Polish author, Olga Tokarczuk, and Austria’s Peter Handke have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for 2019 and 2018 as the prize was not awarded last year.
Olga Tokarczuk, who was 10/1 and Peter Handke, 20/1, upset bookmakers’ prediction that Anne Carson 4/1, Maryse Condé 5/1, Can Xue 8/1, Haruki Murakami 8/1 and Lyudmila Ulitskaya 8/1 would emerge winners.
Tokarczuk, who also won the Man Booker International Prize last year, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize, with this year’s Nobel going to Handke.
The announcement was postponed last year after a sexual abuse and financial misconduct scandal, which led to a series of resignations at the Swedish Academy, which runs the award.
Jean-Claude Arnault, whose wife Katarina Frostenson was a member of the Academy until she quit in January over breaches of secrecy, was convicted of rape in October 2018 and jailed for two years.
According to agency reports, this year’s prize had set sight on diversity after the year of scandal. Chair of the Nobel Committee in the Swedish Academy, Anders Olsson, was confident that the prize would make a comeback by avoiding the ‘male-oriented’ and ‘Eurocentric’ perspective that dominated it in the past.
He suggested the Academy would not be as Europe-and male-focused as it had been previously.
Given that the last two winners-Kazuo Ishiguro and Bob Dylan-both write in English and just 14 of the 114 literature laureates were women, Olsson acknowledged the need for the jury to ‘widen’ its ‘perspective’.
Okarczuk, 57, the 15th female winner, considered the leading Polish novelist of her generation, was rewarded “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopaedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”
The Nobel committee was also “very impressed” with her epic historical novel, The Books of Jacob, set in the 18th Century, which “presents a rich panorama of a little-known chapter in European history.”
Handke, the 76-year-old Austrian playwright, novelist, and poet, was recognised for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience,” the academy said in a statement.
Meanwhile, PEN America has decried Handke’s choice for the recognition.
In a statement by its President, Jennifer Egan, it said: “Today’s announcement of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature to Peter Handke must be an exception.
“We are dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succor to perpetrators of genocide, like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.”