Stockholm: Polish author Olga Tokarczuk on Thursday won the 2018 Nobel Prize in literature; Austrian author Peter Handke was named the 2019 winner.
Tokarczuk won the 2018 Nobel Literature Prize, which was delayed over a sexual harassment scandal, the Swedish Academy announced. She was honoured "for a narrative imagination that with encyclopaedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life".
Handke won "for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience."
Tokarczuk, awarded the 2018 prize, "never views reality as something stable or everlasting. She constructs her novels in a tension between cultural opposites; nature versus culture, reason versus madness, male versus female, home versus alienation", added the Academy.
Tokarczuk, considered the most talented Polish novelist of her generation, has a string of bestsellers to her name and a style that blends the real with the mystical. A vegetarian and environmentalist with long, dark dreadlocks, the 57-year-old writer is also a political activist who does not shy away from criticising Poland's right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government.
She received death threats in 2015 after telling state media that an open and tolerant Poland was a myth. Her publishers assigned her a security detail for a week. Her books portray a polychromatic world perpetually in motion, with characters' traits intermingled and language that is both precise and poetic.
Born on January 29, 1962, in the western town of Sulechow, Tokarczuk studied psychology at the University of Warsaw. She worked as a therapist for a few years in the western city of Walbrzych and published a collection of poems before taking a stab at prose.
Following the success of her early books, she turned to writing full time and settled in the Sudety mountains near the Czech border.
The mother of one is an animal lover with a keen interest in astrology and psychoanalyst Carl Jung.
"She's a mystic in constant search of the truth, a truth that can only be perceived on the move, by transcending borders," said Kinga Dunin, a friend and fellow writer.
Tokarczuk's first novel, "The Journey of the People of the Book," released in 1993, chronicles a failed expedition to find a mysterious book.
She won the Booker International Prize along with her translator Jennifer Croft for her 2007 novel "Flights", whose English version came out in 2017.
Her 900-page "The Books of Jacob" spans seven countries, three religions and five languages, tracing the little-known history of Frankism, a Jewish messianic sect that sprang up in Poland in the 18th century. Released in 2014, its pages are numbered in reverse in the style of Hebrew books.
It became both an award-winning bestseller and the target of harsh criticism from nationalist circles in Poland. Tokarczuk also co-wrote the screenplay for the Polish crime film "Spoor", which won the Alfred Bauer Prize for a work of particular innovation at the Berlin film festival in 2017.
Handke meanwhile won "for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience," the Academy said.
Handke "has established himself as one of the most influential writers in Europe after the Second World War." His works are filled with a strong desire to discover and to make his discoveries come to life by finding new literary expressions for them, the Academy said. Tokarczuk and Handke each take home a cheque worth nine million kronor (USD 912,000, 828,000 euros).