Nobel Prize for Literature for 2018, 2019 awarded to Poland's Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian writer Peter Handke, respectively

The Swedish Academy in Stockholm on Thursday, 10 October 2019, announced that the Nobel Prize for Literature for 2018 and 2019 were being awarded to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian writer Peter Handke, respectively.

The Nobel Prize for 2018 was awarded to Tokarczuk "for her narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life" a representative for the Academy said. The official stated that 2019 Literature Laureate Handke's "influential work with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and specificity of human experience."

The Academy's statement on Tokarczuk noted:

2018 Literature Laureate Olga Tokarczuk was born 1962 in Sulechów in Poland, and today lives in Wrocław. She made her debut as a fiction writer 1993 with Podróz ludzi Księgi (The Journey of the Book-People). Her real breakthrough came with her third novel Prawiek i inne czasy 1996 (Primeval and Other Times, 2010). The novel is an excellent example of new Polish literature after 1989.Tokarczuk never views reality as something stable or everlasting. She constructs her novels in a tension between cultural opposites; nature versus culture, reason versus madness, male versus female, home versus alienation. Her magnum opus so far is the impressive historical novel Księgi Jakubowe 2014 (The Books of Jacob). She has in this work showed the supreme capacity of the novel to represent a case almost beyond human understanding.

2019 Literature Laureate Peter Handke, the Academy's statement continued, "was born 1942 in a village named Griffen, located in the region Kärnten in southern Austria. This was also the birthplace of his mother Maria, who belonged to the Slovenian minority". Further:

"Peter Handke’s debut novel Die Hornissen was published in 1966. Together with the play Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience, 1969), he certainly set his mark on the literary scene. More than 50 years later, having produced a great number of works in different genres, 2019 Literature Laureate Peter Handke has established himself as one of the most influential writers in Europe after the Second World War. The peculiar art of Handke, is the extraordinary attention to landscapes and the material presence of the world, which has made cinema and painting two of his greatest sources of inspiration."

 Nobel Prize for Literature for 2018, 2019 awarded to Polands Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian writer Peter Handke, respectively

(L) Olga Tokarczuk. Photo via Facebook/@OlgaTokarczukProfil. (R) Peter Handke. Photo via Facebook/@ROLOFFPETERHANDKEPAGE

The announcement of the prize comes in the wake of a controversy-ridden couple of years for the Academy, which had to suspend the 2018 Nobel for Literature.

Read: Nobel Prize for Peace and Literature faces controversy, again, amid #MeToo scandal

“Controversy is a natural effect of the Literature Prize,” said Mats Malm, the Swedish Academy’s new permanent secretary, appointed to head a reformed 18-person panel after two years of convulsions at the prestigious institution. “We want to contribute to the international discussion about literature and what it is supposed to be.”

The literary science professor led an overhaul of the body, which was ripped apart in late 2017 and 2018 by #MeToo allegations involving Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of a former academy member and a once-notable figure on Sweden’s cultural scene, Katarina Frostenson.

Arnault was convicted last year of two rape charges dating to 2011, but not before accusations of abuse had led to an exodus of academy committee members, the ouster of then-Permanent Secretary Sara Danius and the absence of a Nobel Literature Prize for the first time since 1943 at the height of World War II. Arnault was also suspected of violating century-old Nobel rules by leaking names of winners of the prestigious award; allegedly seven times, starting in 1996. It was not clear to whom the names were allegedly disclosed.

With an ultimatum from the Nobel Foundation — the body behind the Nobel Prizes — that the Swedish Academy could be stripped of its right to award the prize, the academy brought in five external members to help adjudicate the two literature awards this year. At the same time, it ousted everyone involved in the scandal and it “no longer includes any members who are subject to conflicts of interest or criminal investigations,” according to the foundation.

Nobel fame this year comes with a 9-million kronor ($ 918,000) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma. The laureates will be awarded these at elegant ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo on 10 December — the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.

Among the leading contenders for the prize, before it was announced, were Canadian poet Anne Carson, novelists Maryse Conde of Guadeloupe and Can Xue of China, and Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, which has been made into a hit TV series.

In 2017, Japanese-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro won the prize.

— With inputs from The Associated Press.

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Updated Date: Oct 10, 2019 16:56:00 IST