Swedish Academy snubs call for new Nobel Prize committee

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Swedish Academy snubs call for new Nobel Prize committee
The proposal would have removed Academy member Horace Engdahl from the prestigious prize committee. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/T

The Swedish institution which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature has refused a call for a new prize committee replacing members tainted by this year’s crisis with outside experts.


The Nobel Foundation, which supervises the five prizes established by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, made the request in a letter sent to Swedish Academy on June 15. 
Meeting it would force Horace Engdahl, the Academy member widely seen as leading opposition to the former Permanent Secretary Sara Danius, to drop all work on the prestigious prize. It could also mean his ally, the poet and playwright Kristina Lugn, leaving the committee. 
According the the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, which has received copies of both letters, the Academy decided at a special meeting held last week to deny the Foundation's request.
“The ball substantially lies with the Swedish Academy,” the Nobel Foundation’s chief executive Lars Heikensten told the newspaper after receiving the Academy’s reply. “It’s the Academy which has to solve its problem now.” 
“They say in their letter that this would raise legal questions, well yes, there’s a lot in all this which raises legal questions,” he continued. “But it was our conviction that if you wanted to find a solution according to the principles we outlined in our letter, it would be good to do this.” 
Serious rifts in Swedish Academy broke out at the start of this year over whether to expel the poet Katarina Frostenson, whose French husband Jean-Claude Arnault was in November accused by 18 women of sexually assaulting or harassing them. 
In March, three members said they were vacating their seats after a majority of members voted not to expel the poet,  despite the findings of an inquiry commissioned from a law firm.
The law firm revealed that Frostenson had broken the Academy's anti-corruption rules by not disclosing that she was part-owner of Forum, a literary venue that received significant Academy funding. The law firm also said that she had leaked the Literature Prize's winner in advance to her husband on at least seven occasions.  
The organisation’s Permanent Secretary Sara Danius then resigned as part of a deal under which Frostenson agreed to vacate her seat for an unspecified period of time. 
Shortly afterwards, the Academy — under strong pressure from the Nobel Foundation — said it was postponing the award of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature to 2019. 
The Academy's Nobel Prize committee is currently chaired by Per Wästberg, with Lugn, Engdahl, and the Academy's interim Permanent Secretary Anders Olsson as members. 
Heikensten warned that if the Academy did not comply with its requests, the Foundation could relatively simply strip it of its role selecting the winner of the prize and pass the task to another institution. 


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