‘Wings of Desire’ Writer Peter Handke and Polish Author Olga Tokarczuk Win Nobel Prize in Literature

Last year’s prize was not presented due to a scandal over handling of sexual misconduct

Last Updated: October 10, 2019 @ 6:29 AM

Austrian author and screenwriter Peter Handke and Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy announced Thursday.

Tokarczuk technically won the 2018 prize, which was not handed out last year as the Swedish Academy was engulfed in a scandal over its handling of sexual misconduct by the husband of one of its members. The panel announced at that time that the 2018 and 2019 awards would be announced simultaneously in 2019.

Sure enough, Thursday morning, they were.

The Nobel committee cited Handke “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”

In addition to his many novels, including 1966’s  “The Hornets,” Handke has also written plays and screenplays, including for Wim Wenders’ classic “Wings of Desire” and “Wrong Move” as well as the 1978 adaptation of his own novel “The Left-Handed Woman” that he also directed.

Tokarczuk, who won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for “Bieguni” (“Flights”), which was published in Polish in 2007 and English in 2017, won the 2018 Nobel “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”

She broke through with her third novel “Primeval and Other Times,” published in Polish in 1996 and translated into English in 2010, and followed that with the 2014 historical novel “The Books of Jacob” that the committee called her “magnum opus.”

Like Handke, she has also worked in film, collaborating with writer-director Agnieszka Holland on the 2017 crime film “Spoor” (“Pokot”), an adaptation of her novel “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.” The film was Poland’s entry for the foreign language film Oscar, but did not receive a nomination.

Last year was the first time since 1943 that the Academy did not award the Nobel Prize for Literature, which has happened six prior times: 1914, 1918, 1925, 1940, 1941, and 1942. In four of those instances, the Academy awarded a winner at the same time as the following year’s.

The Academy was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal over the actions of Jean-Claude Arnault, who is closely tied to the organization and the husband of one its members, Katarina Frostenson. In 2017, a Swedish newspaper reported that Arnault had harassed or assaulted 18 women, and since, more accusations came out, including that he groped Sweden’s Crown Princess, Victoria.

The head of the Academy, Sara Danius, stepped down in April.

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