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Ousted Swedish Academy head gives her side of the story for the first time

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Ousted Swedish Academy head gives her side of the story for the first time
Sara Danius announcing her resignation as Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
16:04 CEST+02:00
Sara Danius, the former head of the Swedish Academy, has for the first time given her account of the crisis which forced it to postpone this year's Nobel Prize in Literature.
In her talk on Swedish Radio’s much-loved ‘Sommar’ programme, Danius described the events as "one of the biggest culture scandals ever in modern Swedish history". 
 
She criticised the majority of the institution's members, arguing that by voting not to expel the poet Katarina Frostenson, they had abandoned the organisation to “an unruly existence in the intellectual chieftains’ Wild West”. 
 
Danius was particularly critical of Horace Engdahl, her predecessor in the role of Permanent Secretary, who in a bitter article in April described her as the person who had “worst fulfilled her duty” of all who had held the post since 1786. 
 
"What should one say about that?" Danius said cooly in the radio talk. “It’s not for former permanent secretaries to say who is best or worst. There is only one judge and that is history itself."
 
"And one thing is clear: history will not be merciful about what today’s Swedish Academy is encountering, especially not to Mr Engdahl, to the extent he will be remembered at all." 
 
Danius said she wondered what had happened to Engdahl over Christmas last year to persuade him to begin campaigning in the Academy's meetings for the law firm commissioned to investigate Arnault’s ties to the institution to call off its work.
 
At the end of November when the scandal first broke, she said, he had fully supported the decision to employ them. 
 
“I wondered then what had happened to Engdahl during the Christmas break. And I still do today,” she said.  
 
Danius described the “disgust and pure revulsion” she felt in November when she first read the allegations from 18 women in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper against Jean-Claude Arnault, Frostenson’s French husband. 
 
“And now the problem had landed on the Permanent Secretary's table,” she remembered thinking. “The #metoo movement was bashing at the door of the Swedish Academy.” 
 
 
Part of the reasoning for the vote to expel Frostenson was that she had leaked secret information to her husband about who was to be voted in as a new Academy member and who was to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. 
 
As for the final deal which saw her pressured to step down, Danius did little to hide her bitterness about it. 
 
“It was a setting-off, a cynical transaction. Or more directly: horse trading [literally 'cow trading']. One side offered a lady, and the other did too." 
 
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