Sun, Apr 08, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Swedish Academy faces assault scandal

CRUMBLING INSTITUTION?A former chairman of the Nobel Committee accused other members of the academy of putting ‘friendship ahead of responsibility and integrity’

AFP, STOCKHOLM

Three prominent members of the Swedish Academy on Friday stepped down in protest at close ties between the institution, which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature, and a high-profile man accused of sexual assault.

The academy has been reeling since it was revealed as part of the MeToo campaign in November that several members, as well as members’ wives and daughters, had allegedly been assaulted by the well-known figure at the center of the scandal.

The Dagens Nyheter newspaper broke the news, publishing the testimony of 18 women claiming to have been assaulted or raped by one of the most influential figures in Stockholm’s cultural scene.

The academy has since cut all ties with the man, who has not been publicly identified. However, his identity is generally known by the public as he is a high-profile person in cultural circles.

The alleged instances of sexual assault occurred between 1996 and 2017, according to Dagens Nyheter.

One of the resigning members, Peter Englund, said that the scandal has deeply divided the Swedish literary world.

“Over time, a crack that appeared has continued to grow,” he said in a letter to Aftonbladet, adding that academy permanent secretary Sara Danius had been subject to “unjustified” criticism.

The fallout on Friday continued as King Carl XVI Gustaf was informed of developments, while Nobel Foundation director-general Lars Heikensten expressed concern over a “serious and difficult situation.”

Along with Englund, members Klas Ostergren and Kjell Espmark on Thursday decided to step down after the group’s regular meeting at a Stockholm restaurant.

“It is with great sadness that after 36 years working at the academy, including 17 as chairman of the Nobel Committee, I feel forced to make this decision,” Espmark said in a letter to the media. “When prominent academy members put friendship ahead of responsibility and integrity, I can no longer participate in its work.”

Ostergren condemned “a betrayal of the founder and his great protector,” referring to the academy’s founder, Swedish King Gustav III, and inventor Alfred Nobel, who left part of his fortune to the institution.

The three men are lifetime members and cannot technically resign, but there is nothing forcing them to attend meetings. Of the academy’s 18 members, five are no longer active after two women, Kerstin Ekman and Lotta Lotass, went on leave for several years.

Dagens Nyheter culture editor Bjorn Wiman said that the resignations are “a disaster” for an academy “in ruins.”

“The tower of Babel is crumbling,” Aftonbladet culture editor Asa Linderborg said.

The allegations against the man were first revealed as part of the MeToo campaign exposing sexual misconduct, which began in Hollywood and went on to shake artistic, media and political circles in Sweden, one of the most gender equal countries in the world.

In March, the Swedish Prosecution Authority announced that part of the investigation into claims of alleged rapes and assaults between 2013 and 2015 had been called off, as the statute of limitation had passed or due to lack of evidence.

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