Remembering some of the greatest winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature:
Lets remember some of the greatest authors who won the
Nobel Prize in Literature..
(later I will write my opinion about this year’s winner…. Bob Dylan and also later I will make a tribute to Dario Fo who sadly passed away today)
Along with the Opera and music, literature is my other passion and The Nobel Prize in Literature has always being very passionate to discuss for many of us who love literature, we know that many of the greats have won the Nobel Prize BUT also some other giants of literature, like James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Vladimir Nabokov, Franz Kafka, Carlos Fuentes and Jorge Luis Borges didn’t win it. (Also Leo Tolstoy didn’t win in the inaugural Nobel Prize for Literature in 1901.) Still, it is always very interesting to know who is the author who receives this special recognition. (Again, I will coment about Bob Dylan later)
I will remember some of the greatest authors who won the Nobel Prize in Literature. I will only write and recommend the authors that I know and the books that I have read of my personal favorite writers and that is why I will skip some writers.
René François Armand “Sully Prudhomme”, Extraorindary Poet and Essayist Parnassian, he was the first ever winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901. For “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” .
I highly recommend to read Sully’s wonderful poems very much. His most famous works are: His poetic collection “Stances et Poèmes” in which includes his most famous poem: “Le vase brisé.”. Other important works: “Impressions de la guerre” and “La France”.
José Echegaray y Eizaguirre: Spanish playwright. Nobel Prize for Literature in 1904: “in recognition of the numerous and brilliant compositions which, in an individual and original manner, have revived the great traditions of the Spanish drama”. After the great Spanish writers of the “Spanish Golden Age”, José Echegaray became the most famous playwright of the late XIX century and early XX Century of Spain. His most brilliant, famous plays are: ” El gran Galeoto”. Theater was the biggest passion of José Echegaray y Eizaguirre and his most famous plays are “En el puño de la espada”, “La esposa del vengador”, “Conflicto entre dos deberes” and “En el pilar y en la cruz”.
Frédéric Mistral, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1904: “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”. French writer and lexicographer, “Mirèio” is his most important poem and in which Charles Gounod made into an opera, Mireille. Mistral is also author of “Lou Tresor dóu Felibrige ou Dictionnaire provençal-français embrassant les divers dialectes de la langue d’oc moderne”, a very important dictionary of the Occitan language.
(NOTE, in 1904, the award went to both José Echegaray y Eizaguirre and Frédéric Mistral, and it happened also in the years of 1917, 1966, 1974, in which the Nobel Prize in Literature went to two authors)
Rudyard Kipling, English short story-writer, novelist, poet and journalist (and also the first English-language writer to receive the Nobel Prize in literature): The Nobel Prize in Literature 1907: For “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”. Kipling is one of the greatest writers of children’s literature Many of his famous works are “The Jungle Book”, ” The Man Who Would Be King” and the poems “Gunga Din” and “Mandalay”, just to name a few.
Selma Lagerlöf: The Nobel Prize in Literature 1909 (She was the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature) For “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”. Her most famous work: The Wonderful Adventures of Nils
Rabindranath Tagore, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1913: For “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West”. A Polymath, Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali poet, philosopher, artist, playwright, composer and novelist ( he also had a friendship with Ezra Pound and William Butler Yeats)and his many famous works are: “Gitanjali, Song Offerings (A collection of prose translations made by himself, from the original Bengali and with an important introduction from William Butler Yeats) “The Home and the World”, “Shesher Kabita”, “Ghare Baire”… just to name a few.
Anatole France: The Nobel Prize in Literature 1921: For “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”. French poet, journalist, and novelist, Anatole France was a member of the Académie Française. His most important works are: “Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard” and also, Anatole France wrote “Monsieur Bergeret a Paris”, in support of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer who had been falsely convicted of espionage. (The famous Dreyfus affair, in which Émile Zola also supported by writing “J’Accuse”) Another excellent work of Anatole France that I highly recommend is ” Les dieux ont soif”, a novel set during the French Revolution.
