Two Nobel Prizes in Literature Handed Out

2018 was awarded to the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and the 2019 prize was awarded to the Austrian author Peter Handke.

Nobel Prize literature 2018 and 2019
By Jason Diamond / October 10, 2019 7:37 am

In a somewhat surprising move, the Nobel committee decided to give out not one, but two prizes for literature after a sex scandal prompted the body to withhold what is arguably the biggest prize in the the publishing world. Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk took home the medal for 2018, while Austrian author Peter Handke took home the prize for 2019.

Tokarczuk was the winner of the 2018 Man Booker International prize for her novel Flights. As the committee noted, “She has in this work showed the supreme capacity of the novel to represent a case almost beyond human understanding.” Handke has been publishing since the late 1960s, and is at times as controversial as he is influential in Europe.

The author, who penned a play that translates into “Offending the Audience,” gave a speech at former President of Serbia Slobodan Milošević’s funeral, defending his action by stating, “I think he was a rather tragic man. Not a hero, but a tragic human being. But I am a writer and not a judge.” Milošević died in his prison cell before the conclusion of a trial at The Hague for charges ranging from torture to genocide could be reached.

Jon Henley at The Guardian has a summary for why last year’s prize was withheld, pointing out that, “The poet Katarina Frostenson was among seven academy members who left the body after bitter rows over how to handle rape accusations made in 2017 against her husband, Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault, who was also accused of leaking the names of several prize winners.”

As several critics noted, the academy has promised more transparency in this year’s announcement, and gave more reason for their choices.

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