STOCKHOLM: The Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize, appointed a new head last Friday as a sexual harrassment scandal rocked the prestigious institution.
Two members, including permanent secretary Sara Danius, resigned last Thursday over a controversy that has divided the academy into two camps.
The scandal centers on allegations by 18 women that they had been harassed and physically abused by Jean-Claude Arnault, the French husband of Academy member Katarina Frostenson. He denies the allegations.
Anders Olsson, a writer and professor of literature, said on Sweden’s SR radio that he had been appointed to the post on a “temporary basis.”
Danius, the first woman to head the body since its founding in 1786, said last Thursday that “it is the Academy’s wish that I leave my post as permanent secretary.”
“I would have liked to have continued, but there are other things to do in life,” she added.
She also said she was also leaving the academy. Technically, the body’s 18 members are appointed for life and cannot resign, but they can choose not to participate in the academy’s meetings and decisions.
Katarina Frostenson, meanwhile, also announced she would no longer take part in the academy’s work.
The Swedish Academy, which had subsidized her husband’s cultural club Forum in Stockholm for many years, cut all ties with his establishment—a key meeting point for the country’s cultural elite—in November after the allegations emerged.
The academy, meanwhile, is conducting an internal investigation into the allegations amid fears that its global reputation and the standing of its Literature prize could be tarnished.
“This is devastating for the reputation of the Nobel prize,” Mattias Berg, who covers cultural affairs for SR radio, told Agence France-Presse.
“It seems the Nobel prize for literature, the most important prize for literature in the world, is awarded by an academy that shows nothing but a lack of judgement and integrity,” he added.
The Swedish Academy, which comes under the direct patronage of the Swedish king, is traditionally very discreet, with its meetings and decisions normally shrouded in secrecy.
The other Nobel prizes—for medicine, physics, chemistry, economics and peace—are decided by other institutions in Sweden and Norway.