Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke may be fine writers but their awards only add to suspicions over the prize’s limited horizons
In the run-up to Thursday’s announcement of a double Nobel prize in literature, the head of the award committee, Anders Olsson, made a bold claim. “We had a more Eurocentric perspective on literature,” he said, “and now we are looking all over the world.”
This seems a curious assertion in light of the successive awards for 2018 and 2019 to Olga Tokarczuk (from Poland) and Peter Handke (from Austria). Whatever the merits of these writers – and Handke is certainly a controversial choice – or the congratulations due, the decision fails to demonstrate the widened perspective that Olsson promised. Taking him at his word, it invites questions about how diligent their search can have been, how knowledgeable the jury, and indeed how global a literary prize the Nobel can claim to be.
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