Nobel Literature Prize 2018 and 2019 announced

Peter Handke | Photo: Niklas Elmehed. © Nobel Media.

After skipping a year following a scandal, the Nobel Committee has awarded the 2018 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in conjunction with the 2019 laureate today, as announced by the Swedish Academy. The 2018 award was given to Olga Tokarczuk, a Polish writer who was known for her impressive historical novel Księgi Jakubowe in 2014 (”The Books of Jacob”). Meanwhile, the Literature Prize was awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke.

This year, the Nobel Committee through the Swedish Academy decided to announce the winner for last year’s Literature Prize. There was no winner announced last year after a scandal has enveloped the supposed award-selection body where a husband of a member of the Academy was accused of rape. Since then, after the intervention of the king of Sweden, the organization has reformed several esoteric rules that governed the body and replaced members for the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the organization.

Olga Tokarczuk was finally recognized as the 2018 laureate after a year of supposed reform to the institution. She was granted the coveted prize “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life,” the Academy said in a press release of Tokarczuk’s win announcement.

Tokarczuk’s remarkable work as an author had started when she made her debut as a fiction writer 1993 with Podróz ludzi Księgi (”The Journey of the Book-People). The fiction piece was recognized by multiple award-giving bodies, including the Polish Publisher’s Prize for the best debut 1993-94. Her breakthrough work came after she published her third novel Prawiek i inne czasy in 1996.

“Tokarczuk has in this work showed the supreme capacity of the novel to represent a case almost beyond human understanding. But the work does not only portray the mysterious life of Jacob Frank, but it also gives us a remarkably rich panorama of an almost neglected chapter in European history,” the Academy wrote of Tokarczuk in her bibliography page in the Nobel website.

Together with Tokarczuk, 76-year-old Peter Handke was also recognized as the 2019 Nobel Literature laureate. The Academy said that the well-deserved win was granted to Handke “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”

Handke’s popularity started when his debut is “experimental double fiction” work Die Hornissen in 1966 and a play Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience, 1969).

“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. At the same time, his writing shows an unending quest for existential meaning,” reads Handke’s bibliography in the Nobel website.

The announcement of Tokarczuk and Handke as the literature recipients of the Nobel prize marks the fourth day of Nobel Week, the week where assigned institutions announce the winners of the prestigious Nobel prize in different categories. On Monday, three scientists won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their work in understanding how cells use oxygen; which was followed by the announcement of the Nobel Physics Prize on Tuesday for the researchers who worked on cosmology. Yesterday, three scientist-researchers was granted the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their pioneering work on Lithium-ion batteries.

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