Nobel literature prizes to be awarded after 2018 scandal

Author Margaret Atwood reads an extract during the launch of her new novel The Testaments at a book store in London Britain

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Thursday announced two Nobel Prizes in literature - one for 2019 and one for 2018.

The 2018 prize, delayed by one year after a sexual assault scandal rocked the award-giving Academy, went to Tokarczuk for "for a narrative imagination that with encyclopaedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life".

Handke "has established himself as one of the most influential writers in Europe after the Second World War".

FILE - In this March 15, 2017 photo Polish author Olga Tokarczuk attends a lection in Cologne, Germany. The setting is extremely ornate, and the Literature prize has drawn many more journalists than the previous days' announcements.

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian author Peter Handke were named recipients on Thursday, with Tokarczuk receiving belated recognition for 2018 work, while Handke was honored for writing this year. Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of a former academy member, was convicted past year of two rapes in 2011.

So far, nine Nobel prizes have been awarded this week and all the laureates are men.

The Swedish Academy, founded in 1786, is thought likely to try to avoid any controversy as it seeks to rebuild its reputation after the scandal exposed harassment, furious infighting, conflicts of interest and a culture of secrecy among its 18 members, who are elected for life and seen as the country's guardians of culture.

Now, casual followers may be wondering why this year - for the first time in almost half a century - two writers were honored as Nobel laureates, rather than just one.

The members hold a vote in October to choose the victor, and the laureate must obtain more than half of the votes cast. The prize was postponed last year for the first time in 70 years after the academy was hit by a sexual assault scandal at the height of the MeToo Movement, leaving the institution paralysed.

When asked whether the Swedish Academy really makes the decision, Olsson said "We are not ready yet to evaluate the process", and declined to elaborate on the internal line of work.

Among the leading contenders for the prize, before it was announced, were Canadian poet Anne Carson, novelists Maryse Conde of Guadeloupe and Can Xue of China, and Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale, which has been made into a hit TV series.

With the glory comes a 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award to be shared a gold medal and a diploma. Arnault was also suspected of violating century-old Nobel rules by leaking names of winners of the prestigious award; allegedly seven times, starting in 1996.

The laureates receive them at an elegant ceremony in Stockholm on December 10 the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896 together with five other Nobel winners.

Earlier in the week, the Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine, Physics and Chemistry were awarded.

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