Head of Nobel literature prize panel quits over sex abuse scandal

Swedish Academy chief quits amid handling of sexual harassment allegations made against a man closely linked the institution

The Swedish Academy’s Permanent Secretary Sara Danius and academy member Sara Stridsberg leave a meeting at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm yesterday. Photograph:  Jonas Ekstromer/AFP/Getty Images

The Swedish Academy’s Permanent Secretary Sara Danius and academy member Sara Stridsberg leave a meeting at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm yesterday. Photograph: Jonas Ekstromer/AFP/Getty Images

 

The head of the Swedish Academy that selects the winner 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.

Sara Danius announced her decision yesterday after a three-hour emergency meeting of academy members in central Stockholm.

Danius said she had lost the confidence of the academy, but would not comment on whether a vote was held to remove her.

“It is the academy’s wish that I leave my post as permanent secretary,” said Danius, a 56-year-old Swedish literature historian, and the first woman to hold the position. “I would have liked to have continued, but there are other things to do in life.”

Three members of the academy withdrew last week over the issue, but arcane rules that make appointments for life mean that members cannot technically resign, though they stop participating in activities.

The public row and defections from the academy have raised concerns that the image of the Nobel prizes and Sweden’s reputation abroad could suffer. “It has already affected the Nobel prize quite severely and that is quite a big problem,” Danius said.

On Wednesday, the Nobel Foundation board sharply criticised the Swedish Academy, saying the group was threatening to tarnish the reputation of the Nobel prize.

The resignations come after the daily Dagens Nyheter in November published statements from 18 women who said they had been subject to harassment and physical abuse by the accused man.

The academy has since severed all ties with him and cut grants made to him. It has also launched an internal investigation and enlisted the services of a law firm.

The academy is traditionally very discreet and has been deeply shaken by the scandal.

Of the 18 elders of the academy, seven are no longer active members, and two women have gone on leave for several years.

– Guardian service

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