Three members have already stepped back after a series of women came forward with harassment claimsby Dominic Hinde / April 12, 2018 / Leave a comment
In Britain and America, it has been most closely linked with the film industry. But elsewhere, the ongoing fallout from the #metoo movement—and a tale of split loyalties in the cultural establishment—has caused a spectacular implosion at the Swedish Academy, the body responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Each September, the white doors of the grand Börssalen hall in the centre of Stockholm’s old town open and the Swedish Academy’s Permanent Secretary emerges to unveil the year’s Nobel laureate. The discussions of the Nobel committee are always strictly confidential. But it is exactly these secretive inner workings which have led the institution into a crisis of unprecedented proportions.
The scandal has its roots in allegations made in a report by the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter last autumn. The story collected anonymous testimony from over a dozen women who claimed they had been harassed at a venue in central Stockholm belonging to a figure close to the Academy.
The venue, which has been described as the Academy’s living room, was frequented by its members and other prominent cultural figures. Immediately, the story raised questions about how much members of the Academy knew and how close they were to the figure at the centre of the allegations.
Although not revealed in the original allegations, the club is widely reported to be the same venue owned by the French photographer Jean Claude Arnaut, who is married to the poet and Academy member Katarina Frostenson. This week the Swedish Economic Crime Agency were revealed to be investigating the financial circumstances of Arnaut’s club, though no charges have been brought relating to sexual harassment.
Before Christmas, the current Permanent Secretary Sara Danius commissioned a firm of lawyers to prepare a private report into the allegations, the results of which were nominally confidential. Some frustrated members have, however, selectively leaked details to the press after an internal vote on taking action against Frostenson was lost. Danius, meanwhile, has said that though she is bound by the vote of the committee, anyone could in theory file the case with the police.
In support of Danius, three members—the historian Peter Englund and the writers Kjell Espmark and Klas Östergren—stepped back from the Academy. Usually, seats at the committee…