The Birdcage Archives

Saturday 30 March 2019

The Swedish Academy Elects Two New Members

Hello Gentle Reader

The Swedish Academy is working diligently to rebuild its roster to a full eighteen member capacity. Recently the vacant seats: Chair No. 9—formerly held by: Jayne Svenungsson; and Chair No. 13—Formerly held by: Sara Stridsberg, will now be held by the two newly elected members: Ellen Mattson and Anne Swärd. These new appointees will be formally inducted on December 20th (two-thousand and nineteen) alongside the Finnish-Swedish language poet: Tua Forsström.

Gender is an obvious contender and component to the appointments of, Ellen Mattson and Anne Swärd, as the Swedish Academy continually attempts to change its image as a male dominated institution, after recent events and scandal. Anders Olsson, the current Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, has also stated—and attempted to mitigate the conversation away from gender politics—that the two newly appointed members are great prose stylists in their own right, and should help balance the perspective of the Swedish Academy; as both Tua Forsström and Jila Mossaed who are renowned and recognized for their poetic activities. Beyond their prose work as authors, Anders Olsson has credited both, Ellen Mattson and Anne Swärd, as experienced literary assessors, and important readers.

Both the new appointees are best described as writers, rather than academics. However, Ellen Mattson has written more than just novels. She has expanded her writings into the theatre and dramatic texts for radio, and is an accomplished literary critic. Anne Swärd by comparison is a working and living author, and is renowned for her intense narratives and novels. Their induction to the Swedish Academy will be unique and interesting to observe in the coming years.

Their appointments have not gone unnoticed by critics, who feel that the desire to appointment new members based on gender is rather egregious, something akin to the pity diversity hire, where a candidate is chosen because they minority social factors rather than core competencies. Björn Wiman of Dagens Nyheter viewed the inclusions as a slight step down for the Swedish Academy, as he believed the two authors chosen was based on gender rather than competency and merit, and found that neither novelist had truly made a signifigant or lasting impact on Swedish literature or language in the same fashion as Sara Stridsberg, or going further Tua Forsström. Personally, I believe Goran Sonnevi an accomplished poet and academic would be a suitable choice for the academy, but then again as it stands he is not a woman, a matter the Swedish Academy will need to carefully consider as they choose to induct new members: is it based off competency or off social perspective or social pressure?

Currently the Swedish Academy hosts the following members, with a seventeen strong roster:

Chair No. 1 – (Justice) Eric M. Runesson (also a Supreme Court Judge)
Chair No. 2 – Bo Ralph
Chair No. 3 – Sture Allen
Chair No. 4 – Anders Olsson
Chair No. 5 – Göran Malmqvist       
Chair No. 6 – Tomas Riad
Chair No. 7 – Vacant
Chair No. 8 – Jesper Svenbro
Chair No. 9 – Ellen Mattson (to be inducted: December 20th)
Chair No. 10 – Peter Englund
Chair No. 11 – Mats Malm
Chair No. 12 – Per Wästberg
Chair No. 13 – Anne Swärd (to be inducted: December 20th)
Chair No. 14 – Kristina Lugn
Chair No. 15 – Jila Mossaed
Chair No. 16 – Kjell Espmark
Chair No. 17 – Horace Engdahl
Chair No. 18 – Tua Forsström (to be inducted: December 20th)

The final chair to be filled is Chair No. 7, formally held by the former Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius. It has not been announced or decided when this seat will be filled, but there is precedence and speculation that it will be also be filled by a woman to help round out the numbers and ratio of male to female in the academy.

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

M. Mary

For Further Reading—

Expressen :"New members of the Swedish Academy,"

Svt: "Ellen Mattson and Anne Swärd are elected to the Academy,"

Friday 22 March 2019

Rathbones Folio Prize, Longlist 2019

Hello Gentle Reader

The Rathbones Folio Prize has released its longlist for this year’s prize this past Monday on March 18th. The Rathbones Folio Prize—often just shortened to the Folio Prize—is often considered the Booker prize’s rival as a literary award, due to the award being an immediate reaction to the sign that the Booker Prize was abandoning its focus and fixation on literary fiction in favour of popular narratives and fiction. The Rathbones Folio Prize created further distinction between itself and the Booker Prize, by allowing entry regardless of form (short story, novella, or novel), while the Booker Prize has retained its established practice of awarding the prize to a singular novel, and had opened the prize up to any country where the literary work was written in English and published in the United Kingdom—meaning the Rathbones Folio Prize had been available for American writers to win since its inception, long before the Booker Prize had opened its criteria and borders to American authors as well.

Despite its reputation as a rival prize, the Rathbones Folio Prize has failed to make the waves intended to make it a headlining literary prize. Its overshadowed by the Man Booker International Prize, and because it failed to award and take considerations in two-thousand and sixteen, has failed to gain the necessary exposure to be considered immediate and relevant in the literary worlds glitz and glamour. This year, however, the Rathbones Folio Prize has created waves with its longlist, because it has included high profile authors of the recent year: Anna Burns (last year’s Booker Prize winning author) and Sally Rooney, who considered a favourite for last year’s Booker Prize, and would later win the Costa Book Award, earlier this year. Despite its attempt at being recognized as an independent and noteworthy prize of its own merit, the Rathbones Folio Prize still resides largely in the shadow of the Booker Prize.

Without further ado though Gentle Reader, the following is the longlist for this year’s award:

Anna Burns – Ireland – “Milkman,”
Ashleigh Young – New Zealand – “Can You Tolerate This? “
Guy Staff – United Kingdom – “The Crossway,”
Bob Gilbert –United Kingdom – “Ghost Trees,”
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma – Zimbabwe – “House of Stone,”
Eue Prideaux – United Kingdom – “I am Dynamite!”
Georgina Harding – United Kingdom – “Land of the Living,”
Edward Carey – United Kingdom – “Little,”
Nancy Campbell – United Kingdom – “The Library of Ice,”
Chris Power – United Kingdom – “Mothers,”
Alice Jolly – United Kingdom – “Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile,”
Will Eaves – United Kingdom – “Murmur,”
Diana Evans – United Kingdom – “Ordinary People,”
Raymond Antrobus – United Kingdom – “The Perseverance,”
Mohammed Hanif – Pakistan – “Red Birds,”
Tommy Orange – America – “There There,”
Zaffar Kunial – United Kingdom – “Us,”
Sally Rooney – Ireland – “Normal People,”
Carys Davies – Australia – “West,”
Anne Wrote – United Kingdom – “Francis: A Life in Song,”

A survey of the longlist immediately gives on pause to reflect and review the United Kingdom centric perspective that has been established with the collection and consideration of this year’s prizes preliminary list. Of the twenty authors and novelist listed:

Two writers come from Ireland
One writer from Australia
One writer from Zimbabwe
One writer from Pakistan
And One writer from America

Which means the remaining fourteen authors all hail from the United Kingdom. Then again the award should be based on literary merit more then diversity or where a writer hails from.

For now though Gentle Reader, this year’s judges will mull over the longlisted authors as they deliberate the shortlist in the coming weeks and prepare to name the winner in the coming months.

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

M. Mary

Monday 18 March 2019

W.S. Merwin, Dies Aged 91

Hello Gentle Reader

Of the twentieth century American poets, there are few giants and greats. Among their number include the indisputable and transatlantic poets: T.S. Eliot (Nobel Laureate) and W.H. Auden; as well as the great African American poet and memoirist, Maya Angelou; the complicated, the beatnik and bohemian poet of an America liberated, Allen Ginsberg; the divisive, confessional and tragic Sylia Plath; the poet who dances with fire, Sharon Olds; the complex and academic postmodernist Susan Howe; the naturalist and curious commentator of animal life, Mary Oliver; and the divisively uncertain postmodern surrealist John Ashbery, who remains controversial even after his last breath drawn, perplexing and infuriating critics. Among this pantheon of great poets of American literature of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century is: W.S. Merwin, who died March 15th 2019, at the age of 91 in his home in Hawaii.

Since his youth, W.S. Merwin was in possession of two inclinations and interests, which came forth through his talents of language. The first was his enamored admiration for the natural world, where as a child Merwin had been noted taking a keen interest in the natural world, going as far as having conversations with old trees in his family’s backyard. The second was a fascination with links and monuments to the past. Those ever unflinching and fanatical staunch signs of solidarity, who resist the corrosion of time and history, to remain resilient and resisting to the sweet coercion and passing’s, while solidifying with stone like memory of notice and mark to what had existed. In his youth, Merwin showed an innate feeling and talent for language, whereby he composed and wrote hymns for his father, a Presbyterian minister. These talents of his youth and his noted interest in the fragile and withstanding natural world would later shape the poet and writer he would become.

