Man at centre of Nobel Literature scandal convicted of rape

Jean-Claude Arnault’s jailing marks a turbulent year for Swedish academy which cancelled its literature prize this year.

Jean-Claude Arnault
Prosecutors had called for a minimum sentence of three years in what was one of the first big trials to come out of the #MeToo movement [File: Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency via Reuters]

A court in Sweden has sentenced a French national at the centre of a sex abuse and financial crimes scandal, which rocked the academy that awards Nobel Prize for literature, to two years in jail for rape.

An influential figure in Stockholm’s cultural scene, 72-year-old Jean-Claude Arnault went on trial last month on two counts of rape relating to incidents dating back to 2011.

In a unanimous ruling, the Stockholm District Court on Monday found Arnault guilty of one of the charges while acquitting him of the other.

“The defendant is found guilty of rape committed during the night between the 5th and 6th of October 2011 and has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years,” a court statement said.

“The injured party has been awarded compensation for damages,” it added.

Prosecutors had called for a minimum sentence of three years in what was one of the first big trials to come out of the #MeToo movement.

Arnault’s conviction came minutes before the academy announced American James Allison and Japanese Tasuku Honjo as winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

#MeToo scandal

Arnault is married to poet Katarina Frostenson, a member of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize.

The revelation of the scandal prompted the cancellation of this year’s Nobel prize for literature – a first in 70 years – and saw seven members of the academy either being forced to leave or quitting in April, including Frostenson.

The scandal erupted in November 2017, a month after rape and sexual abuse accusations surfaced against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.


At the time, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter published the testimonies of 18 women claiming to have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Arnault.

The Frenchman also ran the Forum club, a meeting place for the cultural elite and popular among aspiring young authors hoping to make contact with publishers and writers.

The two counts of rape involved one woman.

According to the prosecution, Arnault allegedly forced the woman – who was in a state of “intense fear” – to have oral sex and intercourse in a Stockholm apartment on October 5, 2011.

He was also accused of raping her during the night of December 2-3 the same year while she was asleep, but was acquitted on that charge.

The trial was heard behind closed doors to protect the victim, whose identity has not been disclosed.

In Sweden, rape is punishable by a minimum of two years and a maximum of six years in prison.

‘Culture of silence’

Arnault has maintained his innocence from the start. He has been held in preventive custody since the end of his trial on September 24 and will remain in jail until the formal start of his sentence, the court said.

His accusers claim the Swedish Academy was well aware of his behaviour, and blame the institution for helping create a “culture of silence” that pervaded Sweden’s cultural circles.

An internal Academy probe had concluded there were conflicts of interest between Arnault and the Academy, and found that several female Academy members and people close to them had also been harassed or assaulted by the Frenchman.

According to Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, Arnault was born in Marseille in 1946 to Russian refugee parents. He arrived in Sweden in the late 1960s to study photography.

He had bragged about being the “19th member” of the Academy, and according to the internal probe, he leaked the names of Nobel literature laureates on several occasions.

Source: Al Jazeera