Peter Handke, Olga Tokarczuk emerge Nobel prize winner for literature

Olga Tokarczuk AND Peter Handke [PHOTO CREDIT: TRT World]
Olga Tokarczuk AND Peter Handke [PHOTO CREDIT: TRT World]

A 76-year-old Austrian author, Peter Handke, has won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature.

He was pronounced the 2019 winner alongside 57-year-old Polish writer, Olga Tokarczuk, who won the 2018 edition in Stockholm on Thursday, by the Swedish Academy which oversees the prestigious award.

The 2018 Nobel Prize was delayed by a year after a crisis in the academy sparked by sexual allegations against Jean-Claude, the husband of an Academy member, Katarina Frostenson, according to a BBC report.

Mr Handke who will receive nine million Swedish kronor ($928,037.70 USD) was recognised for his “influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored periphery and the specificity of human experience,” according to a statement by the Swedish Academy.

Ms Tokarczuk who also will receive the nine million Swedish kronor ($928,037.70USD) for 2018 edition was awarded for her “narrative imagination that with encyclopedia passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”


Mr Handke came into limelight on the literary stage in the 1960s for his thought-provoking works such as the play, Publikumsbechimpfung (Offending the Audience), and the novel, Die Angst des Tormanns being Eifmeter (The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick).

He has received many awards from the 1970s till now, notable among them are Vilenica International Literary Prize, International Ibsen Award, Franz Kafka Prize, Nestroy-Theaterpreis for his complete work.

Similarly, Ms Tokarczuk who was awarded for the 2018 edition of the prize, is a multi-award winning literary giant.

She was the first Polish writer to have won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her novel, Flights.


Following the announcement of his win, Mr Handke expressed his astonishment, describing the Swedish Academy’s decision for choosing him as “very courageous.”

A trail of mixed feelings

While the news of Mr Handke’s award had been widely praised in Austria, some had condemned the decision of the Swedish Academy.

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The Austrian author was once reported to have called for the abolishment of the Noble Prize in Literature, condemning the “false canonisation” of its winner.

The Foreign Minister of Albania, Gent Cakaj, described the decision of the Academy on Twitter as a “genocide denier.”

A prominent writers community, PEN America, expressed surprise over the choice of the Academy in a statement signed by its president, Jennifer Egan.

“We are dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succour to perpetrators of genocide,” she said.

However, Austrian leaders had received the news of his winning the award with delight.

The President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen had described his literary voice as “quite and captivating that has been drawing for decades world’s, places and characters that could not be more than fascinating.”

Mr Handke has consistently been condemned for his political positions and writing that are alleged to be critical of the Western positions.

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