Nobel Prizes in Literature: the right winners?

Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke have received the Nobel Prize in Literature. The awarding of the 2018 prize to the Pole Olga Tokarczuk and of the 2019 prize to the Austrian Peter Handke was announced simultaneously, since last year's award was postponed due to a scandal. Both prize-winners are controversial choices, as the press commentaries show.

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Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Tokarczuk exposes modern propaganda

Olga Tokarczuk is the epitome of what every right-wing nationalist hates, Dagens Nyheter declares:

“She is a feminist, she is politically active for the green cause and she highlights Poland's multi-ethnic and not least its Jewish history. PiS representatives have branded her a 'traitor'. And now she has received the Nobel Prize in Literature, three days before the Polish elections. ... It says something about developments in Poland if 30 years after the fall of communism the Nobel Prize goes to a political dissident. In an interview with our newspaper she even draws parallels between the situation in Poland then and now. Under communism everyone knew that only lies were to be seen on television. Now it is worse. The propaganda has become cleverer.” (PL) /

A falsifier of Polish history

The nationalist Onlineportal responds with outrage to the prize being awarded to Tokarczuk:

“So this is the kind of image of Poland that the world likes! An image that is promoted and awarded the most distinguished prizes. The Nobel Prize for Olga Tokarczuk fits in with this trend. With an international mandate she will feel even more comfortable about rewriting our history and portraying Poland as a country of colonialists, slave-owners and murderers of Jews . ... Left-wing artists are all the rage nowadays. Embedding creativity and social activism in an anti-conservative, left-wing or feminist trend is becoming ever more widespread. [According to this trend] the world of art and literature has the task of shaping opinions, portraying a new world and encouraging activism. The more left-wing the message, the simpler it will be to build a new order.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Poet of the century deserves the prize

Despite taking Serbia's side in the Yugoslav wars Peter Handke deserves the Nobel Prize, Die Presse argues:

“Should an outstanding poet, who from the point of view of political correctness has made himself a politically useful idiot for politically evil forces, also be declared persona non grata in the realm of poetry? That would make it a very limited realm. ... Some of Peter Handke's many varied and exquisite works have long since joined the ranks of world literature in which he has his own, unique, and apparently permanent voice. Of course it is sad that this poet lost his way in the tangle of the Balkan conflict, but that should not be sufficient reason to exclude him from being honoured in Stockholm. ... Peter Handke deserves the prize, for he is at least half a poet of the century.”

La Stampa (IT) /

By voting for Handke the jury has betrayed Alfred Nobel

Columnist Gianni Riotta, on the other hand, describes the jury's decision as a historic mistake in La Stampa:

“It has betrayed the intentions of the founder by ignoring Peter Handke's scandalous militant, propagandistic, vain support for the war criminal Slobodan Milošević at the end of the last century. ... Handke denied the Serbian militias' ruthless ethnic cleansing and donned the clothes of the executioners. ... In 1996, when thousands of people from Bosnia to Kosovo were suffering dreadfully, the writer wrote some nonsense in the Süddeutsche Zeitung about an alleged plot by 'the international press' to 'sell the Serbs to readers as the bad guys and the Muslims as eternally good'.”