Apr 22, 2018

King for a day/Swedish Academy part 2

And he did it!

On Wednesday the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf announced he is going to change the 232 year old statues for the Swedish Academy, instituted by his predecessor Gustav III in 1786. About time!

The Swedish Academy is an independent cultural institution, founded in order to advance the Swedish language and Swedish literature. And, since 1901 the Academy has also awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The members are selected for life. Since some weeks back though the Academy is in deep crises,

and last week it turned out the Swedish King might be the one able to take action on this matter. And now he has.

The most significant change will be the banishing of the life time membership for the selected members of the Academy. There will be no “until death do us part” anymore:

“It is a given in Swedish and international law that anyone who no longer wishes to be a member of an association should be able to withdraw. This should apply also to the Swedish Academy." 

Words from the King’s mouth, here here. Further: “a member who has not participated in the work of the Academy for more than two years shall furthermore be deemed to have left the Academy even if the member has not formally requested his/her resignation.”

For today, that should let authors Lotta Lotass and Kerstin Ekman - the latter left her Academy chair already in 1989 - out of frustrating life long hostage situation.

So, is everything fine now? Of course not. The Temporary Permanent Secretary (that’s one interesting title!) Anders Olsson declares in an interview how he hopes the (remaining) Academy (11 out of 18 members) now will be able to go back to it’s normal work, such as it was. That’s not a quote, but something along those lines. Does that sound promising? No it doesn’t. The remaining part of the Academy has to realize nothing is such it was. 

I am thinking about King Carl XVI Gustaf. Due to his fathers tragic death he inherited the title Crown Prince of Sweden already as a 4-year old.  At 27 he took on the job as the Swedish King after his grandfather. King Carl Gustaf has spent his whole life waiving at the Swedish people. From the castle balcony and from horse carriages. The Swedish monarch is a bystander with no right to vote in general elections or speak up his/her mind on important or political matters. Sometimes Carl XVI Gustaf can’t hold his tongue though, for which he of course gets criticized.

Once I heard an American expressing how Sweden is an interesting country. “You are a republic with a King and a Royal family.” 

Theoretically that’s not correct. Sweden is a Monarchy. But I can see what she was saying. Our political decisions are all taken by the parliament and government, elected by the Swedish people. Then there is the Royal family who has a ceremonial function, in Sweden and abroad. That’s why all the waiving.

I wonder what it is like for King Carl Gustaf to suddenly have a voice. And a much needed voice. In the case of the Swedish Academy crises it turned out he was the only one with the authority to step in and take action. 

It’s got to feel pretty great! At the age of 72 after 44 years as the Regent, King Carl Gustaf gets to make a decision in a public matter! And in a matter where he is genuinely engaged. The Swedish King is actually engaged in a lot of important questions, but of course the Nobel Prize has to be the crown jewel.

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