The husband of a Swedish Academy member, which selects recipients for the prize, was found guilty of rape.
Following the charge of sexual assault against Jean-Claude Arnault, husband of Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson, and the fallout of the entire cabinet, the Nobel Prize in Literature was not handed out this year. Instead, the Academy has stated that it will award the prize at next year’s awards, taking the time to reconvene. Eight members of the 18-member group, who are elected by their peers and can serve for life, resigned during the course of the scandal.
The allegations against Arnault came to light in November of 2017, when Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyhete detailed 18 allegations made against him. These claims spanned the course of 20 years and often took place on Academy-owned property. While the allegations were known within elite literary circles, the #MeToo movement emboldened victims to come forward and speak against Arnault. He has since been charged with two accounts of rape and will serve two years in prison, along with paying reparations to the victims.
Things came to a head when the secretary of the Academy, Sara Danius, came forward and accused Arnault of assault. She hired lawyers and called for the expulsion of Frostenson. When the Academy decided to allow Frostenson to remain a member, three other members resigned in protest. Ultimately, both Frostenson and Danius stepped down, and following the further resignation of another three members, the Academy was left with just 10 out of the original 18.
Technically, members of the Academy are not permitted to step down, as they serve for life. However, in this case, the academy was left crippled from in-fighting and the rules of the Academy were not enforced, leaving the Academy shambles. New members can only be selected if the governing body has at least 12 members, but in this case an exception has been made. The Academy still planned to announce a 2018 winner until the Nobel Foundation announced that that the 2018 prize would be handed out in 2019 in tandem with the 2019 award.
In an attempt to make up for the lack of a prize this year, a new award was created by a non-profit dubbed the New Academy. The group hopes to rely on crowdfunding and sponsors to hand out a prize to the winner and cover expenses for the ceremony. A shortlist of 47 candidates, selected by librarians across Sweden, was then released to the public for online voting. Maryse Condé, Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami and Kim Thúy were recently announced as finalists. Although Murakami withdrew from the consideration, the response to the New Academy Awards has been generally positive, with the general public and other candidates supporting the award.