Olga Tokarczuk, a Polish author, and Peter Handke, an Austrian writer, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on October 10. At a ceremony in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy announced the 2019 prize went to Handke, Tokarczuk won the 2018 prize, which was not presented last year because of a scandal at the academy.
The academy cites Tokarczuk “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”
Tokarczuk is particularly noted for the mythical tone of her writing. The summaries of her work in the Wikipedia show her closest approaches to the fantastic are in these three novels:
E. E. (1995) took its title from the initials of its protagonist, a young woman named Erna Eltzner, who grows up in a bourgeois German-Polish family in Breslau (the at that time German city that was to become the Polish Wroc?aw after World War II) in the 1920s, who develops psychic abilities…
Prawiek i inne czasy (“Primeval and Other Times”) was published in 1996 and became highly successful. It is set in the fictitious village of Prawiek (Primeval) at the very heart of Poland, which is populated by some eccentric, archetypical characters. The village is guarded by four archangels, from whose perspective the novel chronicles the lives of Prawiek’s inhabitants over a period of eight decades, beginning in 1914….
In 2009 the novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead was published. It is written in the convention of a detective story with the main character telling the story from her point of view. Janina Duszejko, an old woman, eccentric in her perception of other humans through astrology, relates a series of deaths in a rural area near K?odzko, Poland. She explains the deaths as caused by wild animals in vengeance on hunters.
Tokarczuk continues to write significant work, and in 2018 won the Man Booker International Prize for translated fiction for “Flights,” an experimental novel based on stories of travel.
Handke was cited by the Swedish Academy “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”
He is a prolific writer, however, the Wikipedia lacks helpful synopses of Handke’s works, having a great deal more to say about the controversies created by his political associations. For example:
His writings about the Yugoslav Wars and subsequent NATO bombing of Yugoslavia with criticism of the Western position and his speech at the funeral of Slobodan Miloševi? have caused controversy, and he has been widely described as an apologist for far-right Serbian nationalism
Two winners were named today because the prize was not awarded in 2018.
The Swedish Academy, which oversees the prestigious award, suspended it to make changes to its processes after it was engulfed in a sexual assault scandal.
Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of Academy member Katarina Frostenson, was sentenced to two years in prison in October after being convicted of rape. Furthermore, Frostenson was accused of providing Arnault with the names of seven Nobel laureates in advance; Arnault was later revealed to have leaked the names, resulting in sizable bets placed on the eventual winners.
In the absence of the 2018 prize, The New Academy, a private initiative organized among Swedish culture workers, presented its 2018 New Prize in Literature to Maryse Condé.
Anticipating today’s awards, Alexandra Pascalidou, a Swedish journalist who set up the New Academy Prize, told the New York Times:
The Swedish Academy needs to change more. It needs more inclusion, more diversity, more openness.
She says the academy should not have awarded the 2018 prize because it will forever be tainted by the scandal. “It’s very sad for whoever wins.”
Prior to 2019, the most recent winner was Kazuo Ishiguro in 2017. The fantastic elements in his latest novel, The Buried Giant (2015) argue for his inclusion among the small number of sff authors to win the prize, such as Kipling and Doris Lessing.