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'Unacceptable behavior' found in Nobel Academy

April 20, 2018

After a sexual harassment scandal split the body awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy confirmed "unacceptable behavior" had taken place. The names of laurates were also repeatedly leaked.

Katarina Frostensson und Ehemann Jean Claude Arnault
Katarina Frostensson and her husband Jean-Claude Arnault are at the center of the scandalImage: picture-alliance/C. Hammarsten

The controversy which has continued for months surrounding the Swedish Academy "seriously damaged" the reputation of the Nobel Prize in Literature, the prestigious body announced in a statement on Friday.

The scandal started with 18 women publicly accusing well-known photographer Jean-Claude Arnault of sexual misconduct last November. The French-born Arnault is married to a Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson and the duo wields significant influence in Sweden's art world.

The women claimed Arnault assaulted or raped them. The accusations, which cover the period between 1996 and 2017, were published in Sweden's reputable Dagens Nyheter newspaper in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Also, according to the paper, Arnault bullied his victims into silence by threatening to use his contacts with the Academy and other influential people to "blacklist" them.

Read more: How a #MeToo scandal is rocking the Nobel literature academy

The paper also reported Arnault had repeatedly leaked confidential information from Academy meetings. Arnault denies any wrongdoing.

The photographer's wife, Katarina Frostenson, left the Academy last week, as the body's chief Sara Danius also announced her departure.

Report goes to the authorities

On Friday, without referring to Arnault by name, the Academy acknowledged that "unacceptable behavior in the form of unwanted intimacy" took place but that the behavior was "not generally known" among the members of the 18-seat committee. A report prepared by a legal firm engaged to investigate the problem would be "immediately" handed over to authorities. It was "unaware" of any punishable sexual offenses.

Read more: Nobel literature academy cuts ties with man accused of sexual assault

The investigation "shows that violations of the Academy's confidentiality rules have occurred regarding the work of the Nobel Prize in Literature," according to the report. This confirms indications that the winners' names were leaked. The source of the leaks was not given.

Still no way to resign

At the same time, the Academy said the work on a short list of potential Nobel Prize leaders was "intact" and continuing as usual.

With several members forced to withdraw from the body or leaving in protest over the scandal, the Academy might face difficulties in securing a quorum to decide on the next Literature winner.

The problem is rife with legal issues, as the members of the body are elected for life and cannot formally resign. The Academy is still ruled by regulations made at the time of its founding in the late 1700s.

Faced with the scandal, King Carl XVI Gustaf recently announced changes that will allow members to resign and be replaced.

dj/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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