A woman takes fall in Nobel scandal


Stockholm, April 14: The first woman to lead the body that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature was forced out on Thursday, a stunning casualty in a sexual abuse and harassment scandal that has threatened to sully one of the world’s most acclaimed cultural honours.
Since 2015, Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the first woman to lead the body, had been the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, which was created in 1786 and has awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1901.
She was ousted on Thursday from her role as Permanent Secretary – the de facto public face of the literature prize – as part of a feud that has bitterly divided the academy’s board.
“It has already affected the Nobel Prize quite severely, and that is a big problem,” an emotional Danius told reporters on Thursday evening, accompanied by an ally, the author Sara Stridsberg, who has also threatened to quit.
The scandal has reached the highest levels of the Government. “It’s up to the academy to restore faith and respect,” the Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, said. “It’s a very important issue for Sweden.”
Arnault is married to the poet Katarina Frostenson, a member of the academy, and together they run a private cultural club, called the Forum, that has received money from the academy.
The newspaper reported that Arnault had been accused of mistreating women at the club and at academy-owned properties in Stockholm and Paris over 20 years. It also reported that Arnault had leaked information about the winner of the prize 7 times since 1996.
The Swedish police are looking into the abuse allegations; Arnault has denied any wrongdoing. His wife agreed on Thursday to withdraw from the academy’s activities.
In the wake of the allegations, Danius, 56, cut the academy’s ties with Arnault, and hired a law firm to conduct an investigation into its ties with the private club. The law firm found what it called financial irregularities in that relationship, and recommended that the academy file a police report, but the academy did not take such action.
The divisions within the august body, which is usually known more for literary prestige than for acrimony, erupted into the open last week when 3 members quit in protest, including Peter Englund, Danius’s predecessor as Permanent Secretary.
On the other side are 2 former Permanent Secretaries, Sture Allen and Horace Engdahl, who have made lacerating statements, calling the reaction to the allegations overblown and denouncing Danius as a weak leader.
(New York Times News Service)