October 12, 2019 / 10:50 AM / 9 months ago

Former head of scandal-hit Swedish Academy dies of cancer

FILE PHOTO: The Swedish Academy's Permanent Secretary Sara Danius is seen during the Swedish Academy's annual meeting at the Old Stock Exchange building in Stockholm, Sweden December 20, 2017. TT News Agency/Jonas Ekstromer via REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sara Danius, the former head of the scandal-tainted committee which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature, has died of cancer, Swedish news agency TT said on Saturday.

Danius led the Swedish Academy - the first woman to do so - between 2015 and 2018 and was at the helm during the scandal that led to the husband of another member of the elite cultural association being convicted of rape and imprisoned.

He was also accused of leaking the names of previous winners of the world’s most prestigious literary award, plunging the Academy into its biggest crisis since it was founded by King Gustav III more than 200 years ago.

A public slanging match over the allegations and how they were handled led the Nobel Foundation, which administers the prizes, threatened to threaten to cut ties with the Academy and the postponement of the 2018 award.

Danius, Professor of Literature at Stockholm university, resigned from her post in April 2018 after criticism of her handling of the crisis. She left the Academy in February this year.

The Academy awarded two prize this week, with the postponed 2018 award going to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk. The 2019 prize was given to Austrian writer Peter Handke.

Handke’s award has sparked a backlash over his support for late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who led his country during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.

Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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