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Swedish Academy publishes new statutes after summer of scandals

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Swedish Academy publishes new statutes after summer of scandals
Members of the Swedish Academy pictured on Thursday. Photo: Janerik Henriksson / TT
15:06 CEST+02:00
The Swedish Academy, the prestigious body responsible for awarding the Nobel Literature Prize, has made its new statutes public following a summer of scandals in the wake of sexual assault allegations linked to the Academy.

The new additions update the original statutes, written in 1786 when the body was founded. In a statement, Permanent Secretary Anders Olsson said the aim was to "re-establish trust for its activities" and "produce a modern interpretation" of the existing rules.

After the announcement last week that the statutes had been updated, the Academy published them on Friday

One of the most striking rules states that members of the body should "avoid publicly criticizing the Academy or their colleagues".

They are also called on to put the interests of the Academy before their own, and to "avoid situations where a conflict of duties could occur".

During the fallout after the summer's scandals, at least two Academy members criticized each other openly and by name.

Former Permanent Secretary Horace Engdahl described his ousted predecessor Sara Danius as the worst secretary in the Academy's history, while Danius -- one of six members who left their posts amid the rows -- was strongly critical of Engdahl when she presented a radio programme in August.

The statutes also introduce special circumstances in which new members may be elected even without 12 existing members participating in the election.

Although there were 18 seats, the resignations this summer (and two who left several years ago for separate reasons) meant the Academy was down to just ten permanent members. Since members are elected for life, it was only possible to replace them if they die or are expelled by vote.

Sweden's king had earlier said he was considering "supplementing" the statutes, for example by allowing the replacement of the members who left, in order to break the deadlock. And under the new statutes, the king has the power to allow the election of new members even without 12 members participating.

As for the question of expulsions, the statutes now state that this can only occur in cases of "clear malpractice". In the spring, Danius and others sought to expel the poet Katarina Frostenson, whose husband was accused of sexual harassment or assault by 18 different women.

The updated statutes have sparked debate in Swedish media, with the Culture Editor of daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter writing: "The Swedish Academy is a long way from realizing the depth of the need for renewal it faces after a total collapse of confidence this spring." 

FOR MEMBERS: Let's talk about the Swedish Academy's rapid descent into farce

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