Along with John Ashbery, W.S. Merwin is often credited as being one of the most distinct and defining voices of American poetry and literature in the twentieth century. His poems from the Vietnam War Era and generation gained immediate recognition alongside Adrienne Rich and Allen Ginsberg. Yet, his poetry was all his own, and was renowned for its plain spoken form which was sprinkled with grace and mysticism which came from his interest in Buddhism. His poetry could move between cautious optimism to elegiac forewarning, as he praised the natural world begging in silence to be saved, and yet stationary as it’s ripped up, burned down, chopped up and done away with. Merwin spent a career forcing his readers to find introspection and then understand the world was falling apart around them, but not by some celestial or external chaotic force, but by their own two hands or their own two feet. Despite his environmental insight (or perhaps for it) W.S. Merwin won the Pultizer Prize twice as well as the National Book Award for Poetry, and was named the Poet Laureate of the United States, from two-thousand and ten until two-thousand and eleven.

Throughout his career, W.S. Merwin was a striking and powerful voice for conservation, environmental sustainability, political pacifism and deep introspective philosophical ponderings. His mark on poetry and American Poetry cannot be overlooked or swept aside. His passing though will leave a massive void, which can only be filled by his long lasting and enduring poetic compositions and volumes of writing.

Rest in Peace, W.S Merwin

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

M. Mary

Thursday 14 March 2019

The Man Booker International Prize Longlist, 2019

Hello Gentle Reader

The Man Booker International Prize has released its longlist for two-thousand and nineteen. The longlist contains thirteen novelists and their respective work. The longlist spans both linguistic barriers and geographical boundaries, offering a plethora of perspective from all over the globe. An interesting note for this year’s longlist is the vast majority of the writers and books being considered for this year’s prize have all been promoted and published by independent publishers, which is a testament to what independent and small publishing houses bring to the table when publishing translated fiction into the English language, versus larger publishers.

The longlist for this year’s prize is as follows: [in no particular order]

Olga Tokarczuk – Poland – “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead,”
Hwang Sok-yong – (South) Korea – “At Dusk,”
Can Xue – China – “Love in the New Millennium,”
Juan Gabriel Vásquez – Columbia – “The Shape of the Ruins,”
Sara Stridsberg – Sweden – “The Faculty of Dreams,”
Hubert Mingarelli – France – “Four Soldiers,”
Jokha Alharthi – Oman – “Celestial Bodies,”
Alia Trabucco Zerán – Chile – “The Remainder,”
Mazen Maarouf – Iceland/Palestine (language Arabic) – “Jokes For The Gunman,”
Marion Poschmann – Germany – “The Pine Islands,”
Tommy Wieringa – The Netherlands – “The Death Of Murat Idrissi,”
Samanta Schweblin – Argentina – “Mouthful of Birds,”
Annie Ernaux – France – “The Years,”

On the longlist are familiar names and new names as well. First up is Olga Tokarczuk, the recent Polish breakout novelist who won last year’s Man Booker International Prize with her phenomenal novel: “Flights.” She reappears on the longlist with her most recent translated publication: “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead,” which is hailed as an inverted and twisted mystery novel with an environmental and ecological perspective. The novel also enjoys probing the mystical and slight magical realism with commentary on astrology. “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead,” was slightly controversial in Tokarczuk’s homeland of Poland, as it was viewed by some as promoting environmental or ecoterrorism.

Following the previous winner and returnee, is the (South) Korean novelist Hwang Sok-yong. In recent year, there has been a steady and readily available translation(s) of Korean literature into English, which has boasted and advanced the careers of many, including: Bae Suah, and former Man Booker International Prize Winner, Han Kang. Hwang Sok-yong is not, however, a new name on the international literature stage. Hwang Sok-yong is one of the most well-known Korean writers working in the language today, whereby he reviews and analyses the socio-political climate of contemporary Korea from war to its contemporary divisions and divides, as well as rapid industrialization, urbanization, and strong economic impact in the Eastern world, rivaling neighbours and competitors: Japan and China. “At Dusk,” the novel longlisted for this year’s award takes stock and reviews (South) Koreas rapid industrialization and urbanization from the perspective of an architect and director, which discusses the poverty and uncertainty of the past with its war torn holes, to a glittery glass ridded future of skyscrapers stability and success.

