Bob Dylan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Harold Pinter are a few of the major, glittering names that have previously won the incredibly prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature.
The 2018 and 2019 winners though, you’ll be forgiven for responding to their names with a mild: ‘Huh? I don’t think I’ve read anything by them…’
Fear not. Here’s everything you need to know to get through a conversation on the award-winning duo…
The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2018 is awarded to the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk. The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2019 is awarded to the Austrian author Peter Handke.#NobelPrize pic.twitter.com/CeKNz1oTSB— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 10, 2019
Who is she? Tokarczuk was born in Sulechów, Poland in 1962 and trained as a psychologist before turning to writing in the 1980s. She still lives in Poland, and is known for her activism and for collecting almost every top literary prize available in her home country. Brilliantly, she’s also the most widely translated female Polish writer around.
What has she written? Start with Flights, the 2018 novel that landed her the Man Booker International Prize (translated by Jennifer Croft). A fragmentary look at travel and the body, it spans moments from the 17th century up until the present day, including the discovery of the Achilles tendon and the disappearance of a woman and her child on a Croatian island. From her back catalogue, check out The Books Of Jacob (her divisive look at the life of Polish author Jacob Frank) and the noir, Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead.
Why did she win? According to a statement from the Swedish Academy, she was recognised “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”
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Second book post in a row, but congratulations to #olgatokarczuk for being the first Polish woman to win the @manbookerprize ! Picked this up at @dauntbooks in London a couple weeks ago in a random grab at the shelves, not knowing what it was or how good it would be. Such a perfect book to read while travelling and extremely interesting to me, as the majority of my life is spent in transit. Can't really compare it to anything, but I do recommend. 📚 Translated by @jenniferlcroft
Who is he? Austrian born writer Handke, 76, is a playwright, novelist and translator, and currently lives in France. Following a reportedly troubled youth, his career has been peppered with controversies – particular due to his views on the Yugoslav wars.
What has he written? For what has been described as “nearly perfect” by the New York Times Review Of Books, grab a copy of Handke’s A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, which deals with his mother’s suicide. 2018’s Storm Still features a collection of monologues, while The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick is arguably his best known work, and explores the mind of a goal keeper-turned-murderer.
Why did he win? The prize givers noted he received the accolade “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience”.
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