Mats Malm, the Academy’s new Permanent Secretary from 1 June

 

Tell us about your background

I’m a professor of comparative literature at the University of Gothenburg, concentrating principally on how people of various epochs have revisited and exploited inherited culture, not least from antiquity. In recent years I have been head of the Swedish Literature Bank, a digital resource that aims to make the classics of Swedish literature available free. In conjunction, I have been working on preparing new research perspectives, usually known as digital humanities.

What will be your primary job as Permanent Secretary?

Over the past year, the Academy has been working rigorously to renew its framework. The renewal work is ongoing and now I’ll be in charge of seeing it’s done as well as possible. It’s a great responsibility and I’m honoured by it.

What do you look forward to contributing?

The Academy is in the midst of a very constructive phase, in which work procedures are improved and the organisation’s various sections are knitted together. This dynamic process will be markedly reinforced by the entry of new members with their own perspectives and knowledge. The prerequisites for the Academy to be able to perform its work in peace and confidence are very good: I am happy to be involved in this work.

– The over-arching purpose ever since 1786 has been to serve the Swedish language and literature. With Nobel’s will, world literature became the Academy’s second commission. The Nobel Prize can be seen as the greatest tribute to literature spanning the world’s borders.

Is there any issue that especially engages you?

Work to benefit language, literature and culture has to be carried out in many spheres simultaneously. But I am particularly eager to see that everyone has the greatest possible access to our literary heritage, easily available. It’s largely a question of digital techniques.

What made you accept the appointment?

The Swedish Academy stands for a long-term and very necessary solicitude for culture. The Academy is best known for the Nobel Prize but it also carries out, year after year, intensive and expensive work for the Swedish language and literature. It represents a unique contribution to culture and research that I am glad to be part of.

Is it a full time job?

At least. But much can be done remotely. I will still live in Gothenburg but spend most of the week in Stockholm.