Polish novelist wins Nobel prize for literature

Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian author Peter Handke have both won the Nobel prize for literature.

To a packed room at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on October 10, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Mats Malm announced Tokarczuk as 2018’s Nobel literature laureate, and Handke as 2019’s winner.

Last year’s prize had been postponed because of the “reduced public confidence” that followed rape accusations made against Jean-Claude Arnault, the French husband of academy member Katarina Frostenson.

Tokarczuk was cited by the committee for “a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”.

Tokarczuk’s first book was published in 1989, a collection of poems entitled Miasta w lustrach (Cities in Mirrors). Her debut novel, Podróż ludzi księgi (The Journey of the Book-People), a parable on two lovers’ quest for the “secret of the Book” (a metaphor for the meaning of life) set in 17th century France, was published in 1993.

In 2018 she became the first Polish writer to win the Man Booker International Prize for Flights, originally published in Polish in 2004 as Bieguni, a mix of essay and fiction, the major theme of which is modern day nomads.