Nobels Pre-2000

    • Nobel Prize Winners From 2000-On

      Other Literary Award Winners


      Nobel Prize FAQ

      • Founded by Swedish multi-millionaire Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite
      • He had the idea for it in 1888 when he read his own obituary in a French newspaper. The headline of the article read "The Merchant of Death is Dead." He didn’t want this to be his legacy (he had not only invented dynamite, but also owned a weapons factory).
      • First awarded in 1901, five years after Nobel died in 1896
      • His will left 94% of his fortune (31 million Swedish krona, which is the equivalent of roughly $186 million US today) to establish the prizes
      • Prize money: 8 million Swedish krona (approximately $1.25 million Canadian)
      • The most prestigious literary award out there, both because of the prize money and because of how old it is
      • Awarded annually in October; more of a “lifetime achievement" award rather than a “best book of the year" one
      • Ties have occurred 4 times
      • No prizes were awarded in 1914 and 1918 (due to the start and end of WWI), 1935, 1940-43 (during WWII, though interestingly it was awarded in 1939 and 1944-45, and the war was on at those times)
      • It has been declined twice. First in 1958 by Boris Pasternak (who was forced to decline by the Soviet government), and second in 1964 by French writer Jean-Paul Sartre.

      Nobel Winners in the Collection, 1901-1999

      1999 – Günter Grass - Germany

      germany German writer who wrote novels, poems, and plays. Best known for the "Danzig trilogy," which focuses on the city of Danzig in Poland (now called Gdansk) during the rise of Nazism and World War II.

      1998 – José Saramago - Portugal

      Portugal Novelist. First to win from Portugal.

      1997 – Dario Fo - Italy

      Italy Playwright. Sixth to win from Italy.

      1996 – Wislawa Szymborska - Poland

      Poland Wrote poetry and essays. Fourth to win from Poland.

      1995 – Seamus Heaney - Ireland

      Ireland Fourth to win from Ireland. Mostly wrote poetry and plays.

      1994 – Kenzaburo Oe - Japan

      Japan Writer of novels, short stories, and essays. Second to win from Japan.

      1993 – Toni Morrison - United States

      USA American novelist. Eleventh to win from the USA (twelfth if you count TS Eliot).

      1992 – Derek Walcott - St. Lucia

      St. Lucia First to win from St. Lucia. Mostly wrote poetry and plays.

      1991 – Nadine Gordimer - South Africa

      South Africa First to win from South Africa. Novelist whose works mostly dealt with political themes such as apartheid.

      1990 – Octavio Paz - Mexico

      Mexico First to win from Mexico. Yet another poet on this list who was also a politician/diplomat.

      1989 – Camilo José Cela - Spain

      Spain Fifth to win from Spain. He wrote novels, short stories, and essays.

      1988 – Naguib Mahfouz - Egypt

      Egypt First to win from Egypt. A prolific writer, he wrote 34 novels, hundreds of short stories, five plays, and several dozen scripts.

      1987 – Joseph Brodsky - United States/USSR

      United States USSR A poet originally born in the Soviet Union, Brodsky began to have trouble with the law in 1963 after his poetry was denounced in a newspaper for being "pornographic and anti-Soviet." (In reality the person who had denounced him was a former friend, who was competing with Brodsky for the same woman's affection). After being put in a Gulag and a mental institution (twice), he was finally exiled in 1972 and moved to the United States, where he eventually became Poet-Laureate. While he wrote in Russian, he also self-translated his work into English.

      1986 – Wole Soyinka - Nigeria

      Nigeria First Nigerian to win, and first African. Wrote in English. While best known for his poetry and plays (for both the stage and radio), he also wrote two novels and five different memoirs.

      1985 – Claude Simon - France

      France Thirteenth to win from France. Best known for his novels which often feature themes of the human perception of time or war.

      1984 – Jaroslav Seifert - Czechoslovakia

      France The first Czech writer to win, before or after the breakup of Czechoslovakia. Known for his poetry and journalism.

