Nobel literature scandal deepens as Jean-Claude Arnault is charged with rape

A Swedish state prosecutor has brought two charges of rape against the man at the center of a scandal that has forced the Swedish Academy to cancel the award of the Nobel Prize for literature in 2018.

Well-known photographer Jean-Claude Arnault is now facing charges of rape, Swedish prosecutors announced on Tuesday, over six months after 18 women publicly accused him of harassing or raping them in Sweden's reputable Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

The charges are the result of a preliminary investigation into the allegations against Arnault, who is married to the poet Katarina Frostenson, a member of the Swedish Academy that manages the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

District prosecutor Christina Voigt said on Tuesday that Arnault had been charged with two counts of rape against a woman in Stockholm in 2011.

The woman's attorney, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, told the dpa German news agency in a statement that her client was "relieved and satisfied" with the decision to press charges.

"My assessment is that evidence is robust," Voigt said in a statement.

Allegations denied

The 71-year-old Arnault denies these charges, as well as separate claims that he leaked the names of Nobel prize-winners ahead of the official announcement.

"He maintains that he is completely innocent of the allegations," Bjorn Hurtig, Arnault's lawyer, told Reuters on Tuesday.

"I do not share the prosecutor's view that the evidence is robust. Accounts differ, there is no technical evidence, there are no direct witness accounts and the events are a long time in the past."

Read moreOpinion: Literature Nobel Prize delay gives Swedish Academy time to think


The Swedish Academy is in charge

The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III on the model of the Académie Française. His aim was to promote the Swedish language and literature. Since 1901, the Academy, called "De Aderton" (the eighteen) for its 18 seats, has awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The jury makes its decision in October, and the award ceremony is held on Alfred Nobel's birthday, on December 10.


A lengthy procedure

Appointed for life, the members of the Academy are Swedish authors, literature experts and linguists, historians, as well as a famous lawyer. The preliminary preparations start a year before the winner is picked. The first official action in the selection process usually takes place in September of the previous year.


The Nobel Committee's role

Every year, usually in September, the Nobel Committee sends about 700 invitation letters to "persons who are qualified to nominate for the Nobel Prize in Literature," which includes members of the Swedish Academy, former laureates and literature experts. The committee, headed by author Per Wästberg (photo) has six members who are chosen from the ranks of the Nobel Prize Academy for three years.


The selection process

The deadline for submissions of nominations in on January 31. The Nobel Committee for Literature evaluates the nominations; by April, the number of candidates is reduced to 15-20 people, and a shortlist of five candidates is selected one month later. From then on, the Swedish Academy takes over the procedure.


Reading, debating, deciding

The Academy then receives the list of five candidates from the Committee. The Academy members spend the summer reading, debating and writing reports. They meet to discuss the literary achievements of the candidates in September.


The winner

In early October, the Academy members select and announce the winner, who must have received more than half of the votes. In 2017, Japan-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro (photo) took home the award endowed with about 800,000 euros. The remaining nominees are to be kept secret for 50 years.

Prosecutors closed another preliminary investigation into other abuse allegations against Arnault made in March due to insufficient evidence and expiration of the statute of limitations.

Related Subjects

In addition to harassment and rape accusations, Swedish media also claimed Arnault bullied his victims into silence by threatening to use his contacts with the Academy and other influential people to "blacklist" them. 

The scandal prompted eight academics to de facto resign from the Swedish Academy, a post that had previously been awarded for life. Faced with the outcry further fueled by the #MeToo movement, the committee decided to postpone awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018, announcing it would be awarding two in 2019 instead, as it needed time to restore public trust.

The academy is in recess until September, but at present only 10 of the 18 members are active, while four seats are vacant following recent resignations in the wake of the scandal.

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Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf speaking on the controversy ...

sb/eg (dpa, Reuters)