Ex-head of Nobel-awarding Swedish Academy leaves in wake of scandal

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A former head of the scandal-ridden Swedish body that awards the Nobel Prize for Literature has left after reaching a settlement with ex-colleagues, the Swedish Academy said on Tuesday.

A sex scandal involving the husband of another member emerged in late 2017 and mushroomed into the biggest crisis to hit the Academy in its more than 200-year history, forcing a postponement of last year’s Nobel literature prize.

Jean-Claude Arnault, the photographer husband of another Academy member, was jailed last year after a rape conviction. His wife, poet Katarina Frostenson, left in January after an inquiry found she had leaked the names of prize winners.

On Tuesday, an Academy statement said Sara Danius, the body’s former permanent secretary, became the latest member to have to resign her membership, after having stepped down temporarily last year.

Several members were unhappy with Danius’s handling of the crisis, but the statement said that while it had found reason to sack Danius as permanent secretary, the emotionally charged “polemics” that abetted the turmoil were not solely her fault.

“The Swedish Academy apologizes to Sara Danius for its part in this,” the statement said.

Members elected for life

Academy members are elected for life and, up until 2018, had no formal way of leaving. Danius’s contract had no clause regarding her period of notice or severance pay. The Academy and Danius have reached a monetary settlement, the statement said.

Arnault, who ran a culture institute that had dealings with the Academy, was also accused of having leaked the names of the winners of the literature prize on several occasions after learning of them from his wife.

He denied the accusation. He has also appealed his rape conviction in Sweden’s supreme court.

The Academy has since appointed several new members and set up a new prize committee, aiming to restore public confidence and retain the right to pick the winners of the world’s most prestigious literary award.