Of Men, Pen and Letters
The Nobel Prize in Literatureis awarded annually, since 1901, to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" (original Swedish: den som inom litteraturen har producerat det utmärktaste i idealisk riktning).The "work" in this case refers to an author's work as a whole, though individual works are sometimes also cited. The Swedish Academy decides who, if anyone, will receive the prize in any given year and announces the name of the chosen laureate in early October.
Nobel's choice of emphasis on "idealistic" or "ideal" (in English translation) in his criteria for the Nobel Prize in Literature has led to recurrent controversy. (In the original Swedish, the word idealisk can be translated as either "idealistic" or "ideal".) In the early twentieth century, the Nobel Committee interpreted the intent of the will strictly and did not award certain world-renowned authors of the time such as Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen and Henry James. More recently, the wording has been interpreted more liberally, and the Prize is awarded both for lasting literary merit and for evidence of consistent idealism on some significant level, most recently a kind of idealism championing human rights on a broad scale, and hence more political, some would argue.
"The highlight of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm is when each Nobel Laureate steps forward to receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty the King of Sweden. ... Under the eyes of a watching world, the Nobel Laureate receives three things: a diploma, a medal, and a document confirming the prize amount". In 2008 the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the French writer J. M. G. Le Clézio, who was cited as "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization"; he received a prize amount of 10,000,000 SEK (slightly more than €1 million, or US$1.4 million).
The Swedish Academy has attracted significant criticism in recent years. Some contend that many well-known writers have not been awarded the prize or even been nominated, whereas others contend that some well-known recipients do not deserve it. There have also been controversies involving alleged political interests relating to the nomination process and ultimate selection of some of the recent literary Laureates.
Nobel Prize in Literature (1901 - present)
1901 - Sully Prudhomme (1837-1907)
French writer. Original name Rene Francois Armand Prudhomme. French writer. Sully Prudhomme won the first Nobel Prize for Literature in 1901 "in special recognition of his poetic composition, which gives evidence of lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect."
1902 - Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903)
German/Nordic writer. Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen was referred to as "the greatest living master of the art of historical writing, with special reference to his monumental work, A history of Rome" when he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1902.
1903 - Bjørnstjerne Martinus Bjørnson (1832-1910)
Norwegian writer. Bjørnstjerne Martinus Bjørnson received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1903 "as a tribute to his noble, magnificent and versatile poetry, which has always been distinguished by both the freshness of its inspiration and the rare purity of its spirit."
1904 (2 winners) - Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914)
French writer. Besides many short poems, Frédéric Mistral wrote four verse romances. He also published a Provençal dictionary and wrote memoirs. He received the 1904 Nobel Prize in Literature: "in recognition of the fresh originality and true inspiration of his poetic production, which faithfully reflects the natural scenery and native spirit of his people, and, in addition, his significant work as a Provençal philologist."
1904 (2 winners) - José Echegaray Y Eizaguirre (1832-1916)
Spanish writer. José Echegaray Y Eizaguirre received the 1904 Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of the numerous and brilliant compositions which, in an individual and original manner, have revived the great traditions of the Spanish drama."
1905 - Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916)
Polish writer. Henryk Sienkiewicz was awarded the 1905 Nobel Prize in Literature "because of his outstanding merits as an epic writer." Probably his most widely translated work is Quo Vadis? (1896), a study of Roman society in the time of the Emperor Nero.
1906 Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907)
Italian writer. Professor of literature at the Univ. of Bologna from 1860 to 1904, Giosuè Carducci was a scholar, editor, orator, critic, and patriot. He was awarded the 1906 Nobel Prize in literature "not only in consideration of his deep learning and critical research, but above all as a tribute to the creative energy, freshness of style, and lyrical force which characterize his poetic masterpieces."
1907 - Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
British writer. Rudyard Kipling wrote novels, poems and short stories--mostly set in India and Burma (now known as Myanmar). He was the 1907 Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature "in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author."
1908 - Rudolf Christoph Eucken (1846-1926)
German writer. Rudolf Christoph Eucken received the 1908 Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his earnest search for truth, his penetrating power of thought, his wide range of vision, and the warmth and strength in presentation with which in his numerous works he has vindicated and developed an idealistic philosophy of life."
