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Two winners of Nobel Prize in Literature named

Stockholm Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian writer Peter Handke won the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prizes for literature on Thursday, a rare double announcement that came after no prize was announced last year due to sex abuse allegations that tarnished the group awarding the prizes.

The Swedish Academy said Tokarczuk won for works that explore the "crossing of boundaries as a form of life." Handke's work was described as exploring "the periphery and the specificity of human experience" with linguistic ingenuity.

Tokarczuk is only the 15th woman to win the Nobel literature prize in more than a century. Of the 11 Nobels awarded so far this week, all the other laureates have been men.

Tokarczuk, 57, is one of Poland's best-known authors, with a fast-growing reputation in the English-speaking world. She has been attacked by Polish conservatives – and received death threats – for criticising aspects of the country's past, including its episodes of anti-Semitism. She is also a strong critic of Poland's right-wing government.

Olga TokarczukCredit:Maciek Nabrdalik

Her novel Flights, which won the Booker International Prize in 2018, combines tales of modern-day travel with the story of a 17th-century anatomist who dissected his own amputated leg and the journey of composer Frederic Chopin's heart from Paris to Warsaw after his death.

Poland's Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, who said earlier this week that he had not finished any of Tokarczuk's books, tweeted his congratulations to her and said he now felt obliged to go back and read her books all the way through.

Handke, 76, is a novelist, essayist, playwright and screenwriter described by the academy as "one of the most influential writers in Europe" after World War II. He was praised for writing powerfully about catastrophe, notably in A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, his 1975 novel about his mother's suicide.

Peter Handke pictured in 2009Credit:AP

The literature prize was cancelled last year after an exodus at the exclusive Swedish Academy, which chooses the winners, following sex abuse allegations. Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of a former academy member, was convicted last year of two rapes in 2011. Arnault allegedly also leaked the name of Nobel Prize literature winners seven times.

The Nobel Foundation had warned that another group could be picked to award the prize if the academy didn't improve its tarnished image, but said in March it was satisfied the Swedish Academy had revamped itself and restored trust.

The 2018 and 2019 awards were chosen by the Swedish Academy's Nobel Committee, a new body made up of four academy members and five "external specialists". Nobel organisers say the committee suggests two names which then must be approved by the Swedish Academy. It's unclear whether the academy members simply rubber- stamped the experts' choice.

The shortlist was made of eight names of which two were picked for the 2018 and 2019 awards, said Anders Olsson, chair of the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy.

With the glory comes a nine-million kronor ($A1.3 million) cash award to be shared, a gold medal and a diploma.

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. The sixth one, the peace prize, is handed out in Oslo, Norway on the same day.

AAP, AP with Reuters

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