      1983 – William Golding - United Kingdom

      UK Sixth to win from the UK. Best known for his novel Lord of the Flies.

      1982 – Gabriel García Márquez - Colombia

      Colombia First to win from Colombia. A writer of novels and short stories, his best-known works are Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

      1981 – Elias Canetti - Bulgaria

      Bulgaria Although Bulgarian, and the first to win from there, he actually wrote in German. He wrote novels, plays, memoirs, and non-fiction.

      1980 – Czeslaw Milosz - Poland/USA

      Poland Although Polish, he defected to the west in 1951 after the Soviet takeover of his country, and moved to the United States in 1960, where he resided at the time of his win. Best known for his poetry.

      1979 – Odysseas Elytis - Greece

      Greece Second to win from Greece. He mostly wrote poetry and essays.

      1978 – Isaac Bashevis Singer - United States

      USA A Polish-Jewish writer who immigrated to the United States (though in his case it was before WWII), Singer wrote exclusively in Yiddish. He wrote novels based on historical events and figures, as well as short stories, children's books, and essays.

      1977 – Vicente Aleixandre - Spain

      Spain Fourth to win from Spain. He wrote poetry.

      1976 – Saul Bellow - United States

      USA Although he was actually born in Canada, he moved to the US when he was 9, and lived the rest of his life there. He mostly wrote novels.

      1975 – Eugenio Montale - Italy

      Italy Fifth to win from Italy. He wrote lyric poetry.

      1974 – Eyvind Johnson & Harry Martinson - Sweden

      Sweden The most recent time a tie has occurred. Both authors were Swedish. Their win was controversial, to say the least, since both men were part of the Nobel voting committee, and there were several better-known authors who were nominated that year (among them, Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, and Saul Bellow. Apart from Bellow, none of the aforementioned would ever win the prize).

      1973 – Patrick White - Australia

      Australia First to win from Australia. Although he was born in the UK, his family moved to Australia when he was six months old. He wrote twelve novels, eight plays, and three short story collections over his life. His works are known for employing techniques of stream of consciousness and shifting viewpoints.

      1972 – Heinrich Böll - Germany

      Germany Writer of novels, short stories, essays, and radio plays.

      1971 – Pablo Neruda - Chile

      Chile Known the world over for his poetry, his real name was actually Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, and he was also a Chilean politician. Interestingly, the Chilean government revealed in November of 2015 that he did not die of prostate cancer, as had long been the official story, but that he had actually been murdered on the orders of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

      1970 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - USSR

      USSR Russian writer who wrote both fiction and non-fiction critical of the Soviet government. Most of his works had to be smuggled out of the country in pieces via microfilm, as, shortly after he came to power, Leonid Brezhnev banned "all current and future works" by Solzhenitsyn. Although he was awarded the Nobel in 1970, he did not actually receive it until 1974, after he had been deported from the Soviet Union.

      1969 – Samuel Beckett - Ireland

      Ireland Irish writer who lived in Paris for most of his life. Although he is most famous for his plays, He also wrote novels and poetry. He wrote in both English and French.

      1968 – Yasunari Kawabata - Japan

      Japan First East Asian to win. He wrote novels and short stories.

      1967 – Miguel Ángel Asturias - Guatemala

      Guatemala First to win from Guatemala, and only the second to win from South America. He wrote novels, poetry, and plays in Spanish. He is one of many Nobel-winning writers to also be a politician/diplomat.

      1966 – Shmuel Yosef Agnon & Nelly Sachs - Israel & Sweden

      Israel Sweden The third time a tie occurred in voting. Agnon was the first winner from Israel (though he was born in Austria-Hungary) and the first winner to write in Hebrew; Sachs, on the other hand, was a Jewish woman born in Germany and wrote in German, but fled to Sweden due to the Holocaust, and lived there the rest of her life. Agnon wrote novels, while Sachs wrote poetry and plays.

