A member of the academy that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature said Wednesday she is leaving the body, the latest person to quit amid sex abuse and financial crimes scandals at the exclusive group.
Jayne Svenungsson, who joined in December, is the eighth person to quit or to be forced off the 18-member board of the Swedish Academy since the scandals broke last year.
Swedish broadcaster SVT reported that Svenungsson left after “careful consideration” and quoted her as saying she wanted to focus on her full-time job as a university theology professor.
The Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary, Anders Olsson, told Sweden’s TT news agency that “it has been an extremely hard year for all of us, I can understand the difficulty she has had as a new member to enter the academy in the middle of this war.”
The scandals have led the troubled academy to postpone the 2018 literature prize, with the intention of awarding it in 2019. The body has elected three new members in recent weeks to try to fill the vacant seats.
The academy’s troubles centered on Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden and the husband of former Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson.
Arnault, 72, was convicted of rape in October and sentenced to two years in prison.
Arnault has denied wrongdoing and appealed the ruling.
The allegations against the Frenchman began in November 2017 when 18 women came forward in a Swedish newspaper with abuse accusations against him.
An internal Swedish Academy investigation found in April that “unacceptable behaviour in the form of unwanted intimacy” had taken place within the ranks of the prestigious institution.
National outrage over scandal
But a fierce internal debate over how to face up to the academy’s flaws in responding to the misconduct divided its 18 members into hostile camps. Several members either left or disassociated themselves from the secretive academy.
Its then permanent secretary, Sara Danius, quit in April at the same time as Frostenson, leading observers to wonder why some of Sweden’s most accomplished women appeared to the taking the fall for a man’s alleged misconduct.
Many people in the Scandinavian nation, known for promoting gender equality, have expressed dismay over the scandal, which has led to accusations of patriarchal leanings among some academy members.
After the sex abuse allegations surfaced, the Academy’s annual funding of 126,000 kronor (about $18,000 Cdn) to Arnault’s cultural centre was immediately stopped. The academy stressed it had not been paid to Arnault personally.
He is also suspected of violating century-old Nobel rules by leaking names of winners of the prestigious award — allegedly seven times, starting in 1996.
“It has been important and meaningful for me to contribute to the Academy’s reconstruction in the wake of the crisis that ironically coincided with my entry,” Svenungsson said, according to Swedish media.