Group tied to No­bel lit­er­a­ture prize still un­der global spot­light

The Standard Journal - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Jan M. Olsen As­so­ci­ated Press


— There won’t be a No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture this year but the Swedish Academy that awards the pres­ti­gious prize is still in the lime­light.

Jean-Claude Ar­nault, a French cit­i­zen who is a ma­jor cul­tural fig­ure in Swe­den, is at the cen­ter of a sex abuse and fi­nan­cial crimes scan­dal that has tar­nished the academy and forced it to take a year off in its de­lib­er­a­tions.

The 72-year-old had faced two counts of rape for the same woman in 2011. He was found guilty of one rape but was ac­quit­ted of the other be­cause the vic­tim said she was asleep at the time and judges said her ac­count wasn’t re­li­able. Ar­nault had de­nied the charges.

Ar­nault was sen­tenced to two years in prison af­ter the prose­cu­tor had urged the court to sen­tence him to three years in prison.

Yet no mat­ter what the ver­dict for Ar­nault, the Swedish Academy it­self has no guar­an­tee that it will be al­lowed to keep award­ing the lit­er­a­ture prize.

Lars Heiken­sten, head of the No­bel Foun­da­tion, has warned that if the Swedish Academy does not re­solve its tar­nished im­age his agency could de­cide that an­other group would be a bet­ter host. He even sug­gested there could be no No­bel Lit­er­a­ture Prize awarded in 2019 ei­ther — which is counter to the academy’s cur­rent plan to award both the 2018 and the 2019 lit­er­a­ture No­bels next year.

He told the Swedish news­pa­per Da­gens Ny­heter that it was the Swedish Academy — not the No­bel Foun­da­tion — that was go­ing through a cri­sis.

“The ball essen­tially lies on the Swedish Academy’s court,” he said.

The al­le­ga­tions against Ar­nault, who ran a ma­jor cul­tural group in Swe­den that was closely tied to the Swedish Academy, be­gan in Novem­ber 2017 when 18 women came for­ward in a Swedish news­pa­per with abuse ac­cu­sa­tions against him.

Ar­nault is mar­ried to a Swedish Academy mem­ber, poet Kata­rina Frosten­son, who quit the body in April as ten­sions es­ca­lated.

That month the Swedish Academy said an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions found that “un­ac­cept­able be­hav­ior in the form of un­wanted in­ti­macy” had taken place within the ranks of the pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tion.

But a fierce in­ter­nal de­bate over how to face up to the academy’s flaws in re­spond­ing to the mis­con­duct di­vided its 18 mem­bers — who are ap­pointed for life — into hos­tile camps. Sev­eral mem­bers ei­ther left or dis­as­so­ci­ated them­selves from the se­cre­tive academy.

The first woman to lead the body, Sara Da­nius, also quit in April, lead­ing ob­servers to won­der why some of Swe­den’s most ac­com­plished women ap­peared to the tak­ing the fall for a man’s al­leged mis­con­duct.

Many peo­ple in the Scan­di­na­vian na­tion, which is known for pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­ity, have ex­pressed dis­may over the scan­dal, which has led to ac­cu­sa­tions of pa­tri­ar­chal lean­ings among some academy mem­bers.

In May, the Swedish Academy post­poned the 2018 prize with the in­ten­tion of award­ing it in 2019.

/ Fredrik Sand­berg/TT News Agency via AP, File

Jean-Claude Ar­nault ar­rives at court for the start of pro­ceed­ings in Stock­holm. Ar­nault is at the cen­ter of a scan­dal that has forced the lit­er­a­ture prize to take a year off.

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