This is the first time (to my knowledge at least) that Can Xue has been nominated for the Booker International Prize for Literature, but this does not diminish her claim as one of the experimental and innovative writers currently at work on the world stage. Can Xue and her works have been nominated, shortlisted, and won a plethora of literary prizes, including the Beast Translated Book Award four years ago. When discussing contemporary Chinese literature it is impossible to overlook the surreal, experimental, abstract and unconventional narratives of Can Xue, which are both praised and despised in China, with some critics stating she is certifiably insane. Her new novel “Love in the New Millennium,” traces the many facets of love—tragic, fleeting, transient, fulfilling, nebulous, and satirical—through lives of a group of woman, who exist during a backdrop of total absurdism surveillance, which normalized a society to accept the mass surveillance and societal paranoia without issue. This coupled with the usual blend of the outright surreal never fails to shock and empower readers to look beyond the tangible and probe the psychologically uncomfortable. As always Can Xue writers with cracking form, pushing the bounds of what can be accomplished in the limitations of literature, and then supersede from there.

Sara Stridsberg is not a new name to this blog or the literary award. She’s an acclaimed Swedish writer, who won the Nordic Councils Literature Prize in two-thousand and seven for Drömfakulteten, which has recently been translated into English as “The Faculty of Dreams.” The novel recounts with biographical acuity and fictional imagination the life of Valerie Solanas the radical feminist icon and author of the SCUM manifesto. The novel has been hailed as one of the best novels of the early two thousands in Sweden. Beyond her literary work, Sara Stridsberg was also once a member of the Swedish Academy, holding Chair No. 13, but later resigned after the scandal from last year. She was an adamant ally, friend and colleague of the former Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, who also resigned last month from her seat with the Swedish Academy. Her recent debuts and foothold in the English language is being welcomed. Her novel “The Gravity of Love,” also received the European Union Prize for Literature two-thousand and fifteen. Her inclusion on the Man Booker International Prize for Literature should be viewed with warm regards and applause.

The French language is represented by two authors who probe the archives and records of the past. First is Hubert Mingarelli with his restrained lyrical novel “Four Soldiers.” The novel in general terms recounts the solace found during wartime, as four Red Army soldiers sit alienated and abandoned in the far nether reaches of the Romanian countryside, camping and waiting for further orders, instruction or direction. The novel recounts with detail, their joys and their cynicism, their uncertainty and their current occupation which brings them ever closer to the shadow of annihilation. Their reprieve is welcomed and anxious, while their testimony is documented to provide trace and evidence of their existence, against the obliterating eraser of time and history. “Four Soldiers,” has been adamantly compared to Mingarelli’s earlier novel “A Meal in Winter,” which was nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in two-thousand and fourteen. The hallmark of Hubert Mingarelli’s styles is highly praised: his restraint and acute sense of detail to offer inclination of larger dramatic events, as his lyricism to offer an engaging and otherwise poetic portrait of events imagined but more than probable. If Hubert Mingarelli probes the microdramatics of a macro historical event, Annie Ernaux instead takes the perspective of history as a form of introspective exploration; after all, Annie Ernaux has made a career of her autobiographical writings, whereby she recounts with great accuracy and detail the personal in reflection of the grand. She has been considered and called one of the most important writers of the French language, and her hybrid novel “The Years,” is being called her magnum opus, her own brief version of: “In Search of Lost Time.” The ‘novel,’ (?) is based around the autobiographical, and recounts Annie Ernaux’s life from her working-class upbringing and childhood, to her years as a teacher, but also as a mother and a wife, but also as a divorcee. The book, however, is praised for its ability to invert and contort the idea of autobiography, as the novel is presented and narrated by a choir proclaiming ‘We,’ before slipping into the third person. The personal and collective are recounted as reflections of each other and waltz around the room without complicating the independence and sovereignty of the two. History becomes tangible, concrete and lived when anchored with the personal narrative, perspective, and memories of one who experienced the march as it happened.

Marion Poschmann is a German poet and writer. Her novel “Die Kieferninseln,” or “The Pine Islands,” was shortlisted for the 2017 German Book Prize. The novel was praised by critics for its unique cross-cultural journey of a, German man who decides put distance between his wife and himself and go to Japan, a place that neither interests him or sparks any joy. Yet while in Japan he traces the footsteps of the great Japanese poet Basho, and makes the pilgrimage to see the moon above the pine islands, while accompanied by a student who is guided by a travelogue devoted to suicide. Its been praised as mordantly humorous and deeply philosophical, as the questions of western thought are juxtaposed by eastern—and more specifically—Shinto philosophy and religious concepts.

