Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, Australian win Nobel prize

Friday, October 11th, 2019 00:00 |
Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian novelist and playwright Peter Handke. Photo/AFP

Stockholm, Thursday

Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk today won the 2018 Nobel Literature Prize, which was delayed over a sexual harassment scandal, while Austrian novelist and playwright Peter Handke took the 2019 award, the Swedish Academy said.

However, it was not so good news to Kenyans as famous novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o did not scoop the prize.

Kenyans were once again hopeful that Ngugi would get the award with his son Mukoma wa Ngugi tweeting that he was confident of his father’s win.

Tokarczuk , 57, considered the most talented Polish novelist of her generation, was honoured “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopaedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”.

Five languages

Her 900-page “The Books of Jacob”, which the Swedish Academy hailed as her “magnum opus”, spans seven countries, three religions and five languages, tracing the little-known history of Frankism, a Jewish messianic sect that sprang up in Poland in the 18th century.

She told Swedish Radio she “couldn’t believe” she had won and was pleased to share it with Handke, “my favourite writer”.

“It’s a very important award for Central Europe. It’s an honour and a source of pride,” Tokarczuk told AFP by telephone.

Tokarczuk’s books portray a polychromatic world perpetually in motion, with characters’ traits intermingled and language that is both precise and poetic.

Handke, 76, was meanwhile honoured “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience,” the Academy said. 

The son of a German soldier he only met in adulthood, Handke “has established himself as one of the most influential writers in Europe after the Second World War,” the Academy said.

His works are filled with a strong desire to discover and to make his discoveries come to life by finding new literary expressions for them, it added.

Ironically, in 2014 Handke called for the Nobel Literature Prize to be abolished, saying it brought its winner “false canonisation”.

He told reporters outside his home near Paris that he was “astonished” to be honoured, terming it a “courageous” move by the Academy.

Tokarczuk and Handke each take home a cheque worth nine million kronor (Sh91.2 million).

Tokarczuk becomes just the 15th woman to win the prestigious distinction, out of 116 literature laureates honoured since 1901. —AFP

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