Nobel Prize in Literature


October 19, 2021

The Nobel Prize for Literature (in Swedish: Nobelpriset i litteratur) is a Swedish literary prize that has been awarded annually since 1901 to an author from any country who, in the words of the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" (originally from the Swedish: den som inom litteraturen har producerat det utmärktaste i idealisk riktning). Although individual works are sometimes cited as particularly noteworthy, the award is based on the body of an author's work as a whole. The Swedish Academy is responsible for choosing the award winner and announcing the names of the laureates in early October. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895. On some occasions, the prize was postponed to the following year. It was not awarded in 2018, but two prizes were awarded in 2019. Although the Nobel Prize for Literature has become the most prestigious literary prize in the world, the Swedish Academy has attracted significant criticism for its treatment of the prize. Many authors who won the award have been ostracized, while others rejected by the jury remain widely studied and read. The award "has become widely seen as political - a peace award in literary guise," whose judges are prejudiced against authors with different political tastes to them. British literature professor Tim Parks expressed skepticism that it would be possible for "Swedish teachers to compare a poet from Indonesia, perhaps translated into English, with a novelist from Cameroon, perhaps only available in French, and another who writes in Afrikaans, but it is published in German and Dutch...". In 2016, 16 of the 113 laureates were of Scandinavian origin. The Academy has often been accused of being biased towards European authors, and Swedish authors in particular. Nobel's "vague" formulation of the prize criteria has led to recurrent controversies. In the original Swedish, the word "idealisk" is translated as "ideal". The Nobel Committee's interpretation has varied over the years. In recent years, this has meant a kind of idealism defending human rights on a large scale.



Alfred Nobel stipulated in his will that his money would be used to create a series of awards for those who bestow the "greatest benefit to humanity" in physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine and literature. Although Nobel wrote several wills during his lifetime, the last one was written just over a year before his death and signed at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris on November 27, 1895. Nobel bequeathed 94% of his total assets, 31 million of SEK (the equivalent of US$198 million or €176 million in 2016) to establish and endow the five Nobel Prizes. Due to the level of skepticism surrounding the will, it was not until April 26, 1897, that it was approved by the Storting, the Parliament of Norway. The executors of his will were Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist, who formed the Nobel Foundation to look after Alfred Nobel's fortune and organize the prizes. The members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee who were to award the Peace Prize were appointed shortly after the approval of the will. The awarding organizations were: The Karolinska Institute on June 7, the Swedish Academy on June 9 and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on June 11. The Nobel Foundation then came to an agreement on guidelines for how the Nobel Prize should be awarded. In 1900, the newly created statutes of the Nobel Foundation were promulgated by King Oscar II.

Award process

Each year, the Swedish Academy sends out requests for nominations from candidates for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Academy members, members of literature academies and societies,

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