Austrian author Peter Handke was named as winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature, while Polish author Olga Tokarczuk was announced as the 2018 winner on Thursday after last year’s literature award was postponed following sex abuse allegations that rocked the Swedish Academy.
The literature prize was cancelled last year after a mass exodus at academy following the allegations.
Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of a former academy member, was convicted last year of two rapes in 2011. Arnault allegedly also leaked the name of Nobel Prize literature winners seven times.
In March, the foundation behind the Nobel Prize in Literature said the Swedish Academy had revamped itself and restored trust. The Nobel Foundation had warned another group could be picked to award the prize if the academy didn’t improve its tarnished image.
Handke, 76, is a novelist, essayist, playwright and screenwriter described by the academy as “one of the most influential writers in Europe” after World War II. He was praised for writing powerfully about catastrophe, notably in A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, his 1975 novel about his mother’s suicide.
Handke’s work was described as exploring “the periphery and the specificity of human experience” with linguistic ingenuity.
Tokarczuk won for works that explore the “crossing of boundaries as a form of life,” the academy said.
Tokarczuk, 57, is one of Poland’s best-known authors, with a fast-growing reputation in the English-speaking world. She has been criticized by Polish conservatives — and received death threats — for criticizing aspects of the country’s past, including its episodes of anti-Semitism. She is also a strong critic of Poland’s right-wing government.
Her novel Flights, which won the Booker International Prize in 2018, combines tales of modern-day travel with the story of a 17th-century anatomist who dissected his own amputated leg and the journey of composer Frederic Chopin’s heart from Paris to Warsaw after his death.
Poland’s Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, who said earlier this week he has not finished any of Tokarczuk’s books, tweeted his congratulations to her and said he now felt obliged to go back and read her books all the way through.
Tokarczuk is only the 15th woman to win the literature prize in more than a century. Of the 11 Nobels awarded so far this week, all the other laureates had been men.
The 2018 and 2019 literature awards were chosen by the Swedish Academy’s Nobel Committee, a new body made up of four academy members and five “external specialists.”
Nobel organizers say the committee suggests two names that then must be approved by the Swedish Academy. It’s unclear whether the academy members simply rubber-stamped the experts’ choice.
The coveted Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded Friday and the economics award winner will be announced on Monday.
Canadian-born prof among this year’s laureates
The chemistry prize went Wednesday to three scientists for their work leading to the development of lithium-ion batteries
- John B. Goodenough of the University of Texas.
- M. Stanley Whittingham of the State University of New York at Binghamton.
- Akira Yoshino of Asahi Kasei Corporation and Meijo University in Japan.
On Tuesday, Canadian-born James Peebles, 84, an emeritus professor at Princeton University in New Jersey, won half of the physics prize for his theoretical discoveries in cosmology. Swiss scientists Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, both of the University of Geneva, shared the other half of the prize, for finding an exoplanet — a planet outside our solar system — that orbits a solar-type star.
A day earlier, two Americans and one British scientist — Doctors William G. Kaelin Jr. of Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Gregg L. Semenza of Johns Hopkins University and Peter J. Ratcliffe at the Francis Crick Institute in Britain and Oxford University — won the prize for advances in physiology or medicine. They were cited for their discoveries of “how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”
Each prize comes with a $918,000 US cash award, a gold medal and a diploma. The laureates receive them at a elegant ceremony on Dec. 10 — the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896 — in Stockholm and in Oslo.
In his will, Swedish industrialist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel specifically designated the Swedish Academy as the institution responsible for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Other institutions in Sweden and Norway were given the task to find winners for the other Nobel Prizes.
Nobel decided the physics, chemistry and medicine should be awarded in Stockholm, and the peace prize in Oslo. His exact reasons for having an institution in Norway handing out the peace prize is unclear, but during his lifetime, Sweden and Norway were joined in a union, which was dissolved in 1905.