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Three members leave the Swedish Academy

Klas Östergren. Foto: VIKTOR GÅRDSÄTER / NOK
Peter Englund. Foto: SIMON HASTEGÅRD
Kjell Espmark. Foto: TOMMY PEDERSEN

Three members have left their seats in the Swedish Academy.

Authors Klas Östergren, Peter Englund and Kjell Espmark sent out notices shortly after one another on Friday. 

The reason behind the departures is believed to be a vote in the Academy, on whether or not to expel member Katarina Frostenson, according to Aftonbladet. Frostenson’s side won the vote.  

Poet Katarina Frostenson is married to Jean-Claude Arnault, the man at the center of a sexual abuse scandal that came to public knowledge last fall.

Klas Östergren made his announcement through Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on Friday morning: 

The Swedish Academy has for a long time had serious problems and now tried to solve them in a way that allows obscure regards take precedence over its own bylaws and that is a betrayal of its founders and its guardian, not to mention its function to serve the motto talent and taste. That is why I have chosen to no longer participate in its work. ’I’m leaving the table, I’m out of the game.’

Author and historian Kjell Espmark followed suit a little while after Östergren. 

When leading voices within the Academy put friendship and other irrelevant considerations before the responsibility of this integrity I can no longer participate in its work”, Espmark wrote in a note to Dagens Nyheter.

Peter Englund, also an author and historian—as well as previous permanent secretary of the Academy—wrote on his blog:
"Decisions have been made that I neither believe in nor can defend, and I have thus decided to no longer participate in the work of the Swedish Academy."

Arnault accused of sexual abuse

The scandal that shook the Academy was revealed by Dagens Nyheter in November of last year. 

Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to Academy member Katarina Frostenson, and who has close ties to the Academy himself, was the subject of multiple stories told by numerous women. What all the stories had in common was that Arnault was accused of sexual assault, and that he had taken advantage of his power and position.

Arnault, who was considered a power-player in the Swedish cultural elite, ran Forum in Stockholm, a stage that has had a major impact on the cultural scene in Sweden. 

Arnault was given significant grants from the Academy to run the club.

Other members in the Academy have come forward and said they knew of Arnault's behavioir, but did not report it. 

Most recently poet Kristina Lugn told French tv station TF1:

"It's true what they say about him. It's true. What he did to young girls. It's true. But the Academy was not involved in that."

Founded by the king

The Swedish Academy is awarding the Nobel Prize in literature each year. 

The Academy was founded by king Gustav III in 1786 and has 18 chairs. 

Two members have already left their seats: Author Kerstin Ekman left after a rift in 1989. Lotta Lotass left the Academy 2015. 

With the three new departures, five out of eighteen chairs are now empty. 

The Academy can’t pick new members for those chairs since membership is for the lifetime of each member, even if he or she decides to leave the Academy. 

Katarina Frostenson has not been seen at any of the Academy's meetings since the scandal broke, Expressen has been told.