The mysteries of Jean-Claude Arnault, accused of the first grand trial of the #metoo era
This French artist, tried for rape from Wednesday in Stockholm, had become a celebrity in Sweden, where he lives for fifty years.
This is the first big trial of the #metoo era. On the dock in Stockholm, Wednesday 19 September: a Frenchman. Unknown in his country of origin, Jean-Claude Arnault, 72, is a celebrity in Sweden, where he lives for fifty years. The man is not only the husband of the poet and academician Katarina Frostenson or the former artistic director of the Forum, a popular scene of the Stockholm elite. He is also at the origin of the resounding scandal which annihilated the Swedish Academy, institution founded in 1786 by the king Gustav III on the model of the French Academy and charged since 1901 to award the Nobel prize of literature, of which the 2018 edition had to be postponed due to historical crisis.
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The case erupted on November 21, 2017. In an article in the daily Dagens Nyheter ( DN ), eighteen women accused the French of rape and sexual assault. The facts would have been between 1996 and 2007. Some took place in Stockholm. Others in the Paris pied-à-terre of the Academy, an apartment in the Rue du Cherche-Midi, which Jean-Claude Arnault manages and privatized, by sticking a label with his name on the door.
A case quickly suffocated
Of the eighteen women, four testify openly. Among them, the essayist Gabriella Hakansson, 50, who lives in Malmö, in the south of the country. In autumn 2007, they are invited to the same evening in Stockholm. "He saw me, walked towards me. We barely exchanged a few words and he grabbed me by the crotch. In shock, she slaps him. The gens around are turning around . "Some shook their heads, others sneered. We knew him. Only his companion, jurist, ignores the identity of his attacker: "He proposed to break his face. I told him to give up, that he was known, that I did not want to cause any problems, "she breathes.
Ten years later, after the publication of the DN article, Gabriella Hakansson decides to file a complaint with several of the accusers. There are eight in all. Seven of the complaints will be dismissed, the facts were prescribed, or the evidence deemed insufficient. There remains one, judged from Wednesday, September 19, by the court of Stockholm. The complainant, who chose to remain anonymous, accuses Arnault of having raped her twice in October and December 2011.
The affair could have burst much earlier. As early as 5 April 1997, an article in the tabloid Expressen , Sexterror i kultureliten - "Sexual terror in the cultural elite" had already revealed the practices of the French. The newspaper reports that an artist, a few months earlier, sent a letter to the Swedish Academy, to the Culture Directorate in Stockholm and to the Regional Council, all of whom subsidize the Forum, in which she accuses Arnault of have "forced to have sex" .
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But at the time, the case is quickly stifled. The French is defended tooth and nail by his wife and his powerful friends, many of whom sit at the Swedish Academy. In the years that followed, his prestige only increased. In 2015, he even became knight of the royal order of the polar star. This medal, reserved for members of the Swedish royal family and foreign personalities who "worked for the kingdom's interests" , is awarded by the Minister of Culture, Alice Bah Kuhnke.
"So much to say that the message was clear , laughs Gabriella Hakansson. Even if you dared to speak, it was obvious that nothing would happen. It must be said that the French has sat his power for years playing on pretense and knitting a legend, never questioned, before November 21, 2017, despite its inconsistencies and contradictions.
Versions more or less romanticized
In Sweden, many are convinced that Arnault is a celebrity in France. "I was introduced to him as an opera director. I always thought he had directed one of the biggest scenes in Paris, " says a Swedish writer, close to the Academy, blowing to learn that it is not.
