Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke win Nobel Prize for Literature for 2018 and 2019 – but who are they?

Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke win Nobel Prize for Literature for 2018 and 2019 – but who are they?

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 2018 winner… Olga Tokarczuk

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.”

The 2019 winner… Peter Handke

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”.

More on this topic

Ethiopian PM wins Nobel Peace Prize for setting country on path to stabilityEthiopian PM wins Nobel Peace Prize for setting country on path to stability

Two Nobel literature prize winners announced after scandal-hit yearTwo Nobel literature prize winners announced after scandal-hit year

Three awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work on lithium-ion batteriesThree awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work on lithium-ion batteries

Nobel prize winner missed call informing him of prestigious honourNobel prize winner missed call informing him of prestigious honour

More in this Section

Pete the fern takes world’s first plant-powered selfiesPete the fern takes world’s first plant-powered selfies

Jeremy Corbyn grimace caught on camera ahead of Queen’s SpeechJeremy Corbyn grimace caught on camera ahead of Queen’s Speech

'People still think it's a load of rubbish... That's fair enough' says writer of Ireland's Call'People still think it's a load of rubbish... That's fair enough' says writer of Ireland's Call

Fortnite gamers see map sucked into black holeFortnite gamers see map sucked into black hole


Lifestyle

My sister Gabriella always says that during sibling whispers all I ever wanted was to be on stage.This Much I Know: Man of many talents Mike Hanrahan

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a woman whose husband is controlling and belittling her.Ask a counsellor: ‘My husband is so controlling – what do I do?’

Peter Dowdall branches out to take a look at the mountain ash or rowan.Rowan berries show us how nature is stocking its larder for winter

More From The Irish Examiner