Samanta Schweblin is also a returning name to the Man Booker International Prize. The Argentinians first novel: “Fever Dream,” was nominated in two-thousand and seventeen, and was included on the two-thousand and eighteen, Best Translated Book Award longlist. Now she returns with her short story collection “Mouthful of Birds.” The collection is being praised as dreamy, surreal, and unsettling. In sparse and direct prose Samanta Schweblin quickly refracts reality as a tangible and concrete subject, while blending and transcending generic and genre narratives to create a kaleidoscope to present a unique perspective of the world and the individuals who inhabit and experience it.

Juan Gabriel Vásquez, hails from Columbia, a country riddled with strife and civil war, which has just recently reached a shifting compromise of uncertainty that, maintains a loose ceasefire. His novel “The Shape of Ruins,” provides an almost conspiracy aesthetic accountancy of two political assassinations of Columbia’s past, which ripple through time in a informal flux providing a bedeviled portrait of the Columbia that would be. Juan Gabriel Vásquez is a prominent star in Columbia’s literary culture. His novel “The Sound of Things Falling,” won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and was immediately proclaimed as a masterpiece hailing from the Southern Continent of the Post-Boom era.

Alia Trabucco Zerán is the final author coming from South America, with her novel “The Remainder.” Zerán’s debut novel is riddled with history, tragedy and pain which echoes through generations. The story is riddled with the past and the sadness of Chile’s complicated history. This same history equally turns its attention to the personal and the private, which readily ripples forth and throughout. With mordant sense of humour, and a lightness of touch Alia Trabucco Zerán is able to depict the tragedy of history and its ramifications and consequences on future generations. It has been described as a masterful debut.

In his novel, “The Death Of Murat Idrissi,” Tommy Wieringa discusses the complicated world of immigration and cultural assimilation, while probing the loss of identity that can brought on by the lack of unified identity associated with geographical positioning. Yet the novel explores with the darker world of culture and humanity, as two women set forth to their parents homeland only to find themselves engulfed in a exploitive world of human trafficking, and the advantageous opportunism that exists in the power struggle for an individual seeking a better life elsewhere, and those who control the shady gets for those dreams. It’s a novel which carries a heavy social connotations and commentary, and could not be considered more relevant in today’s world than ever before.

The longlist wraps up with two Arabic language writers: Mazen Maarouf who encompasses the dual identity of Palestine and Iceland, and the Oman writer, Jokha Alharthi. Jokha Alharthi’s novel “Celestial Bodies,” describes the national via the process of the private and personal. The novel recounts the lives of three sisters and their family, as they witness the coming of age and development of Oman as a nation in its own right from its own traditions and cultural lineages, into a unique country after independence from colonial rule, all through the microscope lens of ones families love, losses, and triumphs. “Jokes For The Gunman,” a collection of short stories by Mazen Maarouf moves in a completely different direction. The stories have been described, as unsettling, bizarre, surreal, and uncanny. They’re dreamlike in their strange maneuverings, as they recount the anonymous lives, trivialities, and bizarre interactions of people in unknown and unnamed cities, which could be seen or depicted as anywhere. The stories take influence from the early Latin American Boom writers, as they revolted against the absurd violence and strangeness of their own lands, as Mazen Maarouf does much the same, as he recounts and depicts the arbitrary violence with grand absurdity, and with Beckettian or Kafkaesque humour, exploits the absurdity in the illogical, whereby the menace creates a mordant sense of humour in which one can only laugh.

Such is the longlist for this year’s Man Booker International Prize. It is comprised of varying narratives, varying styles, and varying languages and perspectives. It blends both the well-known with the up and coming. New writers are expertly being included along with established winners and former nominated writers. The world of translated literature appears to always be on full display, with this modest depiction to show what treats exist out there, waiting to be devoured with the greatest enthusiasm. There are sadly, obvious omissions from the longlist, including Ersi Sotiropoulos with her novel “What’s Left of the Night,” which I look forward to purchasing along with other books in the coming week(s). The longlist above has also given me plenty of writers to research, review and contemplate on, while I begin to put together a list of books to binge on, before the funds run up once again.

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

M. Mary

Tuesday 5 March 2019

The Nobel Foundation Agrees to the Nobel Prize for Literature

Hello Gentle Reader

As already mentioned the final chapters of the Swedish Academy’s scandal are beginning to end, which will mean the book will soon be closed and written on as a unsightly chapter of the academy’s illustrious history. Through the previous year, the Swedish Academy maintained with great confidence that they will award two laureates for the Nobel Prize for Literature this autumn. The Nobel Foundation, however, viewed the situation differently, going so far as to contemplate that this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature could very well go without a laureate as well.

Yet, through the past few months and late last year, the Nobel Foundation had consulted, counselled, and directed the Swedish Academy to reorganize and rearrange its affairs. The Nobel Foundations Executive Director: Lars Heikensten had even publicly stated the Nobel Foundation would go so far as to consider finding another institution to award the Nobel Prize for Literature. Thankfully the Swedish Academy compromised on the caveats issued to them and will be able to retain its status as a Nobel Awarding Institution.

It should be noted and reminded that one of the caveats that the Nobel Foundation issued to the Swedish Academy with regards to retaining its awarding privileges, is that the Nobel Committee will also be open to five external members who are completely sovereign and separate from the Swedish Academy. These five external members are of course prominent or up and coming critics, journalists, academicians, writers, poets and playwrights in their own right—so they are not completely ignorant or rebellious to what the prize represents. This being said: another caveat has been issued with regards to how the Nobel Committee exists and who sits on it. For the past decade or more Horace Engdahl has been a prominent member of the Nobel Committee, first as Permanent Secretary, and then as a regular member of the committee since his resignation as the Permanent Secretary in two-thousand and eight. Over the past year though, Horace Engdahl has been a polarizing figure within the Swedish Academy as well as the public, due to his blatant use of external media to vent his frustrations of the academy as well as defend his friend and now convicted sexual assault/rapist Jean-Claude Arnault. Due to this, the Nobel Foundation and the Swedish Academy agreed that Horace Engdahl will no longer be sitting as member on the Nobel Committee, and will not have a guiding opinion on who will win the prize. Engdahl will retain his seat as a member of the Swedish Academy.

The newspaper Svenska Yle, has also reported that there have been changes to how the Nobel Committee will conduct its business as well. In years past, the Nobel Committee would draft a shortlist of five authors who they presented to the Swedish Academy as potential possible Nobel Laureates for the year; this shortlist was then read and reviewed; discussed and debated by the academy as a whole, before a final decision was made. Now, it appears the Nobel Committee will only present one potential and possible laureate for review and discussion. If this is true, the future laureates could be considered more controversial then those of years past, as it limits the input, expertise, and advise of all members of the academy, from being able to choose the future Nobel Laureate(s) for Literature.

The Swedish Academy is expected to host a press release later this week (most likely Thursday) to give its perspective on the matter as well.

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

M. Mary

For Further Reading—

The Nobel Prize (Website) Press Release 

DW: "Nobel literature prize for 2018 and 2019 to be awarded this year,"

Politiken: "Two Nobel Prizes will be distributed in literature this year - prominent member thrown out,"

Aftonbladet: "Horace Engdahl leaves the Nobel Committee,"

Svenska.Yle: "This year, two Nobel Prizes will be awarded in literature - and Horace Engdahl will be petted from the Nobel Prize work,"

Friday 1 March 2019

Sara Danius Relinquishes Seat with Swedish Academy

Hello Gentle Reader

The Scandal that left the Swedish Academy in ruin last year is now entering its final stages of closure. The remaining smoldering hot spots have either been extinguished or are in the process of being extinguished. There is no denying that the past year had seen the once magnanimous and secretive royal institution, pushed to the brink of obliteration and implosion. Member vacancy rates were unprecedentedly high, to the point the academy could no longer hold a quorum, which resulted in Royal intervention and an amendment to the statutes, including the statute that membership was for life.

