List of Nobel Laureates in Literature

June 28th, 2013

Did you know… … that the Swedish Academy, one of the Royal Academies of Sweden, established in 1786 by King Gustav III, makes an annual decision about the nominee, who would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Nobel Prize in Literature is given each year to an author(s), who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of literature, irrespective of which country he/she belongs to or what genre he/she writes in. This honor is conferred to literary geniuses from all across the world since the year 1901, and is considered as the most prestigious of all literary honors. The Nobel Prize in Literature is one of the five Nobel Prizes, which are given out in accordance to the will of Alfred Bernhard Nobel, a Swedish engineer, chemist, and manufacturer; the other four are awarded in Physics, Chemistry, Peace, and Medicine.

With respect to the Nobel Prize in Literature, Alfred Nobel said in his will that it will be given, “in the field of literature to the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. Interestingly, this award is based, not on the individual works of an author, but his/her overall contribution to the field. The Swedish Academy, which is in charge of deciding who, if anyone, would receive the prize in that particular year, usually declares the name of the laureate in early October. Each awardee receives a medal, a diploma, and a monetary prize, however, the amount has differed over the years. From 1901 to 2012, 109 authors from around the globe have been conferred by this honor, out of which 12 are women. We at Buzzle have enlisted, here, the people who have won this honor till 2012, along with what the Nobel committee had to say about their choice.

INDEX» 1901 – 1920» 1921 – 1940» 1941-1960» 1961 – 1980» 1981 – 2000» 2001 – 2012

* Source: nobelprize.org

1901

Sully Prudhomme

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Essay, poetry

“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”

1902

Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen

GermanyLanguage: GermanGenre: History, law

“the greatest living master of the art of historical writing, with special reference to his monumental work, A History of Rome”

1903

Bj?rnstjerne Martinius Bj?rnson

NorwayLanguage: NorwegianGenre: Drama, novel, poetry

“as a tribute to his noble, magnificent and versatile poetry, which has always been distinguished by both the freshness of its inspiration and the rare purity of its spirit”

1904

Jos? Echegaray y Eizaguirre

SpainLanguage: SpanishGenre: Drama

“in recognition of the numerous and brilliant compositions which, in an individual and original manner, have revived the great traditions of the Spanish drama”Fr?d?ric Mistral

FranceLanguage: OccitanGenre: Philology, poetry

“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 Proven?al philologist”

1905

Henryk Sienkiewicz

PolandLanguage: PolishGenre: Novel

“because of his outstanding merits as an epic writer”

1906

Giosu? Carducci

ItalyLanguage: ItalianGenre: Poetry

“not only in consideration of his deep learning and critical research, but above all as a tribute to the creative energy, freshness of style, and lyrical force which characterize his poetic masterpieces”

1907

Rudyard Kipling

United KingdomLanguage: EnglishGenre: Novel, poetry, short story

“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”

1908

Rudolf Christoph Eucken

GermanyLanguage: GermanGenre: Philosophy

“in recognition of his earnest search for truth, his penetrating power of thought, his wide range of vision, and the warmth and strength in presentation with which in his numerous works he has vindicated and developed an idealistic philosophy of life”

1909

Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerl?f

SwedenLanguage: SwedishGenre: Novel, short story

“in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”

1910

Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse

GermanyLanguage: GermanGenre: Drama, novel. poetry, short story

“as a tribute to the consummate artistry, permeated with idealism, which he has demonstrated during his long productive career as a lyric poet, dramatist, novelist and writer of world-renowned short stories”

1911

Count Maurice (Mooris) Polidore Marie Bernhard Maeterlinck

BelgiumLanguage: FrenchGenre: Drama, essay, poetry

“in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers’ own feelings and stimulate their imaginations”

1912

Gerhart Johann Robert Hauptmann

GermanyLanguage: GermanGenre: Drama, novel

“primarily in recognition of his fruitful, varied and outstanding production in the realm of dramatic art”

1913

Rabindranath Tagore

IndiaLanguage: BengaliGenre: Drama, music, novel, poetry, short story

“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”

1914

No Nobel Prize Awarded in Literature Category

1915

Romain Rolland

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Novel

“as a tribute to the lofty idealism of his literary production and to the sympathy and love of truth with which he has described different types of human beings”

1916

Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam

SwedenLanguage: SwedishGenre: Novel, poetry

“in recognition of his significance as the leading representative of a new era in our literature”

