It has been a turbulent week for the Swedish Academy. Last Friday, three members announced that they were leaving their seats in the Academy.
”The Swedish Academy has had serious problems for a long time, and are now trying to solve them in ways that put obscure considerations in front of their own statutes, which is a betrayal to the Academy's founder and its highest patron, not to mention its function of representing brilliance and taste. Therefore I have chosen to not participate in the institution’s activity any longer. I’m leaving the table, I’m out of the game”, he wrote in the letter.
After an Academy meeting Thursday evening, Permanent Secretary Sara Danius announced that she is leaving both the position as Permanent Secretary and her seat in the Academy. She became the fourth member to leave in less than a week.
”I’m leaving the position as Permanent Secretary. It was what the Academy wanted. And I also decided to leave my seat, seat number seven in the Academy. This decision is valid with immediate effect”, Sara Danius said as she left the meeting, which she described as ”tense”.
”I would have liked to continue, but there are other things to do in life”, she continued.
Just half an hour later an announcement was made that also Katarina Frostenson is leaving her seat in the Academy. She has been a member of the Academy since 1982.
”I think all of us understood how serious the situation is. The people who have defended Katarina Frostenson had to take a step back and compromise. And Katarina Frostenson agreed to leave,” Academy member Anders Olsson told DN after the meeting.
The rules within the Academy however, prevent members from resigning, as seats in the Academy are appointed for life. But members can stop participating in activities connected to the institution.
During the last few months the Swedish Academy has been rocked by a crisis, after Dagens Nyheter revealed that 18 women accused a man with close ties to the institution of sexual assault and harassment. The Academy cut all its ties with the accused man, who is the artistic director of a cultural center in Stockholm, which he runs with his wife, Katarina Frostenson.
Since the allegations were revealed a law firm has performed an investigation of each member's ties to the accused man.
The artistic director has also been accused of leaking the names of Nobel Prize Laureates before the official announcement. According to the report the names of laureates have been leaked seven times during the past years.
Earlier during the spring the Academy voted about whether to exclude Frostenson from the Academy, and the result of the vote led to a divide within the group. Eight members supported Frostenson, and following the vote a few of them have openly criticized Sara Danius’ leadership over the Academy.
The three members, Peter Englund, Klas Östergren and Kjell Espmark, who decided to leave their seats last Friday, supported Sara Danius’ work in handling the crisis within the Academy.
Sara Stridsberg, who has been member of the Academy since 2016, last week said that she is thinking about her future in the institution. After the meeting on Thursday she told DN about why Sara Danius decided to leave her position.
”The deal was that if Katarina Frostenson leaves, without giving up her seat, Sara Danius will leave her position as Permanent Secretary. I cried during the meeting,” Sara Stridsberg wrote in a message to DN. She did not want to make any further comments on her future in the Academy.
Now only eleven out of eighteen members are still actively working for the Academy. According to the cultural institution’s statutes, which were written in 1786, new members can only be chosen if at least 12 members are present, which puts the Academy in a precarious situation.
On Wednesday King Carl XVI Gustaf, who is the Academy’s patron, announced that he is considering taking action against the Academy, and said that he will look over the statutes. According to a spokesman for the Swedish Royal Court, the King of Sweden has been informed of Sara Danius’ resignation from her position.
Three members leave The Swedish Academy
Man with Swedish Academy ties accused of sexual assault
Artistic director accused of leaking information about Nobel Prize Laureates