May 31, 2020

Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke, Nobel Prize for Literature

Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke are the winners of the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature, two awards given at the same ceremony due to the sultry sexual scandal that led to the suspension of last year. It was announced this noon by the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Mats Malm, at the Stockholm headquarters. The prize is endowed with a gold medal, a diploma and a cash amount of 830,000 euros (nine million Swedish crowns).

The first, which receives the prize corresponding to 2018, is a Polish writer who has been highlighted by the jury for "her narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a way of life." The Austrian Peter Handke, meanwhile, has been awarded this year "for his influential work that has explored the periphery and specificity of the human experience with linguistic ingenuity."

Olga Tokarczuk was born 1962 in Sulechów (Poland). She made her debut as a fiction writer in 1993 with The journey of men-book. But it was with his third novel when he took off in the literary world, titled Prawiek and inne czasy (nineteen ninety six) (In a place called yesteryear).

The Swedish Academy emphasizes from the writer that "he never sees reality as something stable or eternal". And that builds his novels creating "tension between cultural opposites: nature versus culture, reason versus insanity, man versus woman, home versus isolation."

Although her name is synonymous with best sellers in her country, she was the first Polish to win the Man Booker Prize. She also has a degree in Psychology, has published eight novels and two story collections, and is the co-organizer of a literary festival. The theme of his work transits between parapsychology, the political reality of Poland and Ukraine or Sumerian mythology, but all of it has been noted for its "sharpness, imagination and literary style."


Peter Handke, meanwhile, was born in 1942 in a town called Griffen, in southern Austria. His literary debut, Die Hornissen (Hornets), was published in 1966. Later, in 1969, it launched Offend the audience, in which four actors analyze the nature of the theater and are dedicated to insulting the public and praising their own performance.

Handke has starred in various controversies. The most resounding is when he was accused of being sympathetic to the Serbian cause of Slobodan Milosevich, tried by the Hague Court and finally exonerated his responsibility in alleged war crimes. The Austrian He attended the funeral of Milosevich, held in Belgrade in 2006.

An indefatigable walker and lover of silence, he has traveled many times in Spain and his works include references to these experiences and Spanish literature. For example, Essay on fatigue (1989) wrote it in Linares; Essay on the jukebox (1990), in Soria; and the novel On a dark night I left my house calmly (1997), refers to a well-known poem by San Juan de la Cruz.

The fifteenth woman in history

For the first time the women were majority in the pools to receive the most prestigious prize of the letters, something remarkable especially considering that since 1901 he has only recognized 14 writers in a list of 116 authors. Tokarczuk was among the seven favorites, but behind others such as Canadians Anne Carson and Margaret Atwood, or Antillean Maryse Condé.

Because, although the Nobel is not something easy to predict, as the one awarded in 2017 to the writer demonstrates British Kazuo Ishiguro or the year before Bob dylanThis was a good opportunity to shake off the macho dandruff by assessing the career of a writer.

To this unbalanced balance is added the aforementioned controversy that led to the suspension of the awards for the first time since 1949. The academic Jean Claude Arnault, the cause of this break, was found guilty of the first of the two rape cases of which he was accused, both committed in 2011 and against the same woman, and suspected of leaks prior to the announcement of the winner that have abounded in recent years.

At the outbreak of the scandal, eight academics to their life post. In addition, the institution severed the relationship with the Arnault and commissioned an audit, which concluded that it had not influenced decisions on awards and grants but that the financial support received from the Academy by its literary club violates the rules of impartiality as it is its co-owner wife .

That is why the Swedish Academy postponed the Nobel Prize for the first time in seven decades: a crisis that mixes leaks, sexual scandals and resignations. For this occasion, according to published in a statement, several important changes have been "implemented" and "modified the composition of the committee so that it does not include members associated with the previous events".

It will be necessary to wait to see if these awards granted by 2019 are sufficient to correct the lack of trust and the weakening of the institution.

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