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Swedish king saddened by trouble in Nobel literature body. Here’s what happened

Three members of the Swedish Academy resigned on April 6 after the committee voted against removing Katarina Frostenson, an Academy member since 1992, whose husband has been accused of sexual misconduct.

books Updated: Apr 10, 2018 15:51 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press
Associated Press
Nobel Literature Prize,Swedish Academy,Katarina Frostenson
Judges on the 18-member committee are appointed for life.(Getty Images)

The resignation of three members of the Swedish Academy that awards the Nobel Literature Prize is “a sad development that I hope will be solved,” Sweden’s king said on April 9.

Carl XVI Gustav, the patron of the Swedish Academy who must approve any of the secret votes by the 18-member body before the result is made public, said the Academy was “thinking the situation through.” “It is a very, very, very important institution, so I am kept informed about developments,” he briefly told Swedish media. He said he was confident the problems at the academy would be solved “sooner or later.”

Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund resigned on April 6 after the body voted against removing Katarina Frostenson, an Academy member since 1992, whose husband has been accused of sexual misconduct.

Swedish media have identified Frostenson’s husband as French-born Jean-Claude Arnault, the director of a Stockholm cultural centre. He was banned in December by the Swedish Academy from attending a Nobel banquet after Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter published allegations from 18 women claiming to have been assaulted or raped by Arnault.

The trio had called for her exclusion. None of the three was immediately reachable for comment.

Although he has not spoken publicly, Swedish media have identified Frostenson’s husband as French-born Jean-Claude Arnault, the director of a Stockholm cultural centre. He was banned in December by the Swedish Academy from attending a Nobel banquet after Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter published allegations from 18 women claiming to have been assaulted or raped by Arnault. He has denied wrongdoing to the paper.

The alleged assaults occurred between 1996 and 2017, according to the newspaper, one of Sweden’s largest.

According to NPR, Dagens Nyheter reported on April 9 that Arnault leaked the names of at least seven recent Nobel winners before they were announced — including Bob Dylan, Svetlana Alexievich and Patrick Modiano.

In March, Sweden’s prosecution authority said the investigation into reported rape and sexual abuse during the period March 2013-April 2015 had been dropped but the probe into other criminal acts would continue. It did not give further details.

The Academy also said last year that an annual funding of 126,000 kronor (approx Rs 10 lakh) to the center had been stopped immediately. The money had been paid to the institution since 2010 and the Academy stressed it had not been paid to Arnault personally. Academy members often attend events at the center including literary readings, academic lectures, dance and music.

Judges on the 18-member committee are appointed for life. In 1989, three judges quit after the academy refused to denounce Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for calling for the death of The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie.

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First Published: Apr 10, 2018 13:48 IST