      1965 – Mikhail Sholokhov - USSR

      USSR Second to win from the USSR/Russia. Seems to have had something of an ego, as at the press conference for his win, he intentionally disregarded Boris Pasternak's win in 1958 and Ivan Bunin's in 1933, as he said, "I am the first Russian writer, the first Soviet to win the Nobel Prize." Interestingly, when Pasternak had won, he had commented that the Nobel academy was "not objective in its judgment of an individual author's worth." But he was okay with it when he won. Very politically active in the USSR, most of his works are about the Cossacks who lived near the Don River in Russia.

      1964 – Jean-Paul Sartre - France

      France Famously - or infamously - declined the prize because he "did not want to be institutionalized." To this day he is the only person to decline it who wasn't forced to do so by his or her government. He is probably better known for his philosophy than he is for his writings - though the latter tended to be philosophical in nature. In addition to non-fiction, he also wrote plays, novels, biographies, and literary criticism.

      1963 – Giorgos (George) Seferis - Greece

      Greece Greek poet whose real name was Georgios Seferiades. Like several others on this list, he had the somewhat strange dual occupation of poet/politician. Although Greek, he was actually born in the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey).

      1962 – John Steinbeck - United States

      Greece One of the most famous American novelists and short story writers of all-time. His most famous novels are Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrathset in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

      1961 – Ivo Andric - Yugoslavia

      Greece Born in the part of Yugoslavia that is modern-day Bosnia, Andric was one of many writers on this list who were politicians/diplomats. Most of his novels were historical, and set in Bosnia during the time it was part of the Ottoman Empire.

      1960 – Saint-John Perse - France

      France Yet another winner on this list who was both a poet and a politician/diplomat.

      1959 – Salvatore Quasimodo - Italy

      Italy Italian poet whose works often centered on themes such as religion and death.

      1958 – Boris Pasternak - USSR

      USSR Russian novelist and poet who was famously forced by the Soviet government to decline the prize or face deportation. His most famous book, Doctor Zhivago was (in)famously banned in the Soviet Union, though Nikita Khruschev would actually read the book once he was no longer in power and comment, "We shouldn't have banned it. I should have read it myself."

      1957 – Albert Camus - France

      France More famous as a philosopher than as a writer, Camus nonetheless wrote several novels in addition to philosophical works - however, as one might expect, these tended to be philosophical in nature as well.

      1956 – Juan Ramón Jiménez - Spain

      Spain A Spanish poet.

      1955 – Halldór Laxness - Iceland

      Iceland First to win from Iceland. Wrote a wide variety of types of literature: novels, short stories, travelogues, plays, poetry, and newspaper articles.

      1954 – Ernest Hemingway - United States

      USA American novelist as famous for his writing style (he wrote in short sentences) as well as his somewhat scandalous personal life (he divorced three times and married four times in an era where that was frowned upon, and eventually committed suicide.)

      1953 – Winston Churchill - United Kingdom

      UK Yes, that Winston Churchill. A prolific writer in addition to being a politician, he won the prize for his many historical and biographical works.

      1952 – François Mauriac - France

      France French novelist who was also a poet, journalist, and playwright.

      1951 – Pär Lagerkvist - Sweden

      Sweden Swedish author whose novels, poetry, and plays usually examined themes of good and evil.

      1950 – Bertrand Russell - United Kingdom

      United Kingdom British humanist better known for his philosophy than his writing.

      1949 – William Faulkner - United States

      United States American writer best known for his novels and stories set in Mississippi.

      1948 – TS (Thomas Stearns) Eliot - United Kingdom

      United Kingdom While born in the United States, Eliot moved to the UK at the age of 25, and eventually renounced his American citizenship. He is primarily known for his poetry, but also wrote plays and essays.

      1947 – André Gide - France

      France French author known best for his fiction and autobiographies.

      1946 – Hermann Hesse - Switzerland

      Switzerland Swiss-German writer who wrote novels and poetry.

      1945 – Gabriela Mistral - Chile

      Chile First writer to win from South America.

      1944 - Johannes Vilheim Jensen - Denmark

      Denmark Danish poet and novelist.

