‘Not all traditions are worth preserving’: ousted Swedish Academy head Sara Danius

The ousted secretary of the Swedish Academy has issued a defiant statement positioning herself as battling for gender equality, and against cliquey, self-serving arrogance.

'Not all traditions are worth preserving': ousted Swedish Academy head Sara Danius
Sara Danius's defiant statement was sent to TT on Friday afternoon. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
“I accepted the post of Permanent Secretary because I felt support for an ambition to gently but deliberately modernize the Academy,” she wrote in a statement sent to Sweden's TT news agency and published by the Expressen newspaper
Her comments, framed as a vision of what the Academy should be, contained a veiled attack against the group of male Academicians who had forced her out
“The Swedish Academy should be a force which clearly works against anachronistic power relations or statements which degrade women,” she wrote.  
“Ethics must be placed on the highest pedestal, and strict rules for decision making, conflicts and confidentiality must be observed and followed. Crimes and cheating must be prosecuted and reported to the law enforcement authorities.” 
She suggested that her enemies within the Academy had appealed to the institution's traditions to prevent change and deny accountability. 
“To protect what you've inherited should not become arrogance and distance from the wider society,” she wrote. “The tendency to cliquishness has no place in today's world.” 
“Not all traditions are worth preserving.”

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Sara Danius, former head of Swedish Academy, dies aged 57

Author, literary scholar and former Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Sara Danius has died at the age of 57.

Sara Danius, former head of Swedish Academy, dies aged 57
Sara Danius in 2013. Photo: Bertil Enevåg Ericson / TT

Danius passed away on Saturday morning after a long illness, Swedish media including SVT reported.

“The family deeply mourns her passing and looks back on her life with great gratitude, pride and joy,” her family said in a statement provided to TT.

A professor of literature at Stockholm University and a prominent essayist, Danius published a series of essay collections.

She was best known for her time in the Swedish Academy, however.

After becoming a member in 2013, Danius was later chosen as Permanent Secretary in 2015 – the first woman ever to hold the prestigious post.

”There was a shimmer around her, stylistically and intellectually. The Swedish cultural world will be poorer without her. My thoughts go to her closest family, it is a terrible loss,” Dagens Nyheter culture editor Björn Wiman said in the newspaper’s report of her passing.

Born in 1962, Danius began her career as a journalist before switching to academic studies in the 1990s. She earned her doctorate degree from Uppsala University in 1999 and was appointed Professor of Aesthetics at Södertörn University in 2008.

She became a professor of literature at Stockholm University in 2013, the same year she was chosen as a member of the Swedish Academy.

As Permanent Secretary, she was the voice and face of the body that awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature to Belarussian journalist Svetlana Alexievitch, US songwriter Bob Dylan and British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. 

She resigned in 2018 in the wake of a scandal that emerged from the #MeToo movement to halt sexual abuse, and forced the Academy to postpone awarding the literature prize that year

She later described the events as “one of the biggest culture scandals ever in modern Swedish history”. 

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