Olga Tokarczuk & Peter Handke win the Nobel prizes in Literature for 2018 & 2019

This year the Swedish Academy has announced two winners of the Nobel prize for literature: Polish author Olga Tokarczuk for 2018, and Austrian author Peter Handke for 2019.

The Swedish Academy selected Tokarczuk as the 2018 winner ‘for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life’. An activist and frequent critic of Poland’s politics, she is a bestseller in Poland and became better known in the English-speaking world after she won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her highly imaginative sixth novel, Flights. Her most recent work to be translated into English is Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.

Peter Handke who was chosen ‘for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience’ is a controversial choice for the award. An author and playwright, he is best known for his play, The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, and his fervent political views have earned him a reputation as an apologist for far-right Serbian nationalism.

Response to this dual announcement has been mixed. It follows two years of heavily publicised scandal at the Swedish Academy, and also comes on the heels of a promise made by the committee to move away from their ‘male-oriented’ and ‘Eurocentric’ perspective. Handke’s win does not appear to lean towards this new direction.

You can read a selection of response to Handke’s win here, via the Guardian.



Olga Tokarczuk, Jennifer Croft

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