1917

Karl Adolph Gjellerup

DenmarkLanguage: DanishGenre: Poetry

“for his varied and rich poetry, which is inspired by lofty ideals”Henrik Pontoppidan

DenmarkLanguage: DanishGenre: Novel

“for his authentic descriptions of present-day life in Denmark”

1918

No Nobel Prize Awarded in Literature Category

1919

Carl Friedrich Georg Spitteler

SwitzerlandLanguage: GermanGenre: Poetry

“in special appreciation of his epic, Olympian Spring”

1920

Knut Pedersen Hamsun

NorwayLanguage: NorwegianGenre: Novel

“for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil”

1921

Anatole France

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Novel, poetry

“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”

1922

Jacinto Benavente

SpainLanguage: SapnishGenre: Drama

“for the happy manner in which he has continued the illustrious traditions of the Spanish drama”

1923

William Butler Yeats

IrelandLanguage: EnglishGenre: Poetry

“for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”

1924

W?adys?aw Stanis?aw Reymont

PolandLanguage: PolishGenre: Novel

“for his great national epic, The Peasants”

1925

George Bernard Shaw

IrelandLanguage: EnglishGenre: Drama, literary criticism

“for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty”

1926

Grazia Deledda

ItalyLanguage: ItalianGenre: Novel, poetry

“for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general”

1927

Henri Bergson

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Philosophy

“in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented”

1928

Sigrid Undset

NorwayLanguage: NorwegianGenre: Novel

“principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages”

1929

Thomas Mann

GermanyLanguage: GermanGenre: Essay, novel, short story

“principally for his great novel, Buddenbrooks, which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature”

1930

Sinclair Lewis

United StatesLanguage: EnglishGenre: Drama, novel, short story

“for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters”

1931

Erik Axel Karlfeldt

SwedenLanguage: SwedishGenre: Poetry

“The poetry of Erik Axel Karlfeldt”

1932

John Galsworthy

United KingdomLanguage: EnglishGenre: Novel

“for his distinguished art of narration which takes its highest form in The Forsyte Saga”

1933

Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin

RussiaLanguage: RussianGenre: Novel, poetry, short story

“for the strict artistry with which he has carried on the classical Russian traditions in prose writing”

1934

Luigi Pirandello

ItalyLanguage: ItalianGenre: Drama, novel, short story

“for his bold and ingenious revival of dramatic and scenic art”

1935

No Nobel Prize Awarded in Literature Category

1936

Eugene Gladstone O’Neill

United StatesLanguage: EnglishGenre: Drama

“for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy”

1937

Roger Martin du Gard

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Novel

“for the artistic power and truth with which he has depicted human conflict as well as some fundamental aspects of contemporary life in his novel-cycle Les Thibault”

1938

Pearl Buck

United StatesLanguage: EnglishGenre: Novel

“for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces”

1939

Frans Eemil Sillanp??

FinlandLanguage: FinnishGenre: Novel

“for his deep understanding of his country’s peasantry and the exquisite art with which he has portrayed their way of life and their relationship with Nature”

1940

No Nobel Prize Awarded in Literature Category

1941

No Nobel Prize Awarded in Literature Category

1942

No Nobel Prize Awarded in Literature Category

1943

No Nobel Prize Awarded in Literature Category

1944

Johannes Vilhelm Jensen

DenmarkLanguage: DanishGenre: Poetry

“for the rare strength and fertility of his poetic imagination with which is combined an intellectual curiosity of wide scope and a bold, freshly creative style”

1945

Gabriela Mistral

ChileLanguage: SpanishGenre: Poetry

“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”

1946

Hermann Hesse

SwitzerlandLanguage: GermanGenre: Novel, poetry

“for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style”

1947

Andr? Paul Guillaume Gide

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Essay, novel

“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”

1948

Thomas Stearns Eliot

United KingdomLanguage: EnglishGenre: Poetry

“for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry”

1949

William Faulkner

United StatesLanguage: EnglishGenre: Novel, short story

“for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel”

1950

Earl (Bertrand Arthur William) Russell

United KingdomLanguage: EnglishGenre: Philosophy

“in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought”

1951

P?r Fabian Lagerkvist

SwedenLanguage: SwedishGenre: Drama, novel, poetry, short story

“for the artistic vigour and true independence of mind with which he endeavours in his poetry to find answers to the eternal questions confronting mankind”