1909 - Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf (1858-1940)
Swedish writer. Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf turned away from the literary realism and wrote in a romantic and imaginative manner, vividly evoking the peasant life and landscape of Northern Sweden. She received the 1909 Nobel Prize in Literature "in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings."
1910 - Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse (1830-1914)
German writer. Paul Johann Ludwig von Heyse was a German novelist, poet, and dramatist. He received the 1910 Nobel Prize in Literature "as a tribute to the consummate artistry, permeated with idealism, which he has demonstrated during his long productive career as a lyric poet, dramatist, novelist and writer of world-renowned short stories."
1911 - Count Maurice (Mooris) Polidore Marie Bernhard Maeterlinck (1862-1949)
Belgian writer. Maurice Maeterlinck developed his strongly mystical ideas in a number of prose works, among them Le Trésor des humbles (1896) [The Treasure of the Humble], La Sagesse et la destinée (1898) [Wisdom and Destiny], and Le Temple enseveli (1902) [The Buried Temple]. He received the 1911 Nobel Prize in Literature "in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers' own feelings and stimulate their imaginations."
1912 - Gerhart Johann Robert Hauptmann (1862-1946)
German writer. Gerhart Johann Robert Hauptmann received the 1912 Nobel Prize in Literature "primarily in recognition of his fruitful, varied and outstanding production in the realm of dramatic art."
1913 - Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
Indian writer. Rabindranath Tagore was awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature "because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with comsummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West." In 1915, he was knighted by the British King George V. Tagore renounced his knighthood in 1919 following the Amritsar massacre or nearly 400 Indian demonstrators.
1914 - The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1915 - Romain Rolland (1866-1944)
French writer. Rolland's most famous work is Jean Christophe, a partly autobiographical novel, which also won him the 1915 Nobel Prize in Literature. He also received the prize "as a tribute to the lofty idealism of his literary production and to the sympathy and love of truth with which he has described different types of human beings."
1916 - Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam (1859-1940)
Swedish writer. Received the 1916 Nobel Prize for Literature "in recognition of his significance as the leading representative of a new era in our literature."
1917 - Karl Adolph Gjellerup (1857-1919)
Danish writer. Received the 1917 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his varied and rich poetry, which is inspired by lofty ideals."
Henrik Pontoppidan (1857-1943)
Danish writer. Received the 1917 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his authentic descriptions of present-day life in Denmark."
1918 - The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1919 - Carl Friedrich Georg Spitteler (1845-1924)
Swiss writer. Received the 1919 Nobel Prize for Literature "in special appreciation of his epic, Olympian Spring."
1920 - Knut Pedersen Hamsun (1859-1952)
Norwegian writer. Received the 1920 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil."
1921 - Anatole France (1844-1924)
French writer. Pseudonym for Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault. He is often thought of as the greatest French writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921 "in recognition of his brilliant literary achievements, characterized as they are by a nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament."
1922 - Jacinto Benavente (1866-1954)
Spanish writer. Received the 1922 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the happy manner in which he has continued the illustrious traditions of the Spanish drama."
1923 - William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Irish writer. He received the 1923 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation."
1924 - Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont (1868-1925)
Polish writer. Received the 1924 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his great national epic, The Peasants."
1925 - George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
British/Irish writer. This Irish-born writer is considered the most significant British dramatist since Shakespeare. He was a playwright, essayist, political activist, lecturer, novelist, philosopher, revolutionary evolutionist, and most prolific letter writer in literary history. Received the 1925 Nobel Prize "for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty."
1926 - Grazia Deledda (1871-1936)
Pseudonym for Grazia Madesani née Deledda
Italian writer. Received the 1926 Nobel Prize for Literature "for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general."
1927 - Henri Bergson (1859-1941)
French writer. Received the 1927 Nobel Prize for Literature "in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented."
1928 - Sigrid Undset (1882-1949)
Norwegian writer. Received the 1928 Nobel Prize for Literature "principal for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages."
