STOCKHOLM: Nobel Literature Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk says she thinks a new sort of fiction may be needed to counteract the modern era’s tendency to isolate and divide people.
In her Saturday lecture in Stockholm ahead of receiving the prize next week, the Polish author complained of the “exhausting white noise of oceans of information” in the internet era.
“It has turned out that we are not capable of bearing this enormity of information, which instead of uniting, generalizing and freeing, has differentiated, divided and enclosed us in individual little bubbles,” she said.
Tokarczuk suggested this discourages people from understanding how actions are interconnected, thus contributing to climate crisis and political tensions.
She said she dreams of a new kind of “fourth-person” narrator in fiction who could encompass the views of each character in a novel.
“We can regard this figure of a mysterious, tender narrator as miraculous and significant. This is a point of view, a perspective, from which everything can be seen. Seeing everything means recognizing the ultimate fact that all things that exist are mutually connected into a single whole, even if the connections between them are not yet known to us,” she said.
Tokarczuk is the 2018 literature laureate. Her prize was announced only two months ago because the Swedish Academy postponed naming a winner last year due to internal turmoil connected with a sex abuse scandal.
The 2019 Nobel Literature winner, Peter Handke, has also brought controversy to the body because of widespread criticism of him as an apologist for Serbian war crimes during the 1990s. One Swedish Academy member said he is boycotting Nobel ceremonies this year in protest of Handke’s selection and a member of the literature nominating committee has announced his resignation.
Handke jousted with journalists who were questioning his views at a Friday news conference, saying he preferred receiving soiled toilet paper to answering their questions. But his lecture on Saturday was contemplative, telling how his writing was first inspired by religious litanies he heard from a village church. He concluded by reciting a poem by the late Swedish Nobel laureate Tomas Transtomer in which an angel whispers “do not be afraid of being human.”
The Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, economics and literature are being presented Tuesday in the Swedish capital.
Earlier Saturday, several Nobel laureates in science spoke about climate change at their news conferences in Stockholm.
Didier Queloz, an astronomer who shares this year’s Nobel physics prize for discovering a planet outside the Earth’s solar system, said people who shrug off climate change on the grounds that humans will eventually leave for distant planets are wrong.
“The stars are so far away I think we should not have any serious hope to escape the Earth,” Queloz said. “We’re not built to survive on any other planet than this one … we’d better spend our time and energy trying to fix it.”