Sara Danius, first woman to head Swedish Academy that awards Nobel Prize in Literature, dies at 57

Former Swedish Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius (centre) sitting in the Concert Hall in Stockholm prior to the Nobel Prize Award ceremony on Dec 10, 2018. Ms Danius died aged 57, the academy and her family announced on Oct 12, 2019.
Former Swedish Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius (centre) sitting in the Concert Hall in Stockholm prior to the Nobel Prize Award ceremony on Dec 10, 2018. Ms Danius died aged 57, the academy and her family announced on Oct 12, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

STOCKHOLM (DPA) - Dr Sara Danius, the first woman to head the Swedish Academy - which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature - has died at 57, the academy and her family said on Saturday (Oct 12).

She was elected to the academy in 2013, and two years later became the first woman to head the academy since 1786.

"Everything she did was characterised by a rare strength and lustre," the academy said.

The permanent secretary serves as spokesman and makes the annual announcement of the academy's choice of Nobel Literature winner.

Her last such announcement was in 2017, when the academy selected British author Kazuo Ishiguro.

Dr Danius stepped aside as permanent secretary in April 2018, amid a sexual assault scandal and alleged breaches of conflict-of-interest rules that resulted in a deep rift among the academy's members.

Academy members are elected for life. One outcome of the 2018 crisis was that the statutes from 1786 were revised, allowing members to leave. Dr Danius resigned from the academy in February.

During the 1980s, Dr Danius worked as a critic at the Dagens Nyheter daily before focusing on an academic career, including studies in Britain, France and the United States. Her 1998 doctoral thesis centred on modernism and technology, and modernist aesthetics.

Dr Danius was named professor of literature at Stockholm University in 2013. In 2014, she publicly stated she had breast cancer.

Due to the row, the academy postponed the 2018 literature prize.

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk was on Thursday (Oct 10) named the 2018 laureate, while Peter Handke of Austria was picked for the 2019 award.