Did he even entertain the lie? Omitted to restore the truth? Even one of his closest friends, the writer Stig Larsson, a figurehead of the Swedish literary scene in the 1980s and 1990s (not to be confused with the author of polar Stieg Larsson), admits he does not know big a thing of the past of him whose innocence he continues to claim. They met at the end of the 1980s in a bar in the Swedish capital. Jean-Claude Arnault "chopait all girls," says the writer. He would come from a wealthy family, he adds:"When we met he was much richer than me, it was he who paid, real French bourgeois! "
In Stockholm, we also remember having heard that he had been raised by governesses, that he would have passed through the Ecole Normale Supérieure and would be related to Bernard Arnault, the boss of LVMH. Yet, verifications made, everything is wrong. According to a source close to the family, Jean-Claude Arnault was born of an illegitimate relationship, August 15, 1946 in Marseille. He was first placed with a nanny and raised by his father, George Pinkstein, a wood merchant, and his second wife. During his childhood, he has no contact with his mother, who stayed with her husband, whose family name he bears. At school, he learned the trade of electrician, before leaving the house at 17, to do his military service.
When he arrives in Stockholm, the Frenchman says to be mounted on the barricades in Paris, in May 1968
His departure for Sweden between 1968 and 1969 is also the subject of several versions, more or less romanticized. In fact, according to the same source, he worked at the time for his father, who had asked him to deliver a load of wood to a client in the north of the country. Jean-Claude Arnault drove away and never returned. Impossible to have the version of the principal concerned. Since November 21, 2017, the couple has disappeared, probably a refugee in France. He expresses himself only through his lawyer, Björn Hurtig, a size of the Stockholm bar, who is content to claim the innocence of his client.
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When he arrives in Stockholm, the Frenchman says he went up on the barricades in Paris in May 1968. The brown hair brought back in ponytail, a leather jacket on the shoulders, it presents well. In the autumn of 1969, Arnault attended the Christer Strömholm photography school, in the district of Södermalm. Anders Petersen, a former student, remembers a "nice guy, very social" , but says he has "never seen" his work. Even today, he continues to present himself as a photographer, even though he has not made any exhibition. His only photographs were published in three collections of poems by his wife.
"A Balzacian character"
The following years, Arnault evolves in the Swedish anarchist milieu and hangs in the corridors of the prestigious Dramatic Institute of Stockholm . He then goes on to direct amateur operas. But his career in opera will be short-lived. His irascible character, his dreams of greatness and his egocentrism push his partners to the end.
In 1978, he met Katarina Frostenson, a blonde beauty born in 1953 and soon to become the greatest poet of her generation. Francophone, translator in Swedish of Marguerite Duras, Henri Michaux or Bernard-Marie Koltes, she will sign twenty books of poetry and several plays.
After the evenings at the Forum, they often meet at Wasahorf, a French brewery where Arnault has his habits. He knows the sommeliers well. He orders good wines. There are always women
They married a few years later and founded in 1989 the Forum, of which he will be the artistic director, until November 2017. Housed in the basement of a residential building on Sigtunagatan Street, in the Vasastan district, the The alternative cultural scene has its heyday after the entry of Katarina Frostenson into the Swedish Academy in 1992. The Stockholm cultural elite then run to listen to Proust or Satie, sitting on plastic chairs, enjoying red wine served in goblets. " It was his masterpiece," says Professor Hans Ruin, who oversees philosophical discussions. There was a cabaret ambiance from the interwar period, or 18th century parlor. "
Stig Larsson is a regular. Göran Greider, a left-wing intellectual who also attends the Forum, describes Arnault as "a Balzacian figure moving in the background" , with which he does not remember "having had a single exchange of intellectual interest in 35 years" . The fact that he was French undoubtedly played a role, he says, with this small group fascinated by France and its postmodern philosophers,
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After the evenings at the Forum, they often meet at Wasahorf, a French brewery where Arnault has his habits. He knows the sommeliers well. He orders good wines. There are always women. While Katarina Frostenson continues to defend her today, their relationship is fascinating. "You could see they were important to each other ," said Ruin. Not only for what he wanted to do, but also for her and her art. "
In her lyrics, she evokes sex, death, the predator become prey and vice versa, prompting today a re-reading of his work in the light of the revelations of DN. And adding an extra piece of mystery to this case, which may not be resolved: the trial should probably be held in camera.