The scandal, however, was a public affair, which tantalized and entertained the public with both disgust and intrigue. The usual graceful and silent veneer of the secretive eighteen members, quickly dissolved, showcasing how human they were in their publicly advertised faults. Each new day brought a new chapter in the ensuing chaos of the scandal. Alliances were formed and allegiances were broken. Two former members are often considered the sacrificial offerings to the scandal:

Katarina Frostenson, whose husband originally caused the foundation to crumble, due to allegations and accusations of sexual assault and nonconsensual sex, which allegedly the Swedish Academy was aware of, and did nothing to dissuade or stop. The allegations grew more intertwined with the academy as the assaults allegedly took place on Swedish Academy owned property, and that Katarina Frostenson had leaked future laureate(s) and Nobel Prize winners to her husband, Jean-Claude Arnault. Further issues grew, with the fact that the Swedish Academy had been funding the Forum, a cultural club owned and operated by Jean-Claude Arnault and Katarina Frostenson, which has been called a severe ethical violation and conflict of interest. Needless to say, Jean-Claude Arnault was formally charged with sexual assault and was convicted of two counts, whereby he is serving his sentence in prison. Katarina Frostenson, however, bitterly refused to rescind her seat, until after she had received financial compensation from the academy as a whole, despite the fact, via two different external investigations had proven she had broken the statute of secrecy on multiple occasions. She has since resigned from her chair, earlier this year.

Sara Danius, was the former Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, when the scandal first broke out. As the public face and voice of the Swedish Academy, it was her responsibility to be the media relations representative of the academy as it wished to assure the public the issue was being handled internally and would be resolved without complications. Sadly, by the spring of two-thousand and eighteen, the scandal had erupted and no internal governance was in place to contain the contamination which had spewed forth. Sara Danius, as Permanent Secretary, was immediately met with mutiny by members of the Swedish Academy: Horace Engdahl, Sture Allen, and Goran Malmqvist, who publicly denounced and decried her as a failure in her position; and from there the dogs of war had been released. As the scandal grew increasingly out of control, and the academy was pushed to the brink of obliteration, it became apparent that the two warring sides needed to compromise. It was agreed, that Katarina Frostenson was to recuse herself from the academy’s work (not formally resign) and Sara Danius would relinquish her position as Permanent Secretary. Danius not only relinquished her position but also formally recused herself from the academy’s work, at which point Anders Olsson became the pro-tempo Permanent Secretary.

Now almost year later, Sara Danius has decided to also formally resign from the Swedish Academy. The decision has not been made entirely clear, but it has been reported that Anders Olsson will soon be stepping down as the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy due to age, and Sara Danius had shown an interest in reclaiming the position she formally held. The academy is said to have declined. Danius accepted the motion as is and has decided to formally resign from the academy, which also includes financial easement.

The Swedish Academy now has three seats sitting vacant:

Chair No. 7 – Formally held by Sara Danius
Chair No. 9 – Formally held by Jayne Svenungsson
Chair No. 13 – Formally held by Sara Stridsberg

Chair No. 18 – Is currently elected to: Tua Forsström – though her induction does not take place until December 20th of this year.

In a statement, Anders Olsson has said all three remaining vacant seats will be filled by women.

It is sad to see Sara Danius’s role with the Swedish Academy so quickly dismissed and painted over. As Permanent Secretary Sara Danius relished and thrived in the role of media relations, though the decision to choose Bob Dylan as a Nobel Laureate (though not her decision to make singularly), was controversial and not appreciated by the literary community. Yet, her handling of the situation was impeccable, though often challenging. In the end, Sara Danius’s role and function within the Swedish Academy has expired, and she will move on to other ventures. When asked about the current reputation of the academy, she had said it will most likely take ten years for it to regain its full integrity back, as the damage has rippled and been viewed globally.

This my Dear Gentle Readers, certainly must mark the closing chapter(s) of the Swedish Academy crisis and scandal. Though a torrid and dirty affair to watch, it was like a slow train wreck one could not help but continue to watch, with almost sadistic guilty pleasure. The scandal showed the internal workings of the Swedish Academy—or lack thereof—with frank and brutal honesty, as the academy severely lacked formal policies, procedures, and governance practices with regards to transparency. For all its glitz and glamour, there existed at the heart of the matter a dark and disturbing and even rotting festering fiendish culture of silence and explicit corruption, which denied all attempts at change or transparency, out of fears it would be exposed.

In the end it was exposed, with no winner to be crowned, and the world was deprived of its Nobel Prize for Literature for a year. 

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

M. Mary

For Further Reading—

The Economic Time: "A Year after quitting as permanent secretary. Sara Danius steps down from Swedish Academy," "Sara Danius ville tillbaka – fick nej,"