Swedish king wants to let Nobel literature selectors resign

Apr 18, 2018

Sweden's king wants to change the statutes of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize each year, to allow its life-appointed board members to resign

STOCKHOLM — Sweden's king said Wednesday he wants to change the rules of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize each year, to allow board members to resign even though they are appointed for life.

"The number of members who do not actively participate in the Academy's work is now so large that it is seriously risking the Academy's ability to fulfill its important tasks," King Carl XVI Gustav said in a statement issued via the palace. He said he has initiated a consultation with the academy, but didn't provide a timeframe.

The permanent secretary, Sara Danius, stepped down last week amid turmoil at the academy over the alleged sexual misconduct of a man married to an academy board member, Swedish poet Katarina Frostenson.

Frostenson left the academy when Danius withdrew. A week earlier, three male members had resigned over the academy's vote not to remove Frostenson.

Members of the 18-seat board now are not technically permitted to leave, and there is no mechanism for dealing with it if they do.

The king — the academy's patron, who must approve any of its secret votes — said Wednesday "in Swedish and international law, anyone who no longer wishes to be a member of an association should be able to withdraw." That "should also apply to the Swedish Academy," he said.

In gender-neutral Sweden, it was also a surprise that three male cultural figures — Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund — would demand that a woman — Frostenson — be ousted from a Nobel-awarding committee for the alleged actions of her husband, who has been accused of sexual misconduct and leaking Nobel winners' names.

When quitting, Danius, 56, a Swedish literature historian at Stockholm University, said the turmoil at the academy has "already affected the Nobel Prize quite severely."

The Nobel Foundation earlier criticized the academy, saying the group was threatening to tarnish the reputation of the Nobel Prize.

It noted that "trust in the Swedish Academy has been seriously damaged" and demanded that the group take specific actions to restore that trust.

The king earlier had made similar statements, saying the resignations "risked seriously damaging" the academy.


Olsen contributed from Copenhagen, Denmark.