Swedish Academy awards Nobel Prizes in Literature to Polish and Austrian authors

Swedish Academy awards Nobel Prizes in Literature to Polish and Austrian authors
Journalists await the announcement of this year's Nobel Prize in Literature. Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT
Join The Local at the Swedish Academy's headquarters in Stockholm, where we reported live on the announcement of two Nobel Prizes in Literature.
  • Polish author Olga Tokarczuk received the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2018
  • Austrian author Peter Handke received the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2019

13.50: That's all for now

I'm wrapping up this blog now, so thanks for following along. We still have one more Nobel Prize announcement this week, the Peace prize which will be announced tomorrow.

And some of you who are reading this might be interested in joining The Local Sweden's very own Book Club, where we read a different book with a Swedish link every month. It's free and you can join wherever you are in the world – read more here or head over to the Facebook group below:

13:30 A controversial choice?

One of the questions posed to the panel was about Peter Handke's controversial views; having grown up near the Slovenian border, the author has been engaged in issues relating to the former Yugoslavia and openly supported Serbia during the Balkan War.

The author has been accused of denying the Serbian massacre at Srebenica and in 2006 attended the funeral of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, actions which have previously led to protests when Handke has been awarded literary prizes.

13:10 Why they won

Poland's Olga Tokarczuk is praised “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”. Her debut, The Journey of the Book-People, came in 1993, but her third novel Primeval and Other Times was her real breakthrough, according to the committee. 

Olga Tokarczuk. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

Austrian author Peter Handke is awarded “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human existence”. He's written many works in different genres over the 50 years since his debut novel Die Hornissen.

Peter Handke. Photo: Fredrik Varfjell/NTB scanpix/TT

A panel of members from the committee that chose the Laureates is now ready to answer questions. Both authors have been reached by phone to get the happy news.

13:00: And the winners are…

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 goes to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, and the Nobel Prize for 2019 goes to Austrian author Peter Handke.

Permanent Secretary Mats Malm. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

12.50: A packed press room awaits

The room is completely full of journalists from around the world waiting to hear the Nobel news, so much so that staff at the building have had to ask people to sit closer together to make sure everyone can fit in the room. Just ten minutes to go now.

12.45: The facts and stats

A total of 110 Nobel Prizes in Literature have been awarded since 1901. It was not awarded on eight occasions, most coinciding with the First or Second World Wars.

The youngest ever Laureate was Rudyard Kipling, who won aged 41 back in 1907, and the oldest was Doris Lessing, who scooped the prize at the age of 88 exactly 100 years after Kipling.

Just 14 women are among the 110 Laureates, and the unequal gender representation across all the Nobel Prizes has been criticized.

More Literature Laureates have written in English than any other language, while 14 have written in French, 13 in German, 11 in Spanish, and 7 in Swedish.

12.35 Scandals at the Swedish Academy

The reason we'll get two new Nobel Literature laureates today is that the award was postponed last year amid a scandal sparked by the #MeToo movement.

It began with sexual assault allegations against Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault (who has since been jailed for rape). Arnault is married to an Academy member and ran a cultural club that received funding from the body.

Academy members were split over how to handle the allegations and ultimately, seven members quit, including the then-Permanent Secretary. This created problems since members are in theory appointed for life and unable to leave their positions.

Since then, the Academy has updated its statutes and filled the empty seats, with a new permanent secretary announced earlier this year, all in a bid to create a fresh start for the centuries-old body.

You can find a more detailed explanation here.

12.25: How do you pick the winner?

In his will, Alfred Nobel decreed that the literature prize should be decided by the Swedish Academy (Svenska Akademien). The academy was founded way back in 1786 by King Gustaf III, tasked with promoting the “purity, strength and sublimity of the Swedish language”.

From an initial nomination phase which can produce hundreds of names, put forward by past laureates and bodies in other countries which are equivalent to the Swedish Academy, a preliminary list of around 20 is settled on in April, before it's reduced to five by the summer.

The members hold a vote in October to choose the winner, and the laureate must obtain more than half of the votes cast.

Following a scandal last year, the Nobel Foundation that funds the Nobel Prizes insisted that five external people also join the Nobel Committee for at least 2019 and 2020.

12.15: A Nobel crash course

If you're not exactly sure what all the fuss is about but want to get involved, make sure to read our primer on the Nobel Prize in Literature below:

As for who will win this year, that's anyone's guess, but some of the names being thrown around by literary critics and Nobel-watchers include Poland's Olga Tokarczuk, Kenya's Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Ismail Kadare of Albania, Joyce Carol Oates of the US, Canadian Margaret Atwood, and Japan's Haruki Murakami. Read more on the favourites here.

12.00: Live at the scene

We're at the Swedish Academy's headquarters, where classical music is being played while international media sit and wait. The setting is extremely ornate, and the Literature prize has drawn many more journalists than the previous days' announcements.

11.45: Welcome to Day Four of Nobel Week

Good morning and welcome to our Nobel Prize live blog. Today we'll be finding out who's won the prize in Literature – or should we say prizes, since the Swedish Academy will also be awarding 2018's prize, which was postponed amid a series of scandals at the prestigious institution.

Catch up on our coverage of the Medicine, Physics and Chemistry awards if you haven't already. And you can join me, Catherine Edwards, on Twitter where I'll be sharing updates live from the scene of the announcement.



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