December 2, 2019 / 12:30 PM / 4 days ago

Two members leave Nobel literature committee, criticising Swedish Academy

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Two external members of the Nobel literature prize committee quit on Monday after criticising the scandal-hit Swedish Academy.

The 233-year-old Academy was forced to introduce several new measures after a sex scandal involving the husband of a former member escalated into a bitter row that meant it had to postpone the award for 2018.

External members were added to assist the Nobel committee in choosing prize candidates for the Academy to vote on.

Author Kristoffer Leandoer said he was leaving because he had “neither the patience nor the time” to wait for the committee to complete its reforms.

“The Academy and I have a different perspective on time, one year is far too long in my life and far too short in life of the Academy,” he wrote in an article in Svenska Dagbladet.

Leandoer said his decision was not linked to the decision to award the 2019 prize to controversial Austrian writer Peter Handke, for which the Academy has received criticism both domestically and internationally.

But Gun-Britt Sundstrom said in a statement published in Dagens Nyheter that the choice of Handke had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics and she did not share that view.

FILE PHOTO: Snow is piled on the bust of Alfred Nobel outside the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

Handke has been heavily criticised for his portrayal of Serbia as a victim during the Balkan wars and for attending the funeral of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic died in 2006 in The Hague, where he was about to stand trial for war crimes.

The Academy confirmed that Leandoer and Sundstrom had left the Nobel committee, which until today was comprised of four members of the Swedish Academy and five external members.

“We are grateful for the significant effort they made during the year and we are now reviewing how the work of the Nobel Committee will be organised for the 2020 Nobel Prize in literature, “ Mats Malm, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, said in a statement.

Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Giles Elgood

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