The elite body responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature is handling its own sexual misconduct crisis more poorly than you could imagine.
The committee responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy, is in a self-proclaimed “state of crisis” due to accusations of sexual misconduct against the husband of one of its board members.
The crisis began last November when an exposé by a Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter brought forward allegations of sexual harassment by 18 women—including academy members, their wives and daughters—against the French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, husband to academy member and poet Katarina Frostenson. The misconduct is said to have taken place at the Forum, a cultural club run by Arnault and financially supported by the Swedish Academy. One report on the allegations quotes three people who claim to have witnessed Arnault inappropriately touch the Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria, requiring one security guard to forcibly remove the photographer’s hand. More recently, a . additional claim of sexual abuse surfaced against Arnualt that stretches back to 1996 by a female textile artist working with the Academy. The allegation, despite being brought directly to the Academy’s top administrator, was ultimately ignored.
In a reaction fit for an insular cultural body, where its members are “appointed for life” and not permitted to resign, Frostenson initially refused to step down in response to the charges levied against her husband, and even survived an ouster vote by the Academy’s members with eight members voting for her to remain.
But as the allegations began to pour in, including a claim that Arnault frequently leaked Nobel winners to the press, Frostenson decided step down two weeks ago, along with the first female head of the Academy, Sara Danius. The Nobel Prize’s reputation, said Danius in her last statement, had been affected “quite severely,” adding, “that is quite a big problem.” The resignations followed after a plea by Sweden’s king and prime minister to end their “infighting for the good of Sweden,” as well as the resignations of three members, who left the body in protest for its slow response to the sexual harassment allegations.
While the Academy has severed all ties and funding to Arnault and his culture club, the committee also appears to be severely crippled by lingering internal resentment. One male member of the Swedish Academy, a supporter of Arnault, referred to his colleagues that resigned in protest as “a clique of sore losers” who should’ve kept their mouths shut. “These sorts of indiscretions are more damaging to the academy than a Nobel Prize decision that has leaked out a few days too soon,” he added.
Meanwhile, with an on-going investigation into Arnault pending, the Academy is still attempting to decide the winner of this year’s prize.