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Swedish Academy, Which Awards Nobel In Literature, Elects Iranian-Born Poet As Member

Iran-born Swedish author Jila Mossaed (file photo)

The Swedish Academy on October 5 announced it had elected an Iranian-born poet and a Swedish judge as new members in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal that forced it to postpone awarding a Nobel prize in literature this year.

The prize could not be awarded because eight of the academy's 18 members had either resigned or were on hiatus due to a deep rift within the academy over how to manage its longstanding ties to a Frenchman recently convicted of rape.

For the first time in 70 years, it postponed this year's literature prize by a year to give it time to address the issue.

The election of Jila Mossaed, 70, a Tehran-born poet and novelist who writes in Swedish and Persian, along with Swedish Supreme Court judge Eric Runesson, brings the academy's active members to a quorum of 12.

"My words were not appreciated in my old home country, but my new nation is offering me one of the best literary positions because of what I write," Mossaed, who's been living in exile in Sweden since 1986, told the TT news agency.

She replaces Swedish author Kerstin Ekman, who ended her involvement with the academy in 1989 over its refusal to condemn a fatwa issued by Iran's former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini against author Salman Rushdie over his novel The Satanic Verses.

Academy members have traditionally been elected for life, but with several members not actively participating because of the rape scandal, Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf changed the law to make it possible for members to resign and be replaced.

"The election of two new members is positive. I hope the Swedish Academy will be given the opportunity to continue rebuilding the trust of the institution and that the academy can now continue its important work," the king said.

Based on reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters