were exposed following a report by Sweden’s largest daily, Dagens Nyheter, on November 21, 2017, in which 18 women accused Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of poet, and member of the Swedish Academy, Katarina Frostenson, of sexual assault and harassment.
Arnault, who is friends with members of the 18-member Swedish Academy, and founder of a performing arts group that has received several supports from the academy, has since been convicted of two accounts of rape.
Making the award possible was the appointment of two new members by the Swedish Academy, Swedish Supreme Court Justice, Eric M Runesson and Iranian-born poet, Jila Mossaed, who are elected for life, with no room for resignation, but 12 of its members are required in order to decide winner of the award.
While members of the academy cannot resign, they can however, exclude themselves from participation in the academy’s activities as some have. In 1989, Kerstin Ekman, withdrew as an active member in disagreement over the academy’s handling of the Fatwa issues against writer, Salman Rushdie. Lotta Lotass, in 2015, withdrew from active participation in the work of the academy; and following the #MeToo effects, three members of the academy, Kjell Espmark, Klas Ostergren, and Peter Englund announced they would not be participating in the forthcoming work of the academy.
Threat of the future of the awards heightened when two other members, Secretary of the academy, Sara Danius, and Sara Stridsberg said they were taking their active participation under consideration. However, with three members, Danius, Espmark, and Englund, allegedly participating in the election of Runesson and Mossaed (in addition with collaborative working of the academy, the Nobel Foundation and the Swedish Royal Court) the resumption of the award is made possible.
But this is only for a short period of time – 2019 to 2020. Divisions within the academy, and for the moment, the academy’s recalcitrant stance on the demands of the Nobel Foundation, and some of its members has resulted in a long-term settlement of the issues plaguing the 233-year-old institute with laws as old as it is.
The Swedish Academy has been awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature since the creation of the award in 1899.
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