1952

Fran?ois Mauriac

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Novel, short story

“for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life”

1953

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill

United KingdomLanguage: EnglishGenre: Essay, history, memoirs

“for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”

1954

Ernest Miller Hemingway

United StatesLanguage: EnglishGenre: Novel, screenplay, short story

“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”

1955

Halld?r Kiljan Laxness

IcelandLanguage: IcelandicGenre: Drama, novel, poetry, short story

“for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland”

1956

Juan Ram?n Jim?nez

SpainLanguage: SpanishGenre: Poetry

“for his lyrical poetry, which in Spanish language constitutes an example of high spirit and artistical purity”

1957

Albert Camus

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Drama, essay, novel, philosophy, short story

“for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times”

1958

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak

Soviet UnionLanguage: RussiaGenre: Novel, poetry, translation

“for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition”

1960

Saint-John Perse

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Poetry

“for the soaring flight and the evocative imagery of his poetry which in a visionary fashion reflects the conditions of our time”

1961

Ivo Andri?

YugoslaviaLanguage: SerbianGenre: Novel, short story

“for the epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies drawn from the history of his country”

1962

John Ernst Steinbeck

United StatesLanguage: EnglishGenre: Novel, screenplay, short story

“for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception”

1963

Giorgos Seferis

GreeceLanguage: GreekGenre: Poetry

“for his eminent lyrical writing, inspired by a deep feeling for the Hellenic world of culture”

1964

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Drama, literary criticism, novel, philosophy, screenplay

“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”

1965

Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov

Soviet UnionLanguage: RussianGenre: Novel

“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”

1966

Nelly Sachs

GermanyLanguage: GermanGenre: Poetry, drama

“for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel’s destiny with touching strength”Shmuel Yosef Agnon

IsraelLanguage: HebrewGenre: Novel, short story

“for his profoundly characteristic narrative art with motifs from the life of the Jewish people”

1967

Miguel Angel Asturias Rosales

GuatemalaLanguage: SpanishGenre: Novel, poetry

“for his vivid literary achievement, deep-rooted in the national traits and traditions of Indian peoples of Latin America”

1968

Yasunari Kawabata

JapanLanguage: JapaneseGenre: Novel, short story

“for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind”

1969

Samuel Barclay Beckett

IrelandLanguage: English, FrenchGenre: Drama, novel, poetry

“for his writing, which – in new forms for the novel and drama – in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation”

1970

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

RussiaLanguage: RussianGenre: Novel

“for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature”

1971

Pablo Neruda

ChileLanguage: SpanishGenre: Poetry

“for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams”

1972

Heinrich Theodor B?ll

GermanyLanguage: GermanGenre: Novel, short story

“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”

1973

Patrick Victor Martindale White

AustraliaLanguage: EnglishGenre: Drama, novel, short story

“for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature”

1974

Harry Martinson

SwedenLanguage: SwedishGenre: Drama, novel, poetry

“for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos”Eyvind Johnson

SwedenLanguage: SwedishGenre: Novel

“for a narrative art, far-seeing in lands and ages, in the service of freedom”

1975

Eugenio Montale

ItalyLanguage: ItalianGenre: Poetry

“for his distinctive poetry which, with great artistic sensitivity, has interpreted human values under the sign of an outlook on life with no illusions”

1976

Saul Bellow

United StatesLanguage: EnglishGenre: Novel, short story

“for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work”

1977

Vicente P?o Marcelino Cirilo Aleixandre y Merlo

SpainLanguage: SpanishGenre: Poetry

“for a creative poetic writing which illuminates man’s condition in the cosmos and in present-day society, at the same time representing the great renewal of the traditions of Spanish poetry between the wars”

1978

Isaac Bashevis Singer

United StatesLanguage: YiddishGenre: Memoir, novel, short story

“for his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life”

1979

Odysseus Elytis

GreeceLanguage: GreekGenre: Poetry

“for his poetry, which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts with sensuous strength and intellectual clear-sightedness modern man’s struggle for freedom and creativeness”

1980

Czes?aw Mi?osz

PolandLanguage: PolishGenre: Essay, poetry

“who with uncompromising clear-sightedness voices man’s exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts”

