September 27, 2018
Jean-Claude Arnault, husband of Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson, is on trial for allegations of rape
by Simon Reichley
In April of this year, the Swedish Academy, which determines the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was thrown into utter disarry, when Jean-Claude Arnault, husband of Academy member Katarina Frostenson, was accused of sexual harassment and/or rape by eighteen women. Frostenson’s refusal to step down in light of the allegations, and the Academy’s decision not to remove her from her post, led to the immediate departure of several academy members, including Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark, and Peter Englund. This was followed by a decree from the King of Sweden, King Carl XVI Gustaf, modifying the terms of members lifetime appointments, and ultimately the postponement of the 2018 prize in literature.
It’s been a real mess–real Blåsväder, if you will–but a necessary mess, a reckoning with the kinds of entrenched elitism, sexism, and alienation that so often accompany institutions such as the Academy (see our own country’s revolting confrontation with an anti-democratic deliberative body composed of elitist lifetime appointees). That was apparent in the demonstrations that followed the ouster of Prof Sara Danius, in which protestors lambasted the Academy for shifting blame from an accused rapist (Arnault) onto the first female leader of the Academy, and that accused rapists wife. It was also apparent in the temporary establishment of The New Academy, an open, transparent, and more democratic literary prize, which we wrote about last week.
And now, it is apparent in the criminal trial of Arnault, which began last week. Arnault was first charged with two counts of rape in July, with Christina Voigt assuming the role of lead prosecutor. According to Voight, the evidence against Arnault was “robust,” in the case at hand. Investigations to other allegations were closed earlier in the year due to lack of corroborating evidence and the expiration of statutes of limitation.
According to a report from the Associated Press, published on DW.com, in her closing remarks on Monday, Voigt called for Arnault to serve a three year prison sentence, and that he should be held in custody during the trial. Arnault continues to categorically deny the allegations, in keeping with the norms and traditions of cultural and political elites all over the world.
Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.