Lars Heikensten, the head of the Nobel Foundation, warned of “drastic steps” on Friday if the Swedish Academy does not take additional steps to rectify the sex scandal.
“If things continue in this way, and if they don’t manage to regain legitimacy, then we might be forced to take drastic steps. One of those steps could be asking permission to have some other organization being responsible for the prize,” Heikensten said in an interview with Reuters.
The Swedish Academy was rocked by mass resignations after 18 women accused Jean-Claude Arnault, a 72-year-old Frenchman who was an influential figure on Stockholm's cultural scene for decades, of sexual harassment, violence and rape.
Arnault has denied all of the accusations against him. He appeared in court earlier this month to face charges relating to two counts of rape of the same woman in 2011. Following his trial, Stockholm District Court granted the prosecutor's request to have him remanded pending the final verdict. The decision means it is likely the court will find him guilty of at least one instance of rape.
The scandal rocked the Swedish Academy due to its long-standing and close ties to Arnault, who is married to member Katarina Frostenson and occasionally boasted about being the “19th member” of the institution.
An internal investigation by the Academy found that several members, as well as wives and daughters of members, had also experienced “unwanted intimacy” from the accused. However, disagreements on how to deal with the accusations sowed deep discord among members.
Six of them resigned or took a hiatus in the wake of the row, including its first female permanent secretary Sara Danius, while the awarding of the 2018 Nobel Literature Prize was postponed until 2019.
Heikensten and the Nobel Foundation had previously called on the Swedish Academy to create a new prize committee that would replace members tainted by the sex assault crisis with outside experts. The Academy rebuffed the call.
On Friday, Heikensten said “things don’t look that good” for the Academy. If its members cannot properly address the scandal, he said that there may be no Nobel Prize in Literature in 2019.
“We certainly hope that the Swedish Academy will be able to give out the prize in 2019 and we’re working as hard as we can on that,” he told Reuters. “But if things are not dealt with properly reasonably soon… most likely, in that case, there will be a postponement again but that would be very unfortunate.”
Four writers have been shortlisted for 'the new Nobel Literature Prize', which was created by journalist Alexandra Pascalidou as a response to the Academy scandal.