The Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature, says it will not name a winner in 2018, instead postponing the selection of this year’s laureate to 2019 (when it will also announce next year’s winner simultaneously.) The news follows a sexual abuse and leaking scandal and multiple resignations from committee members, including the resignation of permanent secretary Sara Danius, leaving the 18-member Academy with only 10 active members at the moment.
According to their statement, the decision was made, “in view of the currently diminished Academy and the reduced public confidence in the Academy.” They also note that “the active members…are in agreement that, without compromising the Academy’s purpose and to retain respect for its unique historical legacy, the Academy’s operative practices need to be evolved. The Academy has therefore newly begun a comprehensive work of change.” They intend to “modernize…the question of resignation of membership,” which is currently not allowed. Also, “routines will be tightened regarding conflict-of-interest issues and the management of information classified as secret.”
Nobel Foundation chairman Carl-Henrik Heldin, notes that postponement is allowed “when a situation in a prize-awarding institution arises that is so serious that a prize decision will not be perceived as credible.” The statement notes that “work on the selection of a laureate is at an advanced stage and will continue as usual in the months ahead”; usually, a shortlist of five candidates would be selected in May. The Academy has elected not to name a winner seven times in its history, most recently in 1949.
Peter Englund, the former permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy who was one of seven members to resign his position in the wake of the scandals, wrote in an email to the New York Times: “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. Who would really care to accept this award under the current circumstances?”
Heldin also said in the announcement: “The Nobel Foundation presumes that the Swedish Academy will now put all its efforts into the task of restoring its credibility as a prize-awarding institution and that the Academy will report the concrete actions that are undertaken. We also assume that all members of the Academy realize that both its extensive reform efforts and its future organizational structure must be characterized by greater openness towards the outside world.”