William Butler Yeats, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1923: “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”: Some of his famous work: The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems, The Green Helmet and Other Poems, verse and plays, Words for Music Perhaps, and Other Poems, Collected Poems, Collected Plays, A Packet for Ezra Pound, poems.
Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1924: “for his great national epic, The Peasants”
George Bernard Shaw The Nobel Prize in Literature 1925: “for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty”: One of the most brilliant and very interesting writers of all time, a playwright and critic, reading Bernard Shaw is always a very interesting and also fascinting experience, one his most famous plays, is of course… his brilliant “Pygmalion” ( Based on the Greek mythological character and Ovid’s Metamorphoses and in which, years later, of course, inspired the famous musical “My Fair Lady”) his also very famous “Caesar and Cleopatra”. as an Opera lover, it is also interesting to read his opinions and works about Opera, like “The Perfect Wagnerite” ( about Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen) and I can not help but remember one of my favorite quotes by Bernard Shaw about the Opera: “Opera is when a tenor and soprano want to make love, but are prevented from doing so by a baritone.”
Thomas Mann, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1929: “For principally for his great novel, Buddenbrooks, which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature”: One of the most fascinting writers of the XX Century and author of many of the most famous books of history of literature like “Death in Venice” (in which later Luchino Visconti made into a film and Benjami Britten made into an Opera), “The Magic Mountain”, “Doctor Faustus”, “Lotte in Weimar: The Beloved Returns”, “Tristan” (again, another link to Opera)
Luigi Pirandello, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1934: “for his bold and ingenious revival of dramatic and scenic art”
Eugene O’Neill, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1936: “for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy”. His masterwork is “Long Day’s Journey into Night”. Other important plays: “Mourning Becomes Electra”, “Anna Christie”, “The Iceman Cometh”… just to name a few. (Trivia, it is also known that his daughter Oona O’Neill, married famous Actor and director Charlie Chaplin)
Gabriela Mistral, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1945: “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” (She was the first Latin American author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature) She was an educator (Pablo Neruda was one of her students), diplomat, poet and humanist. Gabriela Mistral is one of the greatest poets and figures of the literature of latin America not only because of her marvelous poetry but also because of her extraordinary work as an educator and diplomat.
Hermann Hesse, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1946: “for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style”. Poet, novelist and painter, one of the greatest of literature, his most famous works are “Steppenwolf”, “Narcissus and Goldmund”, “Siddhartha” and “The Glass Bead Game”.
André Paul Guillaume Gide, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1947: “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”
T. S. Eliot, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1948: “for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry”. One of the greatest poets of the English language, (and friend of Ezra Pound) among his masterpieces are “The Waste Land”, (in which the editing of the manuscript was by the also extraordinary Ezra Pound and in which Eliot dedicated as “il miglior fabbro” and because of the complexity of “The Waste Land”, it is known as poetic counterpart to “Ulysses”, by James Joyce), “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, and one of his most famous plays is “Murder in the Cathedral”, about the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, in which later it was made into an Opera by Ildebrando Pizzetti.
William Faulkner, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1949: “for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel”: Another giant of international literature, among his famous works are: “The Sound and the Fury”, “Absalom, Absalom!”, “A Rose for Emily”, just to name a few.
Bertrand Russell, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1950: “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought”
François Mauriac, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1952: “for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life”
Sir Winston Churchill, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953 “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values” Most Important work: A History of the English-Speaking Peoples
Ernest Hemingway, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1954: “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”. One of the greatest and most famous American novelists and one of the most important writers of the XX Century, Hemingway’s most famous works are: “The Old man and the Sea”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “The Sun Also Rises”, “To Have and Have Not”, “A Farewell to Arms”, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, just to name a few. (many of them later had film adaptations)
Juan Ramón Jiménez, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1956: “for his lyrical poetry, which in Spanish language constitutes an example of high spirit and artistical purity”
Albert Camus, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1957: “for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times”. His important works: ” L’Étranger”, “Le Mythe de Sisyphe”, “The Plague”, “The Fall” and “The Rebel”.