1929 - Thomas Mann (1875-1955)
German writer. Winner of the 1929 Nobel Laureate in Literature "principally for his great novel, Buddenbrooks, which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature."
1930 - Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951)
American writer. Received the 1930 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters."
1931 - Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864-1931)
Swedish writer. Received the Nobel Prize for his poetic body of work.
1932 - John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
British writer. Received the 1932 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his distinguished art of narration which takes its highest form in The Forsyte Saga."
1933 - Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin (1870-1953)
Russian writer. Received the 1933 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the strict artistry with which he has carried on the classical Russian traditions in prose writing."
1934 - Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936)
Italian writer. Received the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his bold and ingenious revival of dramatic and scenic art."
1935 - The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1936 - Eugene Gladstone O'Neill (1888-1953)
American writer. Eugene (Gladstone) O'Neill won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936, and Pulitzer Prizes for four of his plays: Beyond the Horizon (1920); Anna Christie (1922); Strange Interlude (1928); and Long Day's Journey Into Night (1957). He won the Nobel Prize in Literature "for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy."
1937 - Roger Martin du Gard (1881-1958)
French writer. Received the 1937 Nobel Prize for Literature "for the artistic power and truth with which he has depicted human conflict as well as some fundamental aspects of contemporary life in his novel-cycle Les Thibault."
1938 - Pearl Buck (1892-1973)
Pseudonym for Pearl Walsh née Sydenstricker.
American writer. Received the 1938 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces."
1939 - Frans Eemil Sillanpää (1888-1964)
Finnish writer. Received the 1939 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his deep understanding of his country's peasantry and the exquisite art with which he has portrayed their way of life and their relationship with Nature."
1940 - The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1941 - The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1942 - The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1943 - The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1944 - Johannes Vilhelm Jensen (1873-1950)
Danish writer. Received the 1944 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the rare strength and fertility of his poetic imagination with which is combined an intellectual curiosity of wide scope and a bold, freshly creative style."
1945 - Gabriela Mistral (1830-1914)
Pseudonym for Lucila Godoy Y Alcayaga.
Chilean writer. Received the 1945 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world."
1946 - Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)
German/Swiss writer. By 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature "for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style."
1947 - André Paul Guillaume Gide (1869-1951)
French writer. Received the 1947 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his comprehensive and artistically significant writings, in which human problems and conditions have been presented with a fearless love of truth and keen psychological insight."
1948 - Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965)
British/American writer. Received the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry."
1949 - William Faulkner (1897-1962)
American writer. Received the 1949 Nobel in Literature "for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel."
1950 - Earl (Bertrand Arthur William) Russell (1872-1970)
British writer. Received the 1950 Nobel in Literature "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought."
1951 - Pär Fabian Lagerkvist (1891-1974)
Swedish writer. Received the 1951 Nobel in Literature "for the artistic vigor and true independence of mind with which he endeavors in his poetry to find answers to the eternal questions confronting mankind."
1952 - François Mauriac (1885-1970)
French writer. Received the 1952 Nobel in Literature "for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life."
1953 - Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965)
British writer. Received the 1953 Nobel in Literature "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values."
1954 - Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961)
American writer. Brevity was his specialty. Received the 1954 Nobel in Literature "for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style"
1955 - Halldór Kiljan Laxness (1902-1998)
Icelandic writer. Received the 1955 Nobel in Literature "for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland."
1956 - Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958)
Spanish writer. Received the 1956 Nobel in Literature "for his lyrical poetry, which in Spanish language constitutes an example of high spirit and artistic purity."
1957 - Albert Camus (1913-1960)
French writer. He was a famous existentialist and author of "The Plague" and "The Stranger." He received the Nobel Prize in Literature "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times."
1958 - Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (1890-1960)
Russian writer. Received the 1958 Nobel in Literature "for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition." (declined)
1959 - Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968)
Received the Nobel Prize in Literature "for his lyrical poetry, which with classical fire expresses the tragic experience of life in our own times."
1960 - Saint-John Perse (1887-1975)
French writer. Pseudonym for Alexis Léger. Received the 1960 Nobel in Literature "for the soaring flight and the evocative imagery of his poetry which in a visionary fashion reflects the conditions of our time."
