Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian author Peter Handke have both received The Nobel Prize in Literature. The news comes after the 2018 ceremony was postponed following a sexual assault scandal.
Olga Tokarczuk, who won The 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature, is a Polish writer, activist and public intellectual. She was cited by the Swedish Academy for her “narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”.
Her works, which include The Books Of Jacob and Primeval And Other Times, are originally written in Polish and translated into English by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Jennifer Croft. Tokarczuk became more known in the UK after she won the 2018 international Booker Prize for her novel Flights.
The second laureate Peter Handke, cited as “one of the most influential writers in Europe after the Second World War”, received the award for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience”.
Handke’ first book The Hornets was published in 1966. The Austrian author is known mainly for the play Walk About the Villages, the novel Repetition, and the screenplay for Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire.
The choice of Handke as this year’s winner has already sparked controversy. Many remember how in his 2014 interview for Austrian newspaper Die Presse, the writer declared that “The Nobel prize should finally be abolished”.
Moreover, Handke gave a widely criticised speech at the 2006 funeral of Serbian war criminal Slobodan Milošević. Following the Academy’s announcement, the Kosovan ambassador to the US, Vlora Çitaku, described the committee’s decision as “preposterous and shameful”.
The Swedish Academy acknowledged the issue in the citation for the award, recognising that the Austrian author “has, at times, caused controversy”, but also underlining that “he cannot be considered an engaged writer in the sense of Sartre, and he gives us no political programs”.