After the 2018 Nobel prize in literature was postponed, following a sexual scandal within the Swedish Academy, the organisation who award the Nobel prize in literature, both the 2018 and 2019 Nobel prizes are set to be awarded this year.
The 2018 award was the first time that the Nobel was withheld since 1949, due to numerous sexual misconduct allegations that resulted in the husband of a member of the Swedish Academy being imprisoned for rape. Jean-Claude Arnault, husband of academy member Katarina Frostenson, was accused of numerous accounts of sexual misconduct before being convicted of rape and sentenced to prison last October. Following the allegations emerging, Swedish Academy made the decision to postpone the 2018 Nobel prize in literature.
The backlash of this scandal saw numerous people within the Academy handing in their resignations, consequently leaving the Academy with less than the required 12 members needed to select the award and announce a winner.
The actual selection process of the winners has been incredibly secretive over the years, with it only being known that 200 nominees are reviewed by the Academy in February, before a shortlist is internally decided in May. The final five authors are then reviewed across the summer period, prior to the final winner being selected. The jury’s reasoning for their choices are only available to the public 50 years after the event, leaving a certain allusiveness around the prestigious award.
However, author Maryse Condé was given what was considered to be ‘alternate Nobel’ last year, the New Academy prize in literature. This one-off award was supposed to fill the space that was caused by the cancellation of the official prize.
Instead of abandoning the 2018 award all together, the decision has been made to present both the 2018 and 2019 award this autumn, ensuring the laureates can still be recognised by this high acclaim.
Many people have been querying the effectiveness of this decision, with some feeling they should have abandoned the award and moved forward, in respect for the sensitivity of the issues from last year.
The Swedish Academy have previously received criticism for having a closed and selective process for the awards, with the Nobel Foundation themselves critiquing the Academy’s process.
In an attempt to restore trust surrounding the award, The Swedish Academy have made some major structural changes in the way that the Nobel prize winners will be selected. Five external members now taking on the role of helping the Swedish Academy choose the winning Nobel laureates for the foreseeable future. Previously, Academy members were appointed for life and unable to resign, which led to many refusing to attend meetings when decisions were made that were disagreed with. This rule was changed last year by King Carl XVI Gustaf, further showing the Swedish Academy’s attempts to restructure their organisation.
The Nobel Foundation have said that they believe the additional, external voices will add a fresh and new perspective to the jury. In putting in place steps to restore trust in their organisation, The Swedish Academy want the public to believe in it as a prize-awarding organisation going forwards.
The Academy hope to restore trust in their organisation over the next few years, as they attempt to put the events behind them and move forwards to work more successfully in the future.
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