1961 - Ivo Andric (1892-1975)
Received the 1961 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies drawn from the history of his country."
1962 - John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
American writer. Received the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception."
1963 - Giorgos Seferis (1900-1971)
Greek writer. Pseudonym for Giorgos Seferiadis. Received the 1963 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his eminent lyrical writing, inspired by a deep feeling for the Hellenic world of culture"
1964 - Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
French writer. Satre was a philosopher, dramatist, novelist, and political journalist, who was a leading exponent of existentialism. He received the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age."
1965 - Michail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov (1905-1984)
Russian writer. Received the 1965 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the artistic power and integrity with which, in his epic of the Don, he has given expression to a historic phase in the life of the Russian people"
1966 - Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970)
Received the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his profoundly characteristic narrative art with motifs from the life of the Jewish people."
Nelly Sachs (1891-1970)
Swedish writer. Received the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength."
1967 - Miguel Angel Asturias (1899-1974)
Guatamalan writer. Received the 1967 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his vivid literary achievement, deep-rooted in the national traits and traditions of Indian peoples of Latin America."
1968 - Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972)
Japanese writer. Received the 1968 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind."
1969 - Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
Irish writer. Received the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his writing, which - in new forms for the novel and drama - in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation."
1970 - Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn (1918- )
Russian writer. Received the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature."
1971 - Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)
Chilean writer. Pseudonym for Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto.
Received the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature "for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent's destiny and dreams."
1972 - Heinrich Böll (1917-1985)
German writer. Received the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature."
1973 - Patrick White (1912-1990)
Australian writer. Received the 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature "for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature."
1974 - Eyvind Johnson (1900-1976)
Swedish writer. Received the 1974 Nobel Prize for Literature "for a narrative art, far-seeing in lands and ages, in the service of freedom."
Harry Martinson (1904-1978)
Swedish writer. Received the 1974 Nobel Prize for Literature "for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos."
1975 - Eugenio Montale (1896-1981)
Italian writer. Received the 1975 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his distinctive poetry which, with great artistic sensitivity, has interpreted human values under the sign of an outlook on life with no illusions."
1976 - Saul Bellow (1915-2005)
American writer. Received the 1976 Nobel Prize for Literature "for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work."
1977 - Vicente Aleixandre (1898-1984)
Spanish writer. Received the 1977 Nobel Prize for Literature "for a creative poetic writing which illuminates man's condition in the cosmos and in present-day society, at the same time representing the great renewal of the traditions of Spanish poetry between the wars."
1978 - Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991)
Polish/American writer. Received the 1978 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life."
1979 - Odysseus Elytis (1911-1996)
Greek writer. Pseudonym for Odysseus Alepoudhelis. Received the 1979 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his poetry, which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts with sensuous strength and intellectual clear-sightedness modern man's struggle for freedom and creativeness."
1980 - Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004)
Polish/American writer. Received the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature for voicing "man's exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts."
1981 - Elias Canetti (1908-1994)
Bulgarian/British writer. Received the 1981 Nobel Prize for Literature "for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power."
1982 - Gabriel García Márquez (1928- )
Colombian writer. Received the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts."
1983 - William Golding (1911-1993)
British writer. Received the 1983 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today."
1984 - Jaroslav Seifert (1901-1986)
Czech writer. Received the 1984 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his poetry which endowed with freshness, sensuality and rich inventiveness provides a liberating image of the indomitable spirit and versatility of man."
1985 - Claude Simon (1913-2005)
French writer. Claude Simon received the 1985 Nobel Prize for Literature for combining "the poet's and the painter's creativeness with a deepened awareness of time in the depiction of the human condition."
1986 - Wole Soyinka (1934- )
Nigerian writer. Received the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature fashioning "the drama of existence" from wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones."
1987 - Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)
Russian/American writer. Received the 1987 Nobel Prize for Literature "for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity."
1988 - Naguib Mahfouz (1911- )
Egyptian writer. Received the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind."
