On Thursday morning, the Swedish Academy announced the two winners of the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature: Polish author Olga Tokarczuk for 2018 and Austrian author Peter Handke for 2019. The 115th Nobel Laureates in Literature is a woman, which means that a total of 15 women have won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The last woman to win was Svetlana Alexievich, author of Secondhand Time, in 2015, and the last prize was awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Remains of the Day, in 2017.
The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2018 was awarded to Olga Tokarczuk "for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedia passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life." The author, who won the Man Booker International Prize in 2018, has been translated into English on two occasion, for her books Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft, and Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Dead, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.
Peter Handke was awarded "for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience."
It’s unsurprising that the Swedish Academy chose to award the prize to at least one woman when you consider the reason for two awards in the first prize: 2018’s award was postponed amid a #MeToo controversy concerning Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson. Last year, Arnault was convicted of two rapes, and Frostenson — along with several other members — was ousted from the Swedish Academy.
The #MeToo movement, though explicitly about sexual misconduct, is implicitly about inequality, power imbalance, and toxic masculinity, all of which have resulted in a world where women are vastly undervalued for their contributions to a variety of fields, including literature.
As reported by New Republic, the Swedish Academy seemed determined to amend their pathetic record this year. The new chair of the Swedish Academy’s Literature Committee, Anders Olsson, made as much explicitly clear when he said, "We had a more Eurocentric perspective on literature and now we are looking all over the world. Previously it was much more male-oriented. Now we have so many female writers who are really great, so we hope the prize and the whole process of the prize has been intensified and is much broader in its scope."
More to come.
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