Written by Grace Mappes
The Swedish Academy is one of the most prestigious literary institutions in the world. Per the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, the eighteen-member academy votes on the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in a secret ballot every year. But this year, in the wake of the #MeToo scandals, sexual assault allegations threaten to tear this centuries-old institution apart.
According to TIME, On April 13, 2018, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, announced her resignation. This follows heavy criticism from the Nobel Foundation Board, which notes that “trust in the Swedish Academy has been seriously damaged” from the academy’s handling of the allegations. When a vote failed to remove academy member Katarina Frostenson, the wife of the alleged assaulter, three male members resigned in protest. Swedish king Carl XVI Gustav also issued a statement, saying that the resignations are “deeply unfortunate and risk seriously damaging” the body’s reputation and activities.
In November 2017, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published the testimonies of eighteen women who claimed they were assaulted by “the cultural figure,” later revealed to be Jean-Claude Arnault—a major influencer in Stockholm’s cultural scene—between 1996 and 2017. Arnault and Frostenson run a private cultural club called the Forum, which had previously received Academy funding. The women claim that the assaults took place both at the Forum and properties owned by the Academy itself in Stockholm and Paris.
It also reported that Arnault had prematurely leaked the identity of the winner of the prize seven times since 1996. The state prosecution has opened an investigation into Arnault and he denies all charges.
Frostenson has since resigned from her position as well, as The Times reports.
However, due to archaic rules surrounding the Academy’s founding in 1786, appointments are lifelong, with no mechanism to resign by one’s own choice, so they just stop participating in events. At the time of writing this piece, only eleven of the eighteen members are active, which leaves the academy and the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature in peril (it takes at least twelve members to hold a vote). Nevertheless, the king, the Academy’s patron, has said he would amend the rules to allow members to resign and be replaced.