Olga Tokarczuk is the recipient of the 2018-2019 Nobel Prize for Literature. Although this prize is awarded to Olga Tokarczuk in 2019, she is actually the 2018 nomination. The prize was held over because of sexual abuse and financial scandals which led to a series of resignations in the Swedish Academy. She is the fifteenth and second Polish writer to win this prestigious prize.
Ms. Tokarczuk is no stranger to receiving prizes for her literary works. In 2008 her novel Flights won the Nike award, Poland’s top literary award. In 2018 Flights took the Man Booker Prize for its translation into English by Jennifer Croft.
Tokarczuk’s work focuses on peace, democracy and activism. In an interview with Claire Armitstead in The Guardian, Tokarczuk had this to say about a two-year book deal on detective stories:
But just writing a book to know who is the killer is wasting paper and time, so I decided to put into it animal rights and a story of dissenting citizens who realise that the law is immoral and see how far can they can go with saying no to it.”
In a fascinating interview with Adam Smith – Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media – Olga Tokarczuk speaks of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature as a symbol of hope for those worried about the ‘Crisis in democracy’ she sees facing central Europe.
For more on Female Nobel Laureates for Literature please visit my series.
Svetlana Alexievich wins the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature.
An investigative journalist from Belarus, Alexievich is the 14th woman to win this prestigious prize and the first female Russian writer to do so.
What is unusual about her winning the prize for literature is that her writing is non-fiction.
Literature is just a fancy word for writing says Philip Gourevitch in his The NewYorker article titled Non Fiction Deserves a Nobel.
Fourteen women have so far won the Nobel Prize for Literature. They are:
1909: Selma Lagertof (Sweden)
1926: Grazia Deledda (Italy)
1928: Sigrid Undset (Denmark)
1938: Pearl. S. Buck (USA)
1945: Gabriela Mistral (Chile)
1966: Nelly Suchs (Germany)
1991: Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)
1993: Toni Morrison (USA)
1996: Wistawa Szymborska (Poland)
2004: Elfriede Jelinek (Austria)
2007: Doris Lessing (Iran)
2009: Herta Muller (Romania)
2013: Alice Munro (Canada)
2015: Svetlana Alexievich (Belarus)
To know more about these Nobel Laureates click here .
In his will, Alfred Nobel stated that his entire remaining estate should be used to endow “prizes to those who, during the previous year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”
In light of this, my choice for the next Female Nobel Prize for Literature is Taslima Nasrin, a writer from Bangladesh.
Her novel Lajja (1993) is a protest against torture, religious extremism and terrorism by Muslim fundamentalists.
In the unimaginable aftershock of the Second World War the German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno made the famous statement, ‘To write poetry after Auschwitz is impossible.’ It was Nelly Sachs, more than anyone else, who showed that it was not only possible, it was necessary.
With the burial of your head
seed capsule of dreams
with endless resignation
ready now to sow in another country.
turned round to mother earth –
The Berlin-born Jewish poet (1891-1970) was arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo in 1938, and in 1940, after being summoned to report to a “work camp,” she narrowly escaped to the neutral country of Sweden with her mother. Throughout the war they lived in poverty, occupying a one-room apartment in Stockholm. Sachs penned poetry that bears witness to the Holocaust and the tragedy of the Jewish people with words that were also universal, symbolic of the suffering and redemption of all humanity.
On the day of her seventy-fifth birthday, Nelly Sachs was awarded the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature. She gave the money away, half of it to the needy, half to the friend who had arranged to get her out of Germany in 1940.
At her Nobel reception, Ingvar Andersson of the Swedish Academy made the following comments to her: