On Friday morning, the Swedish Academy announced that the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature will be postponed until 2019, when two awards will be given out. The decision came as the result of "the infighting and public outrage that have engulfed the group over a sexual abuse scandal," according to The New York Times.
Scandal rocked the Swedish Academy in late 2017, when 18 women came forward to accuse Jean-Claude Arnault, who has close ties to the academy and is the husband of member Katarina Frostenson, of sexual assault and harassment. Allegations mounted later that Arnault had assaulted other women, including Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria. After members voted against forcing Frostenson out as part of the academy's endeavor to distance itself from Arnault, several other members left in protest. But the scandal didn't end there. In fact, it reached a fever pitch in April, when the Swedish Academy's first female permanent secretary, Sara Danius, stepped down from her role as the head of the organization because of her dissatisfaction with the academy's handling of the accusations. After the wave of resignations, just 10 active members remained.
All of those departures have left the Swedish Academy in crisis. Members join the academy for life, and empty seats cannot be filled until the death of an inactive holder. Additionally, because current regulations require 12 active members to elect new people, the academy is actually completely unable to fill the empty spots. The situation is so dire that King Carl XVI Gustav has agreed to step in to help maintain the Swedish Academy's functionality. Seriously, the King is coming in to straighten things out.
In the past, the Swedish Academy has postponed prizes when no author met its stringent requirement to "have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction." The last time the award was postponed in such a manner was in 1943. But the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature marks the first time that the Swedish Academy has withheld the honor due to internal conflict. Acting permanent secretary Anders Olsson said in a Friday interview that "confidence in the academy from the world around us has sunk drastically in the past half year... and that is the decisive reason that we are postponing the prize."
Because this year's prize will be postponed, two laureates will receive the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature. Speaking with The Guardian last week, prize committee chair Per Wästberg said that his division of the Swedish Academy was still working as normal to bring the honor to a new literary icon, adding that, "members of the academy will spend summer reading and studying in depth the five candidates on the shortlist, regardless of an announcement this autumn or next."
The next Nobel Prizes in Literature will be awarded to two laureates in October 2019.