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Ms. Tokarczuk is a prominent and outspoken figure in Poland, known for her opposition to the right-wing Law and Justice party. She faced a backlash after the publication of her novel, “The Books of Jacob,” which is set in 18th century Poland and celebrates the country’s cultural diversity, and won Poland’s top literary prize, the Nike Award, in 2015. Though it was embraced by critics and readers, the novel drew a sharp rebuke from nationalist groups, and Ms. Tokarczuk was subjected to a harassment campaign, receiving death threats and calls for her deportation. In January, she wrote an opinion piece for the Times on the state of the country after the murder of a leading liberal mayor in the country. “I worry about our immediate future,” she said.

Asked this month if he’d read Ms. Tokarczuk’s work, Piotr Glinski, the Polish culture minister, replied that he had tried but had never finished any of her books.

On Thursday, Mr. Glinski congratulated Ms. Tokarczuk. “It is proof that Polish culture is appreciated all over the world,” he wrote on Twitter. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council and former prime minister of Poland, also offered his congratulations in a tweet. He added that he had read all her books from start to finish.

Far from it. Authors have shared the prize on four occasions, most recently in 1974 when the academy gave the prize to two Swedish writers, Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson.


That award caused a scandal, too, because the two were members of the academy. “Mutual admiration is one thing, but this smells almost like embezzlement,” wrote Sven Delblanc, another Swedish author.

Some people will always find the choice of winner scandalous, or at least not to their taste. In 2016, Bob Dylan won, the first musician to do so. His award prompted weeks of debate about whether a songwriter should win a literature award. Jodi Picoult, the novelist, wrote on Twitter: “I’m happy for Bob Dylan, #ButDoesThisMeanICanWinAGrammy?”

The following year’s prize was a more conventional choice. It went to Kazuo Ishiguro, the British writer best known for his novel “The Remains of the Day,” about a butler serving an English lord in the years before World War II.

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