The Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 was awarded to Olga Tokarczuk "for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life."
Ill. Niklas Elmehed. © Nobel Media.
To a packed room at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on Thursday, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Mats Malm announced Tokarczuk as 2018’s Nobel literature laureate, and Handke as 2019’s winner. Tokarczuk was cited by the committee for “a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”, and Handke for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience”.
Malm said both laureates had been informed of their win. Handke was at home, and Tokarczuk was on a reading tour in Germany and had to pull her car to the side of the road when she received the call.
The selections come days after the Swedish Academy promised to move away from the “male-oriented” and “Eurocentric” past of the Nobel prize in literature, and follow an unprecedented two years of scandal at the august body, which hopes to restore its reputation with this year’s choices.
The prize is given to, in the words of the will of Alfred Nobel: “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” There have been 116 literature laureates to date – of whom just 15 are women. English is by far the most common language for Nobel laureates, with 29 winners writing in English, followed by 14 in French, 14 in German, 11 in Spanish and seven in Swedish.
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