Winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature

See them organized by country | Back to the list of literary prizes

Put things in perspective! Unfortunately, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to many minor writers, at the expense of many important writers. A list of the great writers who never received the Nobel Prize, notwithstanding a general recognition of their achievements, includes:
BORGES, one of the most influential literary figures of the 20th century
BRECHT, the founder of modern theatre
CONRAD, one of the greatest novelists in English of all times
GARCIA LORCA, one of the greatest Spanish poets of the last three centuries
IBSEN, one of the greatest playwrights of all times
JAMES, possibly the greatest USA novelist of all times
JOYCE, considered by many the most influential writer of the 20th century
KAFKA, greatest German novelist of the 20th century
NABOKOV, one of the greatest USA novelists of the 20th century
PESSOA, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century
PROUST, considered by many the greatest French novelist of the 20th century
VALERY, greatest French poet of the 20th century

On the other hand, absolutely minor (and sometimes terrible) writers have been awarded the prize. Since the 1990s, the winners of the Nobel Prize for literature have been chosen mostly for being "politically correct" (like Fo, Grass and Pamuk at the turn of the century). But many are simply mysterious decisions. It is difficult to understand what makes the jury prefer mediocre, provincial writers to so many greater writers. The Nobel Prize is awarded by a Swedish Academy. The writers of Sweden (a country of 30 million people) have won more prizes than the writers of all of Asia (a continent of one billion people). Is it the rest of the world that is illiterate and uncreative, or is it the Swedish academia that is provincial, nationalistic and anachronistic?

Of all literary prizes for literature the Nobel Prize has become by far the least meaningful.

Compare this list of Nobel laureates with my chronological list of Best Works of Literature.


1901: Sully Prudhomme (France)
1902: Christian Mommsen (Germany)
1903: Bjornstjerne Bjornson (Norway)
1904: Frederic Mistral (France)
and Jose Echegaray (Spain)
1905: Henryk Sienkiewicz (Poland)
1906: Giosue Carducci (Italy)
1907: Rudyard Kipling (Britain)
1908: Rudolf Eucken (Germany)
1909: Selma Lagerlof (Sweden)
1910: Paul Heyse (Germany)
1911: Mooris Maeterlinck (Belgium)
1912: Gerhart Hauptmann (Germany)
1913: Rabindranath Tagore (India)
1915: Romain Rolland (France)
1916: Carl Von Heidenstam (Sweden)
1917: Karl Gjellerup (Denmark)
and Henrik Pontoppidan (Denmark)
1919: Carl Spitteler (Switzerland)
1920: Knut Hamsun (Norway)
1921: Anatole France (France)
1922: Jacinto Benavente (Spain)
1923: William Butler Yeats (Ireland, but at the time Britain)
1924: Wladyslaw Reymont (Poland)
1925: George Bernard Shaw (Ireland, but at the time Britain)
1926: Grazia Deledda (Italy)
1927: Henri Bergson (France)
1928: Sigrid Undset (Norway)
1929: Thomas Mann (Germany)
1930: Sinclair Lewis (USA)
1931: Erik Karlfeldt (Sweden)
1932: John Galsworthy (Britain)
1933: Ivan Bunin (Soviet Union/ Russia)
1934: Luigi Pirandello (Italy)
1936: Eugene O'neill (USA)
1937: Roger Martin Du Gard (France)
1938: Pearl Buck (USA)
1939: Frans Sillanpaa (Finland)
1944: Johannes Jensen (Denmark)
1945: Gabriela Mistral (Chile)
1946: Hermann Hesse (Germany)
1947: Andre Gide (France)
1948: Thomas-Stearns Eliot (USA)
1949: William Faulkner (USA)
1950: Bertrand Russell (Britain)
1951: Par Lagerkvist (Sweden)
1952: Francois Mauriac (France)
1953: Winston Churchill (Britain)
1954: Ernest Hemingway (USA)
1955: Halldor Laxness (Iceland)
1956: Juan-Ramon Jiminez (Spain)
1957: Albert Camus (France)
1958: Boris Pasternak (Soviet Union/ Russia)
1959: Salvatore Quasimodo (Italy)
1960: Saint-John Perse (France)
1961: Ivo Andric (Yugoslavia)
1962: John Steinbeck (USA)
1963: Giorgos Seferis (Greece)
1964: Jean-Paul Sartre (France)
1965: Michail Sholokhov (Soviet Union/ Russia)
1966: Shmuel Agnon (Israel)
and Nelly Sachs (Germany)
1967: Miguel Asturias (Guatemala)
1968: Yasunari Kawabata (Japan)
1969: Samuel Beckett (Ireland)
1970: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Soviet Union/ Russia)
1971: Pablo Neruda (Chile)
1972: Heinrich Boell (Germany)
1973: Patrick White (Australia)
1974: Eyvind Johnson (Sweden)
and Harry Martinson (Sweden)
1975: Eugenio Montale (Italy)
1976: Saul Bellow (USA)
1977: Vicente Aleixandre (Spain)
1978: Isaac Bashevis Singer (USA)
1979: Odysseus Elytis (Greece)
1980: Czeslaw Milosz (Poland)
1981: Elias Canetti (Bulgaria)
1982: Gabriel Garcia-Marquez (Colombia)
1983: William Golding (Britain)
1984: Jaroslav Seifert (Czech)
1985: Claude Simon (France)
1986: Wole Soyinka (Nigeria)
1987: Joseph Brodