|Formation||20 March 1786|
|Headquarters||Stock Exchange Building, Stockholm|
The Swedish Academy (Swedish: Svenska Akademien), founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. Its 18 members, who are elected for life, comprise the highest Swedish language authority. Outside Scandinavia, it is best known as the body that chooses the laureates for the annual Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded in memory of the donor Alfred Nobel.
The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III. Modelled after the Académie française, it has 18 members. It is said that Gustaf III originally intended there to be twenty members, half the number of those in the French Academy, but eventually decided on eighteen because the Swedish expression De Aderton - 'The Eighteen' - had such a fine solemn ring. The academy's motto is "Talent and Taste" ("Snille och Smak" in Swedish). The academy's primary purpose is to further the "purity, strength, and sublimity of the Swedish language" ("Svenska Språkets renhet, styrka och höghet") (Walshe, 1965). To that end the academy publishes two dictionaries. The first is a one-volume glossary called Svenska Akademiens ordlista (SAOL). The second is a multi-volume dictionary, edited on principles similar to those of the Oxford English Dictionary, entitled Svenska Akademiens Ordbok (SAOB). The SAOL has reached its 14th edition while the first volume of the SAOB was published in 1898 and, as of 2017, work has progressed to words beginning with the letter "V".
The building now known as the Stockholm Stock Exchange Building was built for the bourgeoisie. The bottom floor was used as a trading exchange (this later became the stock exchange), and the upper floor was used for balls, New Year's Eve parties, etc. When the academy was founded, the ballroom was the biggest room in Stockholm that could be heated and thus used in the winter, so the King asked if he could borrow it.
The academy has had its annual meeting there every year since, attended by members of the Swedish royal family. However, it was not until 1914 that the academy gained permanent use of the upper floor as their own. It is here that the academy meets and, amongst other business, announces the names of Nobel Prize laureates. This task arguably makes the academy one of the world's most influential literary bodies.
Members are elected by a secret ballot in the Academy and before the result is made public it must be submitted to the Academy's Patron, the King of Sweden, for his approval. Members of the Academy include writers, linguists, literary scholars, historians and a prominent jurist. Initially writers were in the minority in the Academy, but during the twentieth century the number of writers grew to represent more than half of The Eighteen. The Swedish Academy have a long history of being a heavily male dominated institution, but the Academy has recently moved towards better equality. Since 20 December 2019 one third of the chairs belong to female Academy members.
Prior to 2018 it was not possible for members of the academy to resign; membership was for life, although the academy could decide to exclude members. This happened twice to Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, who was excluded in 1794, re-elected in 1805 and excluded again in 1811. In 1989, Werner Aspenström, Kerstin Ekman and Lars Gyllensten chose to stop participating in the meetings of the academy, over its refusal to express support for Salman Rushdie when Ayatollah Khomeini condemned him to death for The Satanic Verses, and in 2005, Knut Ahnlund made the same decision, as a protest against the choice of Elfriede Jelinek as Nobel laureate for 2004. On 25 November 2017, Lotta Lotass said in an interview that she had not participated in the meetings of the academy for more than two years and did not consider herself a member any more.
Dag Hammarskjöld's former farm at Backåkra, close to Ystad in southern Sweden, was bought in 1957 as a summer residence by Hammarskjöld, then Secretary-General of the United Nations (1953-1961). The south wing of the farm is reserved as a summer retreat for the 18 members of the Swedish Academy, of which Hammarskjöld was a member.
On 11 April 2019, the academy published its financial statements for the first time in its history. According to it, the academy owned financial assets worth 1.58 billion Swedish kronor at the end of 2018 (equal to $170M, EUR150M, or £130M).
In April 2018, three members of the academy board resigned in response to a sexual-misconduct investigation involving author Jean-Claude Arnault, husband of board member Katarina Frostenson. Arnault was accused by at least 18 women of sexual assault and harassment; he denied all accusations. The three members resigned in protest over the lack of appropriate action against Arnault. Two former permanent secretaries, Sture Allén and Horace Engdahl, called the current leader, Sara Danius, a weak leader.
On 10 April, Danius resigned from her position with the academy, bringing the number of empty seats to four. Frostenson voluntarily agreed to withdraw from participating in the academy, bringing the total of withdrawals to five. Because two other seats were still vacant after the Rushdie affair, this left only 11 active members. The scandal was widely seen as damaging to the credibility of the Nobel prize in Literature and the authority of the academy. "With this scandal you cannot possibly say that this group of people has any kind of solid judgment," noted Swedish journalist Björn Wiman.
On 27 April 2018, the Swedish Economic Crime Authority opened a preliminary investigation regarding financial crime linked to an association run by Arnault and Frostenson, which had received funding from the academy.
On 2 May 2018, the Swedish King amended the rules of the academy and made it possible for members to resign. The new rules also state that a member who has been inactive in the work of the academy for more than two years can be asked to resign. Following the new rules, the first members to formally be granted permission to leave the academy and vacate their chairs were Kerstin Ekman, Klas Östergren, Sara Stridsberg and Lotta Lotass.
On 4 May 2018, the Swedish Academy announced that following the preceding internal struggles the Nobel laureate for literature selected in 2018 would be postponed until 2019, when two laureates would be selected.
The Swedish Academy annually awards nearly 50 different prizes and scholarships, most of them for domestic Swedish authors. Common to all is that they are awarded without competition and without application. The Dobloug Prize, the largest of these at $40,000, is a literature prize awarded for Swedish and Norwegian fiction.
Swedish: Stora Priset, literally the Big Prize, was instituted by King Gustav III. The prize, which consists of a single gold medal, is the most prestigious award that can be awarded by the Swedish Academy. It has been awarded to, among others, Selma Lagerlöf (1904 and 1909), Herbert Tingsten (1966), Astrid Lindgren (1971), Evert Taube (1972) and Tove Jansson (1994).
The academy awards around 50 prizes each year. A person does not have to apply nor compete for the prizes.
Full list of awards (in Swedish)
The current members of the Swedish Academy listed by seat number:
|1.||Eric M. Runesson||1960||60||2018|
|3.||Sture Allén||1928||92||1980||Permanent secretary 1986-1999|
|4.||Anders Olsson||1949||72||2008||Permanent secretary 1 June 2018 - 1 June 2019|
|10.||Peter Englund||1957||64||2002||Permanent secretary 2009-2015.|
|11.||Mats Malm||1964||57||2018||Permanent secretary|
|17.||Horace Engdahl||1948||72||1997||Permanent secretary 1999-2009|
|Order||Seat||Picture||Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy||Born||Years||Notes|
|1.||11.||Nils von Rosenstein||1752||1786-1824|
|2.||13.||Frans Michael Franzén||1772||1824-1834|
|3.||12.||Bernhard von Beskow||1796||1834-1868|
|4.||5.||Johan Erik Rydqvist||1800||1868-1869||pro tempore|
|6.||12.||Carl Gustaf Strandberg||1825||1872-1874||pro tempore|
|8.||11.||Bror Emil Hildebrand||1806||1881-1883||pro tempore|
|9.||8.||Carl David af Wirsén||1842||1883-1912||pro tempore in 1883-84|
|10.||6.||Hans Hildebrand||1842||1912-1913||pro tempore|
|11.||11.||Erik Axel Karlfeldt||1864||1913-1931|
|14.||7.||Karl Ragnar Gierow||1904||1964-1977|
|20.||4.||Anders Olsson||1949||2018-2019||pro tempore April-June 2018|
|21.||11.||Mats Malm||1964||2019-||As of 1 June 2019|