Nobel Prize For Literature: Courting Controversy Makes Prize Meaningless

Nobel prize lit

Having been suspended for a year after a controversy involving a convicted rapist who leaked the names of nominees, the Nobel Prize for Literature returned this year and awarded the 2018 and 2019 prizes in the same year.

Last year’s accolade went to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, while the 2019 prize was awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke. It was originally predicted that the Swedish academy that awards the prize would avoid selecting controversial opinions 

Both nominees have had controversial views over their long careers writing books across multiple genres. Tokarczuk has caused consternation among Polish patriots for her views around Poland’s culpability in colonialism, whilst Handke has previously showed his support for the Serbs during the 1990s Yugoslav war. He also spoke  at the 2006 funeral of former Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused of genocide and other war crimes. 

Previously Handke had called for the abolishment of the prize that he has now accepted, as he believed at the time that the Nobel Prize for Literature was just an attention-seeking exercise and that the awards weren’t worth anything.

However, his mind might have been changed by the huge amount of prize money awarded, which is nine million Swedish kronor, or around £740,000. Both winners will also receive a medal and diploma, and doubtless the awards will do no harm to their future book sales. 

As such, it’s no wonder that Handke has reversed his views on the awards, but I personally can’t help but feel like by selecting two incredibly controversial figures, albeit for completely different reasons, the academy that awards the prize has proved itself to be completely ignoring the author’s contribution to the literary community, and instead focusing on courting headlines and media attention.

Obviously, both winners of these awards have made incredible contributions to the world of literature, but the fact that they are both being recognised in the media more their political views and controversial comments shows that the academy’s decision has paid off, and that the winner’s opinions are more important than their work.

By selecting two controversial winners, the academy has made itself headline news again and ignited debates among many, particularly in the case of Handke, whose views constitute, as many argue, a rewriting of history itself. However, the author’s works themselves have been mostly overlooked by those celebrating or critiquing the choice.

In the end, it is my belief that if awards like this aren’t throughly researched and properly awarded for services to the literary market, then they’re almost entirely pointless.

One thought on “Nobel Prize For Literature: Courting Controversy Makes Prize Meaningless

  1. Pingback: Booker Prize Winners Prove Award Needs Categories – The Dorset Book Detective

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