Sex scandal casts shadow on Nobel


Stockholm, April 13: A sexual abuse and harassment scandal roiling the committee that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature deepened on Wednesday, as the King of Sweden and the foundation that finances the prize warned that the scandal risked tarnishing one of the world’s most important cultural accolades.
A schism in the Swedish Academy, which has awarded the prize since 1901, erupted into the open last week, the culmination of a scandal that stretches back to November, when the newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that 18 women had accused Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure with close ties to the academy, of sexual assault and harassment.
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 mistreated women at the club and at academy-owned properties in Stockholm and Paris over a 20-year period. It also reported that Arnault had leaked information about the prize committee’s confidential deliberations 7 times since 1996.
The Swedish police have opened an investigation, although the authorities have warned that some allegations are too old to act on. The academy has severed all ties with Arnault and with the club, and hired a law firm to review its past links to him.
Arnault denies the accusations, and Frostenson has refused to step down from the academy, despite calls for her to do so. In a recent closed-door vote, 8 members voted to keep her on the board and 6 voted to oust her.
(Frostenson did not vote.)
Three of the members who voted to oust her – Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund – then announced that they would no longer work with the academy. A 4th member has also threatened to leave.
There is no formal provision for members to resign from the board and be replaced. Even before last week, 2 of the academy’s 18 members long ago stopped taking part and have not been replaced: One left in 1989 as part of a protest over the academy’s response to threats made against the writer Salman Rushdie, and another stopped taking part in 2015, saying that she did not feel she fit in.
“Confidence in the Swedish Academy has been severely damaged,” the Nobel Foundation, which manages the financing and administration of the Nobel Prizes, said on Wednesday in an extraordinary public rebuke.
“It is not yet possible to say how this will damage the Nobel Prize.”
The foundation said that the academy needed to ensure the confidentiality of the prize deliberations; that the process for this year’s literature prize must be “executed in a trustworthy fashion”
(New York Times News Service)