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5 things to know about the Nobel Prize for literature

May 4, 2018

Academy director and acting permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Anders Olsson, speaks during an interview with TT News Agency, in Stockholm, Friday, May 4, 2018. The Swedish Academy says the Nobel Prize in literature will be not awarded this year following sex-abuse allegations and other issues within its ranks that have tarnished the body's reputation. (Janerik Henriksson/TT News Agency via AP)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Nobel Prize in literature won’t be awarded this year following sex-abuse allegations and other issues that have tarnished the Swedish Academy’s public image. Here are five things to know about the most prestigious international literature prize:

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WHO CREATED THE PRIZE?

The Nobel Prizes were created following a bequest from Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite, who wanted his fortune to honor great achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. The literature prize winner is picked by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. Each prize is worth 9 million Swedish kronor (about $1.1 million).

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HOW MANY LITERATURE PRIZES HAVE BEEN AWARDED?

Since 1901 the Swedish Academy has awarded the prize 110 times. On seven occasions the prize wasn’t awarded — mostly due to war, although in 1935, no candidate was deemed worthy of the prize. The award has also been postponed on seven occasions, as is being proposed this year. Last year year’s winner was Japanese-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.

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HOW MANY WOMEN HAVE RECEIVED THE PRIZE?

So far, 14 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. They include American writer Toni Morrison, British novelist Doris Lessing and Nadine Gordimer of South Africa.

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WHY IS THE 2018 PRIZE BEING POSTPONED?

The Swedish Academy says it is in unable to pick a winner after a string of sex abuse allegations and financial crimes scandals divided the panel’s 18 members. Seven members quit or distanced themselves from the panel. Its permanent secretary, Anders Olsson, says the academy wants “to commit time to recovering public confidence.” It plans to award the prize next year.

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HAVE THERE BEEN OTHER MAJOR UPSETS?

The secretive Swedish Academy never reveals nominees’ names, and there is intense speculation about the likely winner each year. On occasions where the recipient is unknown to a wider public there has been criticism of the academy’s choice — such as in the case of Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer in 2011. In 2016, the academy rattled the literary world by picking Bob Dylan, prompting debate about whether pop lyrics should be considered literature.

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