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Swedish Academy

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Title: Swedish Academy  
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Subject: Nobel Prize in Literature, Horace Engdahl, Gustav III of Sweden, University of Gothenburg, Tomas Riad
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Swedish Academy

Swedish Academy
Motto Snille och Smak
(Talent and taste)
Formation 20 March 1786
Headquarters Stockholm, Sweden
Membership 18 members
Permanent Secretary Peter Englund

The Swedish Academy (Swedish: Svenska Akademien), founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. It is known for making the annual decision on who will be the laureate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded in memory of the donor Alfred Nobel.


The Swedish Academy in Stockholm

The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III. Modelled after the Académie française, it has 18 members. The motto of the Academy is "Talent and Taste" ("Snille och Smak" in Swedish). The primary purpose of the Academy 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.[1]

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 13th edition while the first volume of the SAOB was published in 1898 and, as of 2013, work has progressed to words beginning with the letter "U".

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.

Dag Hammarskjöld's farm in Backåkra, used as a retreat for Academy members

The academy has had its annual meeting there every year since, attended by members of the Swedish royal family.[2] However, it was not until 1914 the academy gained the right to use the upper floor as their own for all eternity. It is here that the Academy meets and, amongst other business, announces the names of Nobel Prize laureates. The latter makes it arguably one of the most influential literary bodies in the world.

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.

It is not possible for members of the Academy to resign; membership is for life, although the Academy can 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, 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 Elfride Jelinek as the Nobel laureate for 2004.[3][4]

Awards and prizes

Since 1901, the Academy has annually decided who will be the laureate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded in memory of the donor Alfred Nobel.

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.[5][6]

Current members

The current permanent secretary of the Academy is Peter Englund, who was preceded by Horace Engdahl. The current members of the Swedish Academy listed by seat number:

Seat Member Born Age Elected Notes
1. Lotta Lotass 1964 50 2009
2. Bo Ralph 1945 69 1999
3. Sture Allén 1928 86 1980 Permanent secretary 1986–1999
4. Anders Olsson 1949 65 2008
5. Göran Malmqvist 1924 90 1985
6. Tomas Riad 1959 55 2011
7. Sara Danius 1962 52 2013
8. Jesper Svenbro 1944 70 2006
9. Torgny Lindgren 1938 76 1991
10. Peter Englund 1957 57 2002 Permanent secretary 2009–
11. Vacant Klas Östergren will be inaugurated on December 20, 2014.[7]
12. Per Wästberg 1933 81 1997
13. Gunnel Vallquist 1918 96 1982
14. Kristina Lugn 1948 66 2006
15. Kerstin Ekman 1933 81 1978 Inactive
16. Kjell Espmark 1930 84 1981
17. Horace Engdahl 1948 66 1997 Permanent secretary 1999–2009
18. Katarina Frostenson 1953 61 1992

Permanent secretaries

Order Seat Permanent Secretary of the 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 temporare
5. 15. Ludvig Manderström 1806 1869–1872
6. 12. Carl Gustaf Strandberg 1825 1872–1874 pro temporare
7. 9. Henning Hamilton 1814 1874–1881
8. 11. Bror Emil Hildebrand 1806 1881–1883 pro temporare
9. 8. Carl David af Wirsén 1842 1883–1912 pro temporare in 1883–84
10. 6. Hans Hildebrand 1842 1912 pro temporare
11. 11. Erik Axel Karlfeldt 1864 1913–1931
12. 14. Per Hallström 1866 1931–1941
13. 13. Anders Österling 1884 1941–1964
14. 7. Karl Ragnar Gierow 1904 1964–1977
15. 14. Lars Gyllensten 1921 1977–1986
16. 16. Sture Allén 1928 1986–1999
17. 17. Horace Engdahl 1948 1999–2009
18. 10. Peter Englund 1957 2009–

See also


  1. ^ (Store norske leksikon)Svenska Akademien
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Nobel Judge Steps Down in Protest". BBC News Online (BBC). 2005-10-11. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  4. ^ Associated Press, "Who Deserves Nobel Prize? Judges Don't Agree", MSNBC, 11 October 2005. Retrieved 13 October 2007.
  5. ^ )(Swedish language)Website of the Swedish Academy describing the prize
  6. ^ (Store norske leksikon)Doblougprisen
  7. ^

Other sources

  • Walshe, Maurice O'Connell (1965). "Introduction to the Scandinavian Languages", Andre Deutsch Ltd., 1st edition, p. 57

External links

  • Swedish Academy – Official site (Swedish)
  • Swedish Academy – Official site (English)
  • SAOL on the web – Free
  • SAOB on the web – Free

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