After years of scandal and a promise to move away from its “male-oriented” and “Eurocentric” past, the Nobel Prize in Literature is back with two new winners, one for 2018 and 2019.
The Prize is awarded annually by the Swedish Academy to an author who has produced “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”, a directive established by the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. Past winners include Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez and (controversially) Bob Dylan.
Polish author Olga Tokarczuk was awarded the prize for 2018 for “a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”
Olga Tokarczuk is a much beloved author and activist who broke out into international stardom last year, having won the Man Booker International Prize in 2018 for her novel Flights, a book comprised of various meditations on travel. She was also shortlisted for this year’s Booker International Prize for Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, an eco-noir novel fused with the poetry of William Blake.
The 2019 prize, however, went to Austrian Author Peter Handke for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”
Handke is a novelist and playwright writing in German with a considerable body of work. He achieved acclaim for novels such as Die Wiederholung (Repetition), as well as his plays Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience) and Kaspar.
He has also courted controversy for his political views and support for the late Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević, and his Nobel Prize win has drawn some criticism from groups such as PEN America.
The Nobel Prize committee acknowledged this when announcing Handke’s win, stating that “he cannot be considered an engaged writer in the sense of Sartre, and he gives us no political programs.”
You can find out more about the Nobel Prize in Literature here.
About the Contributor
Olivia Fricot is the Editor of the Booktopian Blog. After finishing a soul-crushing law degree, she decided that life was much better with one's nose in a book and quickly defected to the world of Austen and Woolf. You can usually find her reading (obviously), baking, writing questionable tweets, and completing a Master's degree in English literature. Just don't ask about her thesis. Olivia is on Twitter and Instagram @livfricot - follow at your own risk.
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