The Birdcage Archives

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Swedish Academy’s Revised Statutes

Hello Gentle Reader

Last week it was announced after their annual meeting, the Swedish Academy, had released its newly revised internal statutes which would both: a) reflect contemporary societies ideals and principles, and b) be the first step in regaining and renewing its position as a pinnacle and focal point of sober probity in Swedish culture, as well as international literary culture. To quote the pro tempore Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Anders Olsson himself, the revised statutes goals are to: “re-establish trust for its activities,” [meaning the activities of the Swedish Academy] and: “produce a modern interpretation,” the already existing statutes, which were codified in 1786, when the Swedish Academy was first formed and instituted as a royal academy by the then reigning monarch, King Gustav III.

The first statute to be codified is a loyalty obligation; or what others might know as a Fiduciary Agreement. The statement is simply, the Swedish Academy expects all members of the institution to keep in mind their membership carries responsibilities, and that all members are to put the academy’s interests and activates, before their own, and avoid any collusion, collision, or conflict of interest between the academy’s activities, and their own personal interests, goals, and activities. Furthermore, the statute outlines, that all sitting members are expected to avoid and not participate in any slander or criticism against the Swedish Academy or a fellow member, and again work within the statutes of confidentiality and do the good work of the academy with honesty and integrity.

This first statute already sets the playing field of how the Swedish Academy plans to curtail and avoid further public scandals, like the spring incident. This statute is aimed primarily at the vocal groups within the academy who choose to exchange words publicly though media channels, interviews, public letters, and other forms of public relations communications. Those members are:

Horace Engdahl
Göran Malmqvist
Sture Allen


Sara Danius
Peter Englund
Kjell Espmark

And only later on, with an attempt at clarifications and accusations, the disgraced member: Katarina Frostenson.

How this will affect the buisness moving forward would be considered clear, but its applications and implementations are still in the infancy stage. The public not have a public dispute and war of words between the academy’s factions, but there is still a bitterness brewing in the broth, and I doubt we’ve seen the complete end of the dispute in a public light just yet.

Following this statute, comes the matter of electing new members. By previous statute measures, the Swedish Academy required twelve members to hold a quorum in order to make major decisions, such as the election of new members. The Swedish Academy wishes to revise this matter, and allow this statute to be bypassed in the event of emergency situations, with the Kings consent to elect new members despite lacking the quorum. This revised statute would therefore break the current deadlock facing the Swedish Academy, and mean they do not require the return of Sara Danius, Peter Englund of Kjell Espmark to participate in passive roles, in order to elect new members.

Finally the issue of expulsion is discussed during these statute revivals. However, the Swedish Academy is still hesitant on discussing the matter with great clarity. When discussing the statute of expulsion prior to this revival, it had appeared the idea was precedence rather than a codified code of conduct, which had swayed the discussion and end result on whether or not Katarina Frostenson should be expelled from the Swedish Academy. Previously only one member had been expelled from the Swedish Academy, and that was Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt; and he was technically expelled twice; the second time, I believe he was excluded from the academy, because he faced criminal charges of treason, as well as a sentence of execution. By this precedence, the Swedish Academy was under the guise that only a member who had committed a grave crime or faced extreme criminal charges should be excluded from the academy. Now, in their revision, the Swedish Academy has stated that a member can only be excluded when they have been found to have committed “clear malpractice.”

What is defined as “clear malpractice,” is still ironically enough: unclear. During the spring scandal of the Swedish Academy, the law firm which investigated the Swedish Academy’s the convoluted business ties with cultural club, Forum, run by inactive member, Katarina Frostenson and her criminally accused (and charged) husband Jean-Claude Arnault; the investigation revealed, Katarina Frostenson accepted financial aid from the Swedish Academy to run the club with her husband, as well as she had broken the statute of secrecy on several occasions, by prematurely releasing information relating to the Nobel Prize for Literature, to her husband. Does this count as malpractice, by the new statutes perspective? If yes or no, the Swedish Academy has not elucidated or enlightened the matter any further, and then what is stated in their documents.

There were many other revisions and adjustments made to the statutes, these however were considered the most important statutes to review and revise. It should also be noted, previously this spring/summer, the King of Sweden, had made a revision to the statutes allowing for members of the Swedish Academy to voluntarily resign, or if they do not participate in the academy’s work for two years, their membership is considered expired and their seat can be replaced. These early amendments are also included in the amendments.

Ultimately the King of Sweden as the royal patron must approve these newly renovated documents, before they take any legal hold or authority or have been granted policy powers. Cultural critics, literary critics, and jurisprudence/legal experts and the public have been fiercely debating the amendments, and believe even with these revisions the Swedish Academy, is either naïve or ignorant to think they are out of the swamp just yet. They have a vast mountain to scale, and a lot of work ahead of them before many will even consider giving them any benefit of the doubt. This has been described at best: an act of good faith and keeping face with the public, and merely a scratched attempt to regain former glory and respect.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

For Further Reading, Please See The Following Links –

"[New] Swedish Academy Statutes," [Note: In Swedish]

Local Sweden: "Swedish Academy publishes new statutes after summer of scandals,"

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