News & Opinion | July 17, 2018 11:40 am

A Look at the Scandal That Canceled the Nobel Prize

Allegations of sexual harassment and corruption have shaken Sweden's literary elite.

nobel prize
The Nobel Prize gold medal. (EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

The Swedish Academy consider themselves an important cultural institution. The members are elected by their peers and once a year hand out the Nobel prize in literature. But in November 2017, it was revealed that the husband of one of the academy members had been accused of serial sexual abuse, in assaults alleged to have taken place over more than two decades. According to The Guardian, Jean-Claude Arnault, a French photographer and cultural entrepreneur, is married to the poet and academician Katarina Frostenson. The couple is also accused of misusing academy funding. Arnault has denied all accusations against him. Frostenson has refused to comment.

The academy was shaken by the revelations. Six of the eighteen members have withdrawn from any part in its deliberations and another two were compelled to do so. With only 10 members, no important decisions can be taken and no new members elected because the statues dictate that 12 members must be present to elect any new ones.

The scandal broke when the Stockholm daily paper Dagens Nyheter published the accounts of 18 women who said they had been assaulted or exploited by Arnault. In two cases, the accusations accounted to rape. Many of the attacks were said to have taken place in apartments owned by the academy, in both Stockholm and Paris. The Guardian reports that Arnault and Frostenson also profited from academy subsidies to an arts club they owned and ran together for many years.