Nobel Prize in Literature

Alfred wasn't the only Nobel to invent things—his invention of dynamite is the most famous, though his father's invention of modern plywood is arguably more useful and, in the long run, more universal. Alfred was the only one of his family to set aside a massive fortune to be incrementally awarded annually as prizes for work in science, literature, and peace.

If it wasn't for his brother's death, Alfred Nobel would probably never have instituted a prize in his name. His brother died in 1888, and a confused journalist, thinking it was Alfred's obituary he was writing, excoriated the inventor as a "merchant of death," the infamous inventor of dynamite. Alfred saw his own obituary, and immediately began to worry what people would say about him when he really did die.

He decided giving away his money to those whose work was characterized by goodwill, charity and idealism would help to erase any sins attributed to him for his invention of arms and weaponry. It was a good calculation—today, everyone's heard of the Nobel Prize, and few would associate it with anything so destructive as high explosives. Perhaps he went too far: many have heard of his prizes, few have heard of the man himself.

The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded 104 times since 1901. In his will, Alfred Nobel specified that the Literature prize be given to an author whose work demonstrated a notable and consistent idealism. Initially, this meant explicitly political writers and works were not considered (though Rudyard Kipling was a recipient!).

Like all things, however, even this idealism faded and the prize became more and more politically oriented, particularly in a Leftist direction. The prize is still given to authors for a lifetime of work, but now those with an obvious agenda are just as likely to win as those with significant things to say about the universal human condition and the nature of mankind.

Still, some of the world's finest novelists are represented by the following list. Many of them are far from household names, but at a time when every high school student has heard of Stephanie Meyer and few have heard of William Faulkner, that's probably more cause for relief than concern. This is by no means easy reading for the most part, but it is rewarding.

We do urge you to proceed with caution, however. Few (if any) of these authors represent a Christian worldview, and many of them are outright hostile to the faith. At the same time, their books consistently offer a surprisingly honest look into the hearts and minds of those without hope. Don't reject these books out of hand; but also, don't take them too seriously—they are, after all, only the work of humans.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

Comprehensive List of Nobel Prizein Literature Winners

  • 2010: Mario Vargas Llosa
  • 2009: Herta Muller
  • 2008: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio
  • 2007: Doris Lessing
  • 2006: Orhan Pamuk
  • 2005: Harold Pinter
  • 2004: Elfriede Jelinek
  • 2003: John M. Coetzee
  • 2002: Imre Kertesz
  • 2001: Sir Vidiadher Surajprasad Naipaul
  • 2000: Gao Xingjian
  • 1999: Gunter Grass
  • 1998: Jose Saramago
  • 1997: Dario Fo
  • 1996: Wislawa Szymborska
  • 1995: Seamus Heaney
  • 1994: Kenzaburo Oe
  • 1993: Toni Morrison
  • 1992: Derek Walcott
  • 1991: Nadine Gordimer
  • 1990: Octavio Paz
  • 1989: Camilo Jose Cela
  • 1988: Naguib Mafouz
  • 1987: Joseph Brodsky
  • 1986: Wole Soyinka
  • 1985: Claude Simon
  • 1984: Jaroslav Seifert
  • 1983: William Golding
  • 1982: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • 1981: Elias Canetti
  • 1980: Czeslaw Milosz
  • 1979: Odysseus Elytis
  • 1978: Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • 1977: Vicente Aleixandre
  • 1976: Saul Bellow
  • 1975: Eugenio Montale
  • 1974: Eyvind Johnson, Harry Martinson
  • 1973: Patrick White
  • 1972: Heinrich Boll
  • 1971: Pablo Neruda
  • 1970: Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
  • 1969: Samuel Beckett
  • 1968: Yasunari Kawabata
  • 1967: Miguel Angel Asturias
  • 1966: Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Nelly Sachs
  • 1965: Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov
  • 1964: Jean-Paul Sartre
  • 1963: Giorgos Seferis
  • 1962: John Steinbeck
  • 1961: Ivo Andric
  • 1960: Saint-John Perse
  • 1959: Salvatore Quasimodo
  • 1958: Boris Leonidovich Pasernak
  • 1957: Albert Camus
  • 1956: Juan Ramon Jimenez
  • 1955: Halldor Kiljan Laxness
  • 1954: Ernest Miller Hemingway
  • 1953: Sir Winston Spencer Churchill
  • 1952: Francois Mauriac
  • 1951: Par Fabian Lagerkvist
  • 1950: Earl (Bertrand Arthur William) Russell
  • 1949: William Faulkner
  • 1948: Thomas Stearns Eliot
  • 1947: Andre Paul Guillaume Gide
  • 1946: Hermann Hesse
  • 1945: Gabriela Mistral
  • 1944: Johannes Vilhelm Jensen
  • 1943: No prize
  • 1942: No prize
  • 1941: No prize
  • 1940: No prize
  • 1939: Frans Eemil Sillanpaa
  • 1938: Pearl Buck
  • 1937: Roger Martin du Gard
  • 1936: Eugene Gladstone O’Neill
  • 1935: No prize
  • 1934: Luigi Pirandello
  • 1933: Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin
  • 1932: John Galsworthy
  • 1931: Erik Axel Karlfeldt
  • 1930: Sinclair Lewis
  • 1929: Thomas Mann
  • 1928: Sigrid Undset
  • 1927: Henri Bergson
  • 1926: Grazia Deledda
  • 1925: George Bernard Shaw
  • 1924: Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont
  • 1923: William Butler Yeats
  • 1922: Jacinto Benavente
  • 1921: Anatole France
  • 1920: Knut Pederson Hamsun
  • 1919: Carl Friedrich Georg Spitteler
  • 1918: No prize
  • 1917: Karl Adolph Gjellerup, Henrik Pontoppidan
  • 1916: Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam
  • 1915: Romain Rolland
  • 1914: No prize
  • 1913: Rabindranath Tagore
  • 1912: Gerhart Johann Robert Hauptmann
  • 1911: Count Maurice (Mooris) Polidore Marie Bernhard Maeterlinck
  • 1910: Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse
  • 1909: Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlof
  • 1908: Rudolf Christoph Eucken
  • 1907: Rudyard Kipling
  • 1906: Giosue Carducci
  • 1905: Henryk Sienkiewicz
  • 1904: Frederic Mistral, Jose Echegaray y Eizaguirre
  • 1903: Bjornstjerne Martinus Bjornson
  • 1902: Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen
  • 1901: Sully Prudhomme
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Quo Vadis
by Henryk Sienkiewicz
from Regnery Publishing, Inc.
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: MLIT6-19)
$13.00 (1 in stock)