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Sara Danius, ex-head of Nobel-awarding Swedish Academy, dies aged 57

Sara Danius, the former permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy has passed away at the age of 57, following a battle with cancer.Foto: KARIN TÖRNBLOM / IBL
Sara Danius famously headed the Swedish Academy when it awarded the Nobel Prize to Bob Dylan, and left after the 2018 sex scandal.Foto: / IBL BILDBYRÅ / IBL BILDBYRÅ

Sara Danius, the former permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy has died at the age of 57.

Prof. Danius passed away overnight, following a battle with cancer.

She famously headed the Swedish Academy when it awarded the Nobel Prize to Bob Dylan, and left after the 2018 sex scandal.

Sara Danius was the literature professor who became the Swedish Academy's permanent secretary, and in her final year won feminist icon status beyond the world of literature.

She left her position as the head of the Swedish Academy in 2018, after nearly three years in the coveted top seat.

The Swedish Academy, an institution which dates back to the 18th century and awards the Nobel Prize for literature since its inception, had just been shaken to its core by a sex scandal.

Forced out after sex scandal

French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, husband of Academy member Katarina Frostenson, was accused of rape, sexual assault, harassment and misconduct by more than a dozen women.

The Academy was criticised for the way they handled a probe into the allegations against Arnault, which stretch back decades.

Prof. Danius herself called the allegations ”a tragedy” and ”the greatest culture scandal in modern Swedish history”.

Arnault is currently in prison, serving time for rape.

Blouses in support

As Sara Danius resigned, she made it clear she was doing so at the behest of other members of the Academy.

It was a widely held view that she, as the Academy's first female permanent secretary, had taken the fall for mistakes made by a man.

In support of Sara Danius, women all over Sweden – including the then-Minister for Culture Alice Bah Kuhnke – wore her signature garment: a pussybow blouse.

Impressive academic career

Sara Danius initially worked as a journalist, before moving into the world of academia – studying literature in both Sweden and the US before being awarded her doctorate in 1999.

She would go on to become a professor of literature at Stockholm University, as well as a published author.

She was elected as one of the 18 members of the Swedish Academy in 2013, before becoming its permanent secretary in 2015.

Sara Danius passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family, at the age of 57.