Olga Tokarczuk, Peter Handke win Nobel literature prizes

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian writer Peter Handke won the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prizes for literature yesterday, a rare double announcement that came after no prize was announced last year due to abuse allegations that tarnished the group awarding the prizes.

The Swedish Academy said Tokarczuk won for works that explore the “crossing of boundaries as a form of life”. Handke’s work was described as exploring “the periphery and the specificity of human experience” with linguistic ingenuity.

Tokarczuk is only the 15th woman to win the Nobel literature prize in more than a century.

Of the 11 Nobels awarded so far this week, all the other laureates have been men.

Tokarczuk, 57, is one of Poland’s best-known authors, with a fast-growing reputation in the English-speaking world. She has been criticised by Polish conservatives — and received death threats — for criticising 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.

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.

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian novelist and playwright Peter Handke. PHOTO: AFP