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Writers from Poland and Austria Win 2018, 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature


Austria's Peter Handke won the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature, and the postponed 2018 award went to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, the Swedish Academy said on Thursday. October 10, 2019


The Swedish Academy has named Austrian Peter Handke winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature.

It also announced that it was honoring Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk with the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature. The Academy cancelled the prize last year after many members fled the organization following sexual abuse accusations linked to it.

The Academy said it awarded Tokarczuk for imaginative writing that “represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life."

The Polish writer’s first published work came in 1989, a book of poetry called Cities in Mirrors. Her first novel, The Journey of the Book-People, was published in 1993. Last year, Tokarczuk became the first Polish writer to win Britain’s Man Booker Prize for International Literature for her novel Flights. Her novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, was on the short list of nominees for the 2019 prize as well. That prize went to another writer.

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk smiles during a press conference in Bielefeld, Germany, Thursday, Oct 10, 2019. Tokarczuk has been named recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Polish author Olga Tokarczuk smiles during a press conference in Bielefeld, Germany, Thursday, Oct 10, 2019. Tokarczuk has been named recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Tokarczuk spoke Thursday with readers in Bielefeld, Germany, hours after she won the Nobel. Asked about her profession, she said she was trained as a mental health professional. But she said, "I can only write." She said she is always working at the job, which includes traveling, observing and collecting facts as well as writing.

She also said she knew she might be a possible candidate for the award but she was not expecting it. She got a telephone call from the Swedish Academy while she was in a car.

"So it happened somewhere on a German highway, I don't even know exactly where," Tokarczuk said, to laughter.

Poland's finance minister says he will waive the tax expected on the $905,000 prize. The official admitted he has not read any of Tokarczuk's books but said he was happy at her success.

Tokarczuk has been deeply critical of Poland's conservative government.

The Swedish Academy said it named Peter Handke winner of the 2019 prize for “influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience."

FILE - In this Friday Aug. 7, 2009 file photo, Austrian author Peter Handke
FILE - In this Friday Aug. 7, 2009 file photo, Austrian author Peter Handke

Handke’s first novel was published in 1966. He also writes plays and is a political activist. The Austrian writer was an opponent of NATO's airstrikes against Serbia in the Kosovo war of the late 1990s. He was a supporter of the Serbian government under the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic. He has denied that Bosnian Serb troops carried out a campaign of genocide in the killing of 8,000 civilians in Srebrenica during the Bosnian war in the 1990s.

As a result, some critics are angry that he was given the Nobel Prize.

The Kosovo ambassador to the United States wrote in a Twitter post Thursday, “Something has gone terribly wrong!" She criticized the Nobel committee for choosing someone she said spreads ethnic hatred and violence.

At home in Paris Thursday, Handke called the decision to give him the literature award “courageous.” He said the recognition gave him "a strange kind of freedom."

Serbian media and officials praised Peter Handke and his win. They described the writer as a "great friend" of the Serbs.

The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

boundary -n. a point or limit that indicates where two things become different​

novel -n. a long written story usually about imaginary characters and events​

highway -n. a main road that connects cities, towns, etc.​

waive -v. to refrain from pressing or enforcing (something, such as a claim or rule) ​

linguistic -adj. of or relating to language​

ingenuity -n. skill or cleverness that allows someone to solve problems, invent things, etc.​

periphery -n. the outside edge of an area : the area that surrounds a place or thing ​- often used figuratively​

specificity -n. the quality of being special or particular

courageous -adj. very brave​

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