Boris Pasternak, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1958: “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition”: Poet, novelist, and literary translator, his most famous works: “Doctor Zhivago”, “The Second Birth” and “My Sister, Life” and his extraordinary poems among them “Autumn”, “Winter Night”, “February”, “March”, and “Hamlet”. A polymath, Pasternak also made important translations of Shakespeare, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Schiller and Goethe’s works and he even was a composer.
Ivo Andric, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1961: “for the epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies drawn from the history of his country”
John Steinbeck, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1962: “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception”: Winner also of the Pulitzer Prize, among Steinbeck’s masterpieces are “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Of Mice and Men” and “East and Eden”.
Jean-Paul Sartre, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1964: “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” (NOTE: Jean-Paul Sartre declined the Nobel Prize because on his own words “a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution”) His well known philosophical works are: “Existentialism and Humanism”, “Being and Nothingness”, “Nausea”, “Huis-clos” and “The Roads to Freedom” (Trivia, as we all ready know, Jean-Paul Sartre had an open relationship with Simone de Beauvoir)
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1965: “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”
Miguel Ángel Asturias, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1967: “for his vivid literary achievement, deep-rooted in the national traits and traditions of Indian peoples of Latin America” (The Second latin American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature)
Yasunari Kawabata, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1968: “for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind”
Samuel Beckett, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1969: “for his writing, which – in new forms for the novel and drama – in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation”
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1970: “for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature”
Pablo Neruda, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1971: “for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams”. Chilean poet Pablo Neruda became the third Latin American to win the Nobel Prize and his poems are considered as the finest. His greatest poem, in my opinion, is “Canto General”, in which is one of the largest and greatest poems by a Latin American poet (along with Sor Juana’s “Primero Sueño” and “Piedra de Sol” by Octavio Paz) and I also like “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair”. Harold Bloom included Pablo Neruda as one of the 26 writers central to the “Western Tradition” in his book “The Western Canon”. The figure of Pablo Neruda became an inspiration for Antonio Skarmeta’s novel “Ardiente Paciencia” in which later became famous as “The Postman of Pablo Neruda”.
Heinrich Böll, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1972: “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
Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1978: “for his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life
Czesław Miłosz, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1980: “who with uncompromising clear-sightedness voices man’s exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts”. One of the most important writers, poets and translators of the XX Century, his poems are among of the finest and I also highly recommend to read his autobiographical “ABC”, in which in an Alphabetical and erudite way, Miłosz describes things about his life, his admiration for poet Walt Whitman and other important writers, his dislike for Sartre and more.
Elias Canetti, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1981: “for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power”
Gabriel García Márquez, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1982: “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”: García Márquez, known affectionately as “Gabo” was the fourth Latin American of winning the Nobel Prize in literature and he is one of the giants of latin American “magic realism” literature and his most famous novel is of course “One Hundred Years of Solitud”, which is a masterpiece of the XX century literature. Other important works: “Love in the Time of Cholera”, “The Autumn of the Patriarch”, “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” and “No One Writes to the Colonel”.
Jaroslav Seifert, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1984: “for his poetry which endowed with freshness, sensuality and rich inventiveness provides a liberating image of the indomitable spirit and versatility of man”
Joseph Brodsky, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1987: “for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity”
Camilo José Cela, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1989: “for a rich and intensive prose, which with restrained compassion forms a challenging vision of man’s vulnerability”. One of the most important writers of the XX Century, among his most importan works is: “The Family of Pascual Duarte”
Octavio Paz, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1990: “for impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity”. Octavio Paz, the only Nobel Prize in Literature of Mexico, and the Fifth Latin American of winning the Nobel Prize, is considered one of the most intelligent and most versatile writers of the XX Century, Poet, Essayist, translator and diplomat. He was one of the most important intellectual men and besides of writing poetry and essays, he also dedicated to write and comment about the political problems of Mexico, Latin America and the world. His poems are among the most brilliant and complex of the latin american literature and his essays are equally excellent. In my opinion, his greatest essay is “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz o las Trampas de la Fe” (About the most famous female poet of Baroque Mexico). “The Labyrinth of Solitude” is also his most famous essay, about what is Mexico and what means to be Mexican, “The Bow and the Lyre” is another exellent essay about Poetry and the history of Poetry, and among his many extraordinary poems, I consider his “Sunstone” (Piedra de Sol) as his greatest poem. Ilan Stavans wrote that Octavio Paz was “the quintessential surveyor, a Dante’s Virgil, a Renaissance man.
