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En utskrift från Dagens Nyheter, 2019-10-20 13:38

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Former Secretary of the Swedish Academy Sara Danius is dead

Sara Danius. Foto: Lars Lindqvist

Sara Danius has died. The author, literary scholar and former Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy was 57 years old. 

Sara Danius died early Saturday morning after having suffered from cancer for a long time.

Sara Danius was a Literature Professor at Stockholm University and a prominent essayist, who published more than ten collections of essays. But her time in the Swedish Academy was what made her known around the world. She became a member in 2013, and was chosen as Permanent Secretary in 2015, the first woman in that position. 

Sara Danius died on Saturday after a longer period of illness. In ”Vinter i P1” in 2014 she talked openly about her breast cancer. Sara Danius was 57 years old when she died. 

DN’s culture editor Björn Wiman says that Sara Danius will leave a void in Sweden's cultural life. 

”There was a shimmer around her, stylistically and intellectually. The Swedish cultural world will be poorer without her. My thoughts go to her closest family, it is a terrible loss.”

Sara Danius was born in Täby in 1962. Her father was the author Lars Danius, who also had a military background. Her mother was Anna Wahlgren, famous for her books about bringing up children. Sara Danius has one son, Leo, with the writer Stefan Jonsson whom she was married to until 2010. 

Danius started her career as a journalist, and from the mid-80’s she was a literary critic for DN Kultur. 

”Sara started working at Dagens Nyheter as an editor in the 80’s. The culture section would not have been what it is without her work – she was in a league of her own among Swedish critics,” says DN’s culture editor Björn Wiman. 

During the 90’s she focused on her academic studies, first in Britain and later in the U.S. As a researcher she studied Marcel Proust, James Joyce and Thomas Mann. In her dissertation ”The senses of modernism: Technology, perception and aesthetics” she examined the relationship between these three authors' work in the 20’s and the technological achievements of the time. In 1999 she earned her doctorate degree at Uppsala University, and in 2008 she was appointed Professor of Aesthetics at Södertörn University. With her collection of essays ”Den blå tvålen” Danius’ research reached a larger audience. 

In 2013 she became a Literature Professor at Stockholm University, that same year she was chosen as a member of the Swedish Academy, succeeding Knut Ahnlund. 

”I was overwhelmed but I said yes straight away, it was a bit like a proposal,” Sara Danius told DN at the time. 

When Björn Wiman at the time speculated that she would be the first female Permanent Secretary she gave a short answer: ”We will see”. She became Permanent Secretary two years later. 

Sara Danius. Foto: Maja Eriksson

Sara Danius was head of the Swedish Academy when DN published the article about the Artistic Director Jean-Claude Arnault. The article triggered a crisis which shook the institution for more than a year. A short while after the article was published she met with the media and stated that even members of the Academy and their relatives had been exposed to his advances. She started an investigation into the connections between the Academy and Arnault, which created a deep divide within the institution. 

The public support for Sara Danius was huge, while the hostilities from within the institution were severe. When it became clear that her position within the Academy was at stake a demonstration was held, where people wore tie-neck blouses, a trademark for the fashionable Sara Danius. The demonstration took place in Stortorget in Gamla Stan in connection with the weekly meeting of the Academy. In the end her position as Permanent Secretary was so challenged that she was forced out on April 12, 2018. In February Sara Danius left the Academy. 

”Her role as the first female Permanent Secretary of the Academy will be historic. It will always be a disgrace to the Academy that they drove her out of the institution when she wanted to investigate the allegations of sexual assault and harassment,” says Björn Wiman. 

Sara Danius was very interested in fashion, and she will be remembered as a fashion icon. Her signature garment, the tie-neck blouse was an expression for this, but also the renowned creations she wore for the Nobel banquets, designed by Pär Engsheden. 

DN’s editor of culture Björn Wiman remembers Sara Danius fondly. 

”Sara was a unique person with a mix of almost statesmanlike integrity and childish ease. She made it very easy to laugh in her presence.”