      1940 – 1943

      No prize awarded due to World War II.

      1939 - Frans Eemil Sillanpää - Finland

      Finland First and only Finnish writer to win (which is somewhat curious, given the Nobel committee's alleged bias towards Scandinavian writers).

      1938 – Pearl S. Buck - United States

      USA First American woman to win. Most of her works are novels and biographies about peasant life in China, where she spent most of the first half of her life.

      1937 - Roger Martin du Gard - France

      France French novelist.

      1936 – Eugene O'Neill - United States

      USA American playwright.

      1935

      No prize was awarded.

      1934 – Luigi Pirandello - Italy

      Italy Italian writer known mostly for his plays, though he also wrote novels, poems, and short stories.

      1933 - Ivan Bunin - Russia/France

      russia The first Russian to win the Nobel, Bunin moved to France in 1920 because of the Russian Revolution, where he lived out the rest of his life.

      1932 - John Galsworthy - United Kingdom

      UK British novelist and playwright best known for his novel The Forsyte Saga.

      1931 - Erik Axel Karlfeldt - Sweden

      Sweden Swedish author.

      1930 - Sinclair Lewis - United States

      USA First North American to win.

      1929 - Thomas Mann - Germany

      Germany German writer.

      1928 - Sigrid Undset - Norway

      Norway Norwegian woman born in Denmark.

      1927 - Henri Bergson - France

      France French writer.

      1926 - Grazia Deledda - Italy

      Italy Italian author.

      1925 - George Bernard Shaw - Ireland

      Ireland Irish writer.

      1924 - Wladyslaw Reymont - Poland

      Poland Polish author.

      1923 - William Butler Yeats - Ireland

      Ireland First Irish writer to win, most famous for his poetry.

      1922 - Jacinto Benavente - Spain

      Spain Spanish author.

      1921 - Anatole France - France

      France French writer.

      1920 - Knut Hamsun - Norway

      Norway Norwegian writer.

      1919 - Carl Spitteler - Switzerland

      Switzerland Swiss author who wrote in German.

      1918

      No prize awarded due to World War I.

      1917 - Karl Adolph Gjellerup & Henrik Pontoppidan - Denmark

      Denmark The second time a tie occurred in voting. Both authors were Danish.

      1916 - Verner von Heidenstam - Sweden

      Sweden Swedish author.

      1915 - Romain Rolland - France

      France French author.

      1914

      No prize awarded due to World War I.

      1913– Radinranath Tagore - India

      India First person to win outside of Europe, he wrote in Bengali.

      1912 - Gerhart Hauptmann - Germany

      Germany German author.

      1911– Maurice Maeterlinck - Belgium

      Belgium First Belgian person to win, he wrote in French.

      1910 - Paul von Heyse - Germany

      Germany German author.

      1909 – Selma Lagerlöf - Sweden

      Sweden First woman to win the Nobel prize

      1908 - Rudolf Christian Eucken - Germany

      Germany German author.

      1907 – Rudyard Kipling - United Kingdom

      UK British writer best known for novels that take place in India, such as The Jungle Book and Kim. He also wrote short stories and poetry.

      1906 - Giosuè Carudcci - Italy

      Italy First Italian to win.

      1905 - Henryk Sienkiewicz - Poland

      Poland First Pole to win (though technically Poland was not an independent country at the time, having been taken over by Czarist Russia decades earlier).

      1904 - Frédéric Mistral & José Echegaray - France & Spain

      France Spain The first time a tie occurred. Mistral was a French writer who wrote in Occitan (a Romantic language spoken in parts of southern France, northern Spain, western Italy, and Monaco), while Echegaray was Spanish.

      1903 - Bjornstjerne Bjornson - Norway

      Norway First Norwegian to win.

      1902 - Theodor Mommsen - Germany

      Germany First German to win.

      1901 - Sully Prudhomme (René François Armand Prudhomme) - France

      France The first Nobel prize was given out to to this French writer of poetry and essays.