Austrian novelist, playwright, and poet Elfriede Jelinek has won the 2004 Nobel Prize for Literature. Ms. Jelinek is the first woman since 1996 to obtain the coveted prize, worth $1.3 million.
The prize this year was expected to go to a woman. Though Ms. Jelinek is little known outside her own country, she has taken a strong political stand against the rise of the extreme right in Austria.
The Swedish Academy, which awards the literature prize, occasionally uses the award to make a political statement.
In its citation, the academy lauds the 57-year-old Ms. Jelinek for what it describes as the musical flow of voices and counter-voices that it says reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power.
Ms. Jelinek, who was involved with the European student protest movement of the 1970s, became known in Austria as an acute social critic. One of her novels, The Piano Teacher was made into a widely acclaimed motion picture in 2001.
The academy says her texts shift between prose and poetry and contain theatrical scenes and film sequences.
It says her recent works are variations on one of her basic themes, what it describes as the seeming inability of women to fully find themselves and live their lives in a world in which they are seen as stereotypes. In some of her works, the academy says she depicts sexual violence against women as the template of civilization.
The last woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature was the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. Ms. Jelinek is only the 10th woman to receive the award since it was instituted in 1901.