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article imageNobel figure quits after Swedish body's #MeToo scandal

By Gaël BRANCHEREAU (AFP)     Feb 26, 2019 in World

Swedish scholar Sara Danius stepped down Tuesday from the academy that awards the Nobel literature prize, almost a year after she quit as its permanent secretary amid a sex scandal unveiled by the #MeToo movement.

The academic's resignation is the latest development in an affair that sprang from the movement to highlight sexual abuse, and forced the Academy to postpone awarding the literature prize in 2018.

"I have decided to give up my seat... once occupied by the first woman elected to the Academy, Selma Lagerloef," Danius, 56, said in a statement.

"It has been an honour," she added, without giving a reason for her decision.

In April 2018, Danius was forced to step down as the Academy's permanent secretary, the first woman to hold that position, owing to a scandal sparked by Jean-Claude Arnault, an influential figure on Stockholm's cultural scene.

He was convicted of raping a young woman in October and December 2011, and the academy was caught up in the affair because Arnault was married to one of its members, Katarina Frostenson, who has also resigned.

Arnault, who is French, was accused by 18 women in a statement to respected Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, but has appealed his conviction to Sweden's Supreme Court.

The Swedish Academy had generously funded Arnault's Forum club, which was popular among aspiring young authors hoping to make contact with publishers and writers, and he had boasted he was its "19th member."

Danius, a scholar at Stockholm University, joined the Academy in 2013 and became its permanent secretary two years later.

Former Swedish Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius never flinched from the controversial choice ...
Former Swedish Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius never flinched from the controversial choice of Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize in Literature

As such she was the voice of the body that awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature to Belarussian journalist Svetlana Alexievitch, US songwriter Bob Dylan and British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.

Her departure highlights a rift in the Academy between those who seek to revive it and an ageing male-dominated clique alleged to sustain a culture of silence that had protected Arnault.

It might paradoxically open the door to more female members, as permanent secretary Anders Olsson said Tuesday that three vacant seats would likely be filled by women.

"It is necessary for the Academy's balance of men and women," said Olsson, who is leaving himself because he has reached his position's age limit of 70 years.

Madelaine Levy, a critic at the daily Svenska Dagbladet agreed, telling AFP: "There is a problem of male/female balance, but also one of the member's advanced age," which she said was an average of 73 years.

With Danius however, the Academy was "losing its most popular member, and one of those best known by the public," Levy noted.

The impassioned intellectual is also known for her sense of fashion that brightened up often austere galas in the Scandinavian capital.

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