Nobel literature prize panel's head resigns over harassment controversy

Sara Danius talks to the media as she leaves after a meeting at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm

Sara Danius talks to the media as she leaves after a meeting at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm Credit Reuters

The head of the Swedish Academy that selects the victor of the Nobel prize for literature has resigned amid a growing crisis over the body's handling of sexual harassment allegations made against a man with close links to the institution. Ms Danius, the first women to head the Swedish Academy since its founding in 1786, said Thursday: "It is the Academy's wish that I leave my post as permanent secretary".

Last week, three Academy members, Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund, stepped down from the panel after it decided against removing Frostenson from the panel.

The foundation issued a statement noting that "trust in the Swedish Academy has been seriously damaged" and demanding that the group take specific actions to restore that trust.

Members of the secretive academy are appointed for life and resignations are extremely rare.

Arnault is married to the poet Katarina Frostenson, a member of the academy, and together they run a private cultural club, called the Forum, that has received money from the academy.

Another member, Horace Engdahl, said that Academy had confirmed that there was "a problem of leadership".

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Earlier this week, academy member Horace Engdahl, reportedly a friend of Arnault's, lashed out at Danius in a scathing editorial where he accused her of being the worst permanent secretary ever.

In 1989, three members chose to leave their seats empty when the Academy refused to condemn a fatwa against Salman Rushdie following the publication of his novel, The Satanic Verses.

It is not the first time the Academy has faced a wave of resignations.

Meanwhile, Stockholm prosecutors announced in mid-March that parts of the investigation against Arnault - concerning allegations of rape and assault between 2013 and 2015 - had been dropped due to lack of evidence.

Before the departures of Danius and Frostenson, seven of the academy's 18 members were women.

The Nobel Foundation Board sharply criticized the Swedish Academy on Wednesday, saying the group was threatening to tarnish the reputation of the Nobel Prize. "Now it is enough, we refuse to go back", Bah Kuhnke said. It announced Friday that the report is ready and said a press release on it will be sent out next week.

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