Nobel Prize in Literature


October 17, 2021

The Nobel Prize in Literature (Swedish: Nobelpriset i litteratur) is the most important literature prize in the world, both in terms of reputation and amount of money. The prize was instituted as one of several Nobel Prizes by the industrialist Alfred Nobel. According to the Nobel will, the Nobel Prize in literature will go to "the one who in literature has produced the most excellent in an idealistic direction". The award has been presented by the Swedish literary company Svenska Akademien every year since 1901, except in 2018, and has gone to some of the most important authors in modern world literature. The recipient's name is usually announced in October, and the prize amount in 2019 was set at nine million Swedish kroner. The Nobel Prize in Literature has gone three times to Norwegian authors: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in 1903, Knut Hamsun in 1920 and Sigrid Undset in 1928. The most serious criticism of the award was for many years that the Academy was very short-sighted in its choice of award recipients, a criticism that peaked in 1974, when two more Swedish authors received the award. The strong northern European dominance of award recipients, historically speaking, has diminished considerably in the last 20–25 years, a period in which the Academy has deliberately found award recipients from new regions and language areas. Several of the most recent awards (1987, 1991, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2005) have gone to authors who are or have been controversial in their home countries, partly as opposition to the authorities, partly for opinions contrary to public opinion. Medal and diploma The prize consists of a medal, a diploma and a sum of money. The medal is in gold (until 1979 in 23 carats, then in 18 carats) and is 66 mm in diameter. On the obverse, the medal bears Alfred Nobel's left - handed portrait. To the left is the inscription «ALFR • / NOBEL» over two lines and to the right over six lines the inscription «NAT • / MDCCC / XXXIII / OB • / MDCCC / XCVI» (Nobel's year of birth 1833 and year of death 1896). The reverse bears a motif in which a male figure sits by a laurel tree; in front of him stands a female figure with a lyre. The two symbolize the poet and the mouse. It is all surrounded by the inscription «INVENTAS • VITAM • IUVAT EXCOLUISSE • PER • ARTES» in the upper arch and «ACAD • SUEC •» in a straight line at the bottom. The inscription in the upper arch is a quote from Vergil's work Æneiden: "inventas vitt juvat excoluisse per artes", which means "and those who improved life on earth with their newfound skills". The inscription at the bottom stands for the Swedish Academy, which picks out the prize winner. The medal was designed by Erik Lindberg in 1902. The medal for the prizes in physics and chemistry is identical, while the medals for medicine and literature have identical adverse, while different reverse. The medal for the Peace Prize has its own design of both adverse and reverse. Copies of the medal exist in silver and gilded silver, including in museums and collections. For the prize winners' family members, up to five medals are made in gilded bronze. The medals are made at the Swedish Mint. The diploma for the prize winners in medicine consists of two parts, a page with the details of the prize and the prize winner written on it and an artistic picture page, which is designed each year by a new artist.

Postponement in 2018

In connection with the Me too campaign, it became known that the husband of one of the members of the Swedish Academy had sexually harassed several women. The person in question had also received money from the academy for his cultural institution, and was also accused of leaking the name of the Nobel Prize winners. The discussions around this led to several academy members leaving the academy. In the wake of this, it was decided that the Nobel Prize should not be awarded in 2018, and that two prizes should rather be awarded in 2019.


The first Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded in 1901 to Sully Prudhomme from France. Each recipient receives a medal, a diploma and a sum of money that has varied over the years. In 1901, Prudhomme received 150

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