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The Swedish Academy has announced that the Nobel Prize for literature will be not awarded this year following the biggest controversy to affect the award since its founding more than 100 years ago.

The academy said on May 4 that this year's award will be given in 2019.

The academy, at its weekly meeting in Stockholm, reached the conclusion that it was not prepared to choose a winner this year as it was embroiled in a scandal over its handling of sexual-misconduct allegations that prompted several board members to leave the institution.

In a statement, the academy said the decision "was arrived at in view of the currently diminished academy and the reduced public confidence in the academy."

Eighteen women have accused French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to academy member and author Katarina Frostenson, of sexual assault, with several such incidents occurring on property belonging to the academy.

Arnault, who ran a cultural project with funding from the Swedish Academy, has denied allegations of sexual misconduct as well as of leaking the names of Nobel winners.

Six of the academy's 18 members, including Frostenson and the head of the institution, Sara Danius, have resigned.

The last time the literature prize, established in 1901, was not awarded was in 1943, during World War II.

The academy's decision was backed by the Nobel Foundation, which governs all the Nobel prizes.

"Their decision underscores the seriousness of the situation and will help safeguard the long-term reputation of the Nobel Prize," the foundation said in a statement.

The Nobel prizes were established in 1895 through the will of Swedish industrialist and scientist Alfred Nobel, who created the literature prize and other awards in science and peace.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and BBC
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