1989 - Camilo José Cela (1916-2002)
Spanish writer. Received the 1989 Nobel Prize for Literature "for a rich and intensive prose, which with restrained compassion forms a challenging vision of man's vulnerability."
1990 - Octavio Paz (1914-1998)
Mexican writer. Octavio Paz received the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature "for impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity."
1991 - Nadine Gordimer (1923- )
South African writer. Nadine Gordimer was recognized for the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature "through her magnificent epic writing... - in the words of Alfred Nobel - been of very great benefit to humanity."
1992 - Derek Walcott (1930- )
Saint Lucian writer. Derek Walcott received the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature "for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment."
1993 - Toni Morrison (1931- )
American writer. Received the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature for "novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import," giving "life to an essential aspect of American reality."
1994 - Kenzaburo Oe (1935- )
Japanese writer. Received the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature "who with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today."
1995 - Seamus Heaney (1939- )
Irish writer. Received the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."
1996 - Wislawa Szymborska (1923- )
Polish writer. Wislawa Szymborska received the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature "for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality."
1997 - Dario Fo (1926- )
Italian writer. Dario Fo received the 1917 Nobel Prize for Literature because he is one "who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden."
1998 - José Saramago (1922- )
Portuguese writer. José Saramago received the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature because he is one "who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an illusory reality."
1999 - Günter Grass (1927- )
German writer. Günter Grass received the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature because of his "frolicsome black fables [which] portray the forgotten face of history."
2000 - Gao Xingjian (1940- )
Chinese/French writer. Gao Xingjian was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2000 "for an œuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama."
2001 - V.S. Naipaul (1932- )
British writer. Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2001 "for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories."
2002 - Imre Kertész (1929- )
Hungarian writer. Imre Kertész was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2002 "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history."
2003 - J.M. Coetzee (1940- )
South African writer. The Nobel Prize for Literature 2003 was awarded to J.M. Coetzee, "who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider."
2004 - Elfriede Jelinek (1946- )
Austrian writer. The Nobel Prize for Literature 2004 was awarded to Elfriede Jelinek "for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power."
2005 - Harold Pinter (1930- )
British writer. The Nobel Prize for Literature 2005 was awarded to Harold Pinter "who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms."
2006 - Orhan Pamuk (1952- )
Turkish writer. The Nobel Prize for Literature 2006 was awarded to Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures." His works were controversial (and banned) in Turkey.
2007 - Doris Lessing (1919- )
British writer (born in Persia, now Iran). The Nobel Prize for Literature 2006 was awarded to Doris Lessing for what the Swedish Academy termed "skepticism, fire and visionary power." She is perhaps most famous for The Golden Notebook, a seminal work in feminist literature.
2008 - Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio The Academy cited Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio as "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization." Le Clezio, 48, received much attention with his first novel The Interrogation in 1963 and made the breakthrough as a novelist with Desert in 1980, for which he was rewarded a prize from the French Academy. This novel Desert contains magnificent images of a lost culture in the North African desert, contrast with a depiction of Europe seen through the eyes of unwanted immigrants, the Swedish Academy said in the statement.
Controversies about Nobel Laureate selections
The Prize in Literature has a history of controversial awards and notorious snubs. Many notable literati have noted that more indisputably major writers have been ignored by the Nobel committee than have been honored by it, including J.R.R. Tolkien Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, John Updike, Jorge Luis Borges and others, often for political or extra-literary reasons.
From 1901 to 1912, the committee was characterized by an interpretation of the "ideal direction" stated in Nobel's will as "a lofty and sound idealism", which caused Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen, Émile Zola and Mark Twain to be rejected.During World War I and its immediate aftermath, the committee adopted a policy of neutrality, favouring writers from non-combatant countries.
Karel Čapek's "War With the Newts" was considered too offensive to the German government, and he declined to suggest some noncontroversial publication that could be cited as an example of his work ("Thank you for the good will, but I have already written my doctoral dissertation").
