“Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf has moved to break a deadlock at the scandal-hit committee that awards the Nobel Literature Prize, unveiling a plan on Wednesday to make it easier for members to resign.
The king, whose forbear Gustav III founded the Swedish Academy in 1786, announced the rare employment of his royal powers in a statement released by the Royal Court.
In his statement, the king said: “It is my conviction that the Monarch has authority over the statutes of the Swedish Academy which my predecessor Gustav III established,” he said.
“In the light of recent developments, I am going to consider the need to supplement these statutes, including those concerning the right to exit.”
The Academy’s 18 members are elected for life. But last week, three members announced that they were vacating their seats in protest at a vote not to expel the poet Katarina Frostenson, deepening a long-running conflict at the Academy.
Frostenson’s French husband Jean-Claude Arnault has been accused of sexual harassment, financial improprieties, and leaking the names of at least seven Nobel prize-winners, including the singer Bob Dylan in 2016.
Changing the statutes would allow the three men to be replaced, and might make it easier for Frostenson herself to resign.
The crisis at the Academy began in November when, spurred on by the #metoo movement, 18 women published a letter in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper accusing Arnault of sexually harassing them.
The Academy quickly cut all ties and funding to the French photographer and hired the law firm Hammarskiöld and Co to investigate the accusations against him. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Earlier this spring, Hammarskiöld reported that Arnault had leaked the names of seven Nobel prize-winners, claiming the finding was backed by “seven witnesses which were both trustworthy and independent of one another”.
The firm also reported that amongst other financial improprieties he had failed to declare that he was part owner of The Forum, a cultural venue in Stockholm which received substantial Academy funding.
They also accused him of “improper use” of the Academy’s Paris apartment, which he reportedly treated so much as his own that he attached his name plate to the door.
According to the law firm’s investigation, which has been obtained in part by Dagens Nyheter, the man began secretly disclosing Nobel prize winners in advance back in 1996, when he revealed that the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska had won.
The newspaper says the law firm believes he then went on to leak the names of the winner in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2014 and 2015.
The Academy’s secretary Sara Danius said the Academy would not report Arnault to the police, but on Sunday Swedish police said that he had been reported by another group or individual.
On Tuesday, however, the Swedish Economic Crime Authority said that it did not plan to launch an investigation. In his statement, the King called on the Academy’s members to bring their dispute to an end.
“The conflicts which have arisen within the Swedish Academy are deeply unfortunate and risk seriously damaging the Academy’s important functions,” he said.
“It is crucial that all involved now realise their responsibility for the institution and contribute to resolving the conflicts. For members of the Swedish [Nobel] Academy, responsibility for the institution must always be paramount.””