Kenzaburo Oe, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1994: “who with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today”
Seamus Heaney, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1995: “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”
Wisława Szymborska, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1996: “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”. Wisława Szymborska is one of my favorite Poets and essayists and highly recommend to read her work.
Dario Fo, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1997: “who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden”
José Saramago, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1998: “who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality”: Extraorinary Portuguese writer, José Saramago was one of the greatest writers of the XX Century and Harold Bloom described Saramago as “the greatest living novelist”. His most important and famous work: “Blindness”.
Günter Grass, The Nobel Prize in Literature 1999: “whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history”: German novelist, poet, playwright and also graphic artist and sculptor, his most famous work is, “The Danzig Trilogy” in which includes “The Tin Drum” (his most famous work), “Cat and Mouse” and “Dog Years”. I also recommend his an autobiographical “Peeling the Onion”.
Gao Xingjian, The Nobel Prize in Literature 2000: “for an æuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama”
Imre Kertész, winner of the 2002 Nobel literature prize, Hungarian novelist and Auschwitz survivor. “for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history” Most important books: “Fatelessness”, a semi-autobiographical story about a 14-year-old Hungarian Jew’s experiences in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. The book is the first part of a trilogy, which continues in A kudarc (“Fiasco”) and Kaddish for an Unborn Child
Elfriede Jelinek, The Nobel Prize in Literature 2004: “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
Doris Lessing The Nobel Prize in Literature 2007 “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny” One of the most important writers and poets of Great Britain and also one of my personal favorites. The Times ranked her fifth on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945” Among her most important works are: The The Children of Violence series ( “Martha Quest” “A Proper Marriage”, “A Ripple from the Storm”, “Landlocked” and “The Four-Gated City”) I also recommend “The Golden Notebook”.
Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio The Nobel Prize in Literature 2008 “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization”: J. M. G. Le Clézio is very well known here in Mexico because many of his writings are about Mexican history and culture. Among his most important works: “Le Procès-Verbal”, “Le Rêve mexicain ou la pensée interrompue” and “Diego and Frida”
Herta Müller The Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”: Novelist, poet and essayist, one of her most impressive works is “The HungerAngel”.
Mario Vargas Llosa The Nobel Prize in Literature 2010 “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat”. The sixth Latin American writer of winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa is a journalist, noverlist and essayist, he is along with Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda and Carlos Fuentes one of the most popular writers from the famous ” “Latin American Boom”. Just like Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes, Vargas Llosa is also an intellectual who also writes and discuss about the problems of Latin America and the world. His most famous works: “The City and the Dogs”, “The Green House”, “Conversation in the Cathedral” and ” The War of the End of the World”. Gustave Flaubert was his major literary inspiration and recently Vargas Llosa wrote an essay about Flaubert and his work.
Tomas Tranströmer The Nobel Prize in Literature 2011 “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”
Mo Yan The Nobel Prize in Literature 2012: “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”
Alice Munro The Nobel Prize in Literature 2013: “master of the contemporary short story”: Alice Munro is by excellence, one of the greatest short-story writers and she has even been compared to Anton Chekhov.
Patrick Modiano The Nobel Prize in Literature 2014 “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation”
Svetlana Alexievich: The Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”