According to Swedish Academy archives studied by newspaper Le Monde on their opening in 2008, French novelist and intellectual André Malraux was seriously considered for the prize in the 1950s, competing with Albert Camus; he was however rejected several times, especially in 1954 and 1955, "so long as he does not come back to novel", and Camus won the prize in 1957.
Some attribute W. H. Auden's not being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature to errors in his translation of 1961 Peace Prize winner Dag Hammarskjöld's Vägmärken (Markings) and to statements that Auden made during a Scandinavian lecture tour suggesting that Hammarskjöld was, like Auden, homosexual.
In 1964 Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he declined it, stating that "It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner. A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honorable form."
The winner in 1970, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, did not attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm for fear that the U.S.S.R. would prevent his return afterwards (his works there were circulated in samizdat -- clandestine form). After the Swedish government refused to honor Solzhenitsyn with a public award ceremony and lecture at its Moscow embassy, Solzhenitsyn refused the award altogether, commenting that the conditions set by the Swedes (who preferred a private ceremony) were "an insult to the Nobel Prize itself." Solzhenitsyn did not accept the award, and prize money, until 10 December 1974, after he was deported from the Soviet Union.
In 1974 Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov, and Saul Bellow were considered but rejected in favor of a joint award for Swedish authors Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, both Nobel judges themselves. Bellow would win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976; neither Greene nor Nabokov was awarded the Prize.
Jorge Luis Borges was nominated for the Prize several times but, as Edwin Williamson, Borges's biographer, states, the Academy did not award it to him, most likely because of his support of certain Argentine and Chilean right-wing military dictators, including Pinochet, which, according to Tóibín's review of Williamson's Borges: A Life, had complex social and personal contexts.Borges' failure to win the Nobel Prize for his support of these right-wing dictators contrasts with the Committee honoring writers who openly supported controversial left-wing dictatorships, including Joseph Stalin, in the case of Sartre and Neruda.
Swedish children's author Astrid Lindgren has also been overlooked, with some critics complaining that the Academy does not adequately recognize children's literature.
The award to Dario Fo in 1997 was initially considered "rather lightweight" by some critics, as he was seen primarily as a performer and had previously been censured by the Roman Catholic Church. Salman Rushdie and Arthur Miller had been strongly favored to receive the Prize, but the Nobel organisers were later quoted as saying that they would have been "too predictable, too popular."
There was also criticism of the academy's refusal to express support for Salman Rushdie in 1989, after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie to be killed, and two members of the Academy resigned over its refusal to support Rushdie.
The choice of the 2004 winner, Elfriede Jelinek, was protested by a member of the Swedish Academy, Knut Ahnlund, who had not played an active role in the Academy since 1996; Ahnlund resigned, alleging that selecting Jelinek had caused "irreparable damage" to the reputation of the award.
The selection of Harold Pinter for the Prize in 2005 was delayed for a couple of days, apparently due to Ahnlund's resignation, and led to renewed speculations about there being a "political element" in the Swedish Academy's awarding of the Prize.Although Pinter was unable to give his controversial Nobel Lecture, "Art, Truth and Politics", in person, due to his hospitalization for ill health, he delivered it from a television studio on video to an audience projected on three large screens at the Swedish Academy, in Stockholm, and it was simultaneously transmitted on Channel Four, in the UK, on the evening of 7 December 2005. The 46-minute television transmission was introduced by friend and fellow playwright David Hare. Subsequently, the full text and streaming video formats were posted for the public on the Nobel Prize and Swedish Academy official Websites. In these formats Pinter's Nobel Lecture has been widely watched, cited, quoted, and distributed by print and online media and the source of much commentary and debate. A privately-printed limited edition, Art, Truth and Politics: The Nobel Lecture, is published by Faber and Faber (2006).The issue of their "political stance" was also raised in response to the awards of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Orhan Pamuk and Doris Lessing in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
The heavy focus on European authors, and authors from Sweden in particular, has been the subject of mounting criticism, even from major Swedish newspapers.The absolute majority of the laureates have been European, with Sweden itself receiving more prizes than all of Asia. In 2008, Horace Engdahl, the academy's permanent secretary, declared that "Europe still is the center of the literary world" and that "the US is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature".
(To be continued...)