1981

Elias Canetti

BulgariaLanguage: GermanGenre: Drama, essay, memoirs, novel

“for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power”

1982

Gabriel Garc?a M?rquez

ColombiaLanguage: SpanishGenre: Novel, screenplay, short story

“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”

1983

William Gerald Golding

United KingdomLanguage: EnglishGenre: Drama, poetry, novel

“for his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today”

1984

Jaroslav Seifert

CzechoslovakiaLanguage: CzechGenre: Poetry

“for his poetry which endowed with freshness, sensuality and rich inventiveness provides a liberating image of the indomitable spirit and versatility of man”

1985

Claude Simon

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Novel

“who in his novel combines the poet’s and the painter’s creativeness with a deepened awareness of time in the depiction of the human condition”

1986

Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Soyinka

NigeriaLanguage: EnglishGenre: Drama, novel, poetry

“who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence”

1987

Joseph Brodsky

Soviet UnionLanguage: Russian, EnglishGenre: Poetry

“for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity”

1988

Naguib Mahfouz

EgyptLanguage: ArabicGenre: Novel

“who, through works rich in nuance – now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous – has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind”

1989

Camilo Jos? Cela y Trulock

SpainLanguage: SpanishGenre: Novel, short story

“for a rich and intensive prose, which with restrained compassion forms a challenging vision of man’s vulnerability”

1990

Octavio Paz Lozano

MexicoLanguage: SpanishGenre: Essay, poetry

“for impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity”

1991

Nadine Gordimer

South AfricaLanguage: EnglishGenre: Essay, novel, short story

“who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity”

1992

Derek Alton Walcott

Saint LuciaLanguage: EnglishGenre: Poetry

“for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment”

1993

Toni Morrison

United StatesLanguage: EnglishGenre: Novel

“who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality”

1994

Kenzaburo Oe

JapanLanguage: JapaneseGenre: Novel, short story

“who with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today”

1995

Seamus Heaney

IrelandLanguage: EnglishGenre: Poetry

“for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”

1996

Wis?awa Szymborska-W?odek

PolandLanguage: PolishGenre: Poetry

“for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”

1997

Dario Fo

ItalyLanguage: ItalianGenre: Drama

“who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden”

1998

Jos? de Sousa Saramago

PortugalLanguage: PortugueseGenre: Drama, novel, poetry

“who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality”

1999

G?nter Wilhelm Grass

GermanyLanguage: GermanGenre: Drama, novel, poetry

“whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history”

2000

Gao Xingjian

ChinaLanguage: ChineseGenre: Drama, literary criticism, novel

“for an oeuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama”

2001

Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul

United KingdomLanguage: EnglishGenre: Essay, novel

“for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories”

2002

Imre Kert?sz

HungaryLanguage: HungarianGenre: Novel

“for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history”

2003

John M. Coetzee

South AfricaLanguage: EnglishGenre: Essay, novel, translation

“who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider”

2004

Elfriede Jelinek

AustriaLanguage: GermanGenre: Drama, novel

“for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society’s clich?s and their subjugating power”

2005

Harold Pinter

United KingdomLanguage: EnglishGenre: Drama

“who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms”

2006

Ferit Orhan Pamuk

TurkeyLanguage: TurkishGenre: Essay, novel, screenplay

“who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures”

2007

Doris May Lessing

United KingdomLanguage: EnglishGenre: Drama, memoirs, novel, poetry, short story

“that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”

2008

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Cl?zio

FranceLanguage: FrenchGenre: Essay, novel, short story, translation

“author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization”

2009

Herta M?ller

GermanyLanguage: GermanGenre: Novel, poetry

“who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”

2010

Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa

PeruLanguage: SpanishGenre: Drama, essay, novel, short story

“for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat”

2011

Tomas Transtr?mer

SwedenLanguage: SwedishGenre: Poetry, translation

“because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”

2012

Mo Yan

ChinaLanguage: ChineseGenre: Novel, short story

“who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary” Despite the fact that the Nobel Prize in literature is one of the topmost honors in the field, it has lately been subject to a lot of criticism. Some critics have questioned the very criteria for choosing the awardees, saying that some of the most famous and well-known authors were never even nominated for the award. There have also been several controversies regarding the involvement of political interests with respect to the nomination process. In spite of all these criticisms and controversies, the award continues to be an important benchmark in the field of literature.

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