9 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About The Nobel Literature Prize
Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel received a mistaken obituary that led him into thinking of a more striking way of leaving a mark for people to remember him. He significantly contributed to the fields of chemistry, literature, engineering, and entrepreneurship in the 1800s, and is known for creating new types of explosives, which made him acquire millions.
In 1895, Nobel signed his last will and testament, stating that most of his fortune will be used to fund a series of prizes in the field of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace — the Nobel Prizes. The Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in honour of the inventor.
One of these awards is the Nobel Prize in Literature, which is considered as the world’s most coveted literary prize. The Swedish prize is awarded annually and for this year, it will be announced on 10 October 2019. The Swedish Academy will announce two literature laureates: one for 2019 and the deferred winner for 2018. We’ve listed 9 facts about the most esteemed literary prize that we bet you haven’t heard of:
It is the most prestigious literary award
The Swedish Academy annually awards 16 prizes and the most famous and prestigious being the Nobel Literature Prize. This prize is according to the will of Alfred Nobel, who was impressively fluent in five languages at the age of 17. Writers from different parts of the world are nominated and the winning individual gets a medal and diploma, along with monetary prize that varies every year.
Number of Nobel Literature Laureates
Since 1901, a total of 114 people have bagged the Nobel Literature Prize. It has been awarded on 110 occasions, with two people sharing the prize on four occasions. It was not awarded on seven occasions: in 1914, 1918, 1935, 1940, 1941, 1942, and 1943. As stated in Nobel’s will, the award should be given to “the person who shall have produces in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. On the seven occasions, none of the works under consideration is found to follow what was described in the will. The prize money is reserved until the following year until a deserving awardee came along.
Female Nobel Literature Laureates
Fourteen out of 114 Nobel Literature Prize laureates are women including Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf (1858 – 1940) who was the first woman to be awarded in 1909. She was awarded five years before she was elected to the Swedish Academy. Among these women are Grazia Deledda, Sigrid Undset, Pearl Buck, Gabriela Mistral, Nelly Sachs, Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison, Wislawa Szymborska, Elfriede Jelinek, Doris Lessing, Herta Mueller, Alice Munro, and Svetlana Alexeivich.
Youngest Nobel Literature Laureate
To date, the youngest laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature is Rudyard Kipling, best known for “The Jungle Book”, who was 41 years old when he received the award in 1907. It was awarded to him “in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterise the creations of this world-famous author” as stated in The Nobel Prize in Literature 1907.
Oldest Nobel Literature Laureate
Doris Lessing received the award in 2007 when he was 88 years old. The Nobel Prize in Literature 2007 was given to Lessing “that epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire, and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny".
Two people have refused the Prize
Coveted, as it is, the Nobel Prize in Literature was declined twice by Russian author Boris Pasternak in 1958 and by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1964. Pasternak accepted the prize but was later forced by Soviet authorities to decline it while Sartre declined it because he had consistently refused all official honours.
Number of nominees
Every year, the Academy’s archives are bursting with letters from the world’s most renowned literary figures nominating candidates. The institution receives around a whopping 350 nominations submitted by those eligible to do so: literature and linguistics professors in universities and university colleges, previous winners of the literature prize, and participants of the Academy. To qualify, nominees must still be alive and, according to strict rules by Alfred Nobel himself, must have contributed a piece of work within the past year.
France has the most Prize laureates
With 15 laureates, France takes the gold medal for the most number of Nobel Literature Prizes, which includes Paris-born Sully Prudhomme, the first to be ever awarded in 1901. Tied in second place are United States and Britain with 12 laureates each.
How a Nobel Laureate is chosen
Only qualified persons can submit the nominees of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel Committee for Literature sends invitation letters to persons who are qualified to nominate for the Prize. These people can be professors of literature and of linguistics at universities and university colleges, previous Nobel Laureates in Literature, or members of the Swedish Academy. The Committee is the working body that evaluates the nominations and presents its recommendations to the Academy.
In early October, the Academy announces the Laureate, and by December, the Nobel Literary Prize is given, which consists of a Nobel Medal and Diploma, and a document confirming the prize amount.