The Swedish Academy on Thursday announced two Nobel Prizes in Literature – the 2018 award went to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and the 2019 award to Austrian author Peter Handke. The winners will receive the prize at an annual ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the death anniversary of Alfred Nobel.
Tokarczuk won it “for a narrative imagination, that with encyclopedic passion, represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”. Tokarczuk won the Man Booker International Prize 2018 for her book Flights. The 57-year-old is a trained psychologist.
“Tokarczuk never views reality as something stable or everlasting,” the committee announced. “She constructs her novels in a tension between cultural opposites; nature versus culture, reason versus madness, male versus female, home versus alienation. And this is only possible if both poles are anchored in the narrative.”
Some of her works include Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych from 2009 (Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, 2018), Bieguni from 2007 (Flights, 2017), Dom dzienny, dom nocny from 1998 (House of Day, House of Night, 2002). Her magnum opus, the committee said, was the historical novel Księgi Jakubowe, or “The Books of Jacob”, published in 2014.
Handke, 76, was awarded for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience”, the committee announced, adding that he has established himself as one of the most influential writers in Europe after the Second World War. “His works are filled with a strong desire to discover and to make his discoveries come to live by finding new literary expressions for them,” it added.
Some of his works include the drama Über die Dörfer 1981 (Walk about the Villages, 2015), the novel Die Wiederholung, 1986 (Repetition, 1988) and the novel Die Obstdiebin oder Einfache Fahrt ins Landesinnere (2017).
With this, the academy has now given away 112 Nobel Prizes in Literature to 116 individuals – the honour was shared between two persons on four occasions. Fifteen of the laureates have been women.
Last year, the academy had decided to postpone the 2018 prize following a controversy over allegations of sexual misconduct and leaks of names of some winners. This was the first time the academy cancelled the Nobel Prize in Literature since World War II.
Some of the best known winners so far include authors such as Rudyard Kipling, Rabindranath Tagore, WB Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Pearl S Buck, TS Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Pablo Neruda, Gabriel García Márquez and JM Coetzee.
On Wednesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino “for the development of lithium-ion batteries”. Goodenough is the oldest Nobel laureate at 97 years old.
The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to James Peebles, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz “for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos”. The prize in Physiology or Medicine went to American researchers William G Kaelin Jr and Gregg L Semenza, and British scientist Sir Peter J Ratcliffe “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability”.
Two prizes for this year remain to be announced – the Peace Prize on Friday, and economics on Monday.
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