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Nobel literature award body asks scandal-hit member to quit

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By Reuters

By Esha Vaish

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The body that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature has asked the wife of the man at the centre of a rape scandal to resign from the Swedish Academy as it tries to rebuild its reputation, a member said on Friday.

This year’s prize-giving was postponed after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against Jean-Claude Arnault, husband of academy member Katarina Frostenson, and the academy’s discovery that the names of some prize-winners had been leaked prompted several members to resign or withdraw from work.

Arnault was sentenced this month to two years in prison for rape. He denied all accusations and is appealing the verdict.

Last month, the head of the Nobel Foundation told Reuters it could stop the academy awarding the literature prize if it did not make further changes in the wake of the scandal.

“The academy has unanimously agreed to a resolution begging (Frostenson) to voluntarily withdraw from the academy,” its Permanent Secretary Anders Olsson told Reuters on Friday.

“If this should not occur, we will start a new, impartial investigation of Frostenson’s alleged transgressions of our statues, giving her a fair chance to defend her cause … This is the second part of the resolution,” he said.

Olsson said the academy’s previous investigation had been unsatisfactory and had several shortcomings, including that Frostenson was never part of the inquiry and that the results had been evaluated too “hastily”.

Swedish media have alleged that Frostenson leaked the names of literature prize winners – the subject of heavy betting – to Arnault before they were announced.

Some members also accused Frostenson of shielding Arnault.

Frostenson has not commented publicly and did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

There have been previous calls for Frostenson, who has been refraining from participating in academy tasks, to resign, but she has not indicated any intention to do so.

Olsson said that if Frostenson did not resign, the next inquiry would primarily focus on a stricter application of Nobel rules that require winner’s names to be kept secret before they are formally announced.

“Since Arnault has abused information for his own benefit about candidates for the prize, Frostenson is according to the new radical interpretation of (Swedish Academy) statutes responsible for his actions as if she committed them herself,” said Olsson.

Last week, the academy named two new members.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Stockholm; Editing by Robin Pomeroy/Mark Heinrich)