In practical terms, the academy was prepared to stick to its usual schedule, winnowing potential laureates to a shortlist by summer and anointing a prize winner in October, its acting permanent secretary, Anders Olsson, told Swedish Radio on Friday. “But confidence in the academy from the world around us has sunk drastically in the past half year,” he said, “and that is the decisive reason that we are postponing the prize.”
The decision not to award the literature prize this year “is a sensational piece of news, but it was the only possible decision,” Bjorn Wiman, culture editor of the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, told Swedish Radio. “It wasn’t possible under these conditions to appoint a winner. It would have been an insult to anyone who received it.”
Some of the academy’s 18 members resigned over Ms. Frostenson’s continued membership, and several more quit over the treatment of Ms. Danius. That left the group with 10 active members — too few, under its rules, to elect new members.
But academy appointments are for life, and until this week, the organization’s rules did not provide for resignations; it viewed those who quit as members who had become inactive, but could not be replaced.
On Wednesday, King Carl XVI Gustaf, the academy’s patron, who said he had followed the matter “with great concern,” announced that he had changed the academy’s rules to allow members to leave, and to allow the panel to replace any member who had been inactive for two years. It was a rare intervention by the monarch, whose role is mostly ceremonial.
Mr. Olsson said: “We are bringing in legal expertise and we are going to get better at what we do. We must vote in new members, and fast.” He promised increased transparency, and “more and better dialogue” with the royal court and the Nobel Foundation.
After meeting on Thursday, members of the academy had voiced optimism that the prize could be awarded in October, as usual.