In rare move Swedish Academy head resigns amid Nobel literature prize scandal

The entrance to the Alfred Nobel Museum, in Stockholm. (Photo: Getty Images)
The entrance to the Alfred Nobel Museum, in Stockholm. (Photo: Getty Images)

Stockholm - The head of the Swedish Academy that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature resigned on Thursday after an internal dispute at the prestigious institution brought criticism from the Nobel board and concerns from Sweden's king.

Sara Danius announced her decision after a three-hour meeting of academy members in central Stockholm. Danius said she had lost the 18-member academy's confidence, but would not comment on whether a vote was held to remove her as permanent secretary.

The crisis started last week after three male members resigned over the academy's vote not to remove a female colleague. The woman's husband is embroiled in sexual misconduct allegations and accusations he leaked the names of Nobel winners in advance.

Academy members are appointed for life and resignations are extremely rare.

In gender-neutral Sweden, it was also a surprise that three male cultural figures — Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund— would demand that a woman — Swedish poet Katarina Frostenson — be ousted from a Nobel-awarding committee for her husband's alleged actions.

Danius, 56, a Swedish literature historian at Stockholm University, said the turmoil at the academy has "already affected the Nobel Prize quite severely."

The Nobel Foundation Board sharply criticized the Swedish Academy on Wednesday, saying the group was threatening to tarnish the reputation of the Nobel Prize.

The foundation issued a statement noting that "trust in the Swedish Academy has been seriously damaged" and demanding that the group take specific actions to restore that trust.

Swedish Carl XVI Gustav said the same day that the resignations "risked seriously damaging" the academy and all involved needed to "realize their responsibility for the institution and contribute to resolving conflicts."

The king is the academy's patron, and must approve any of its secret votes before they are made public. The king said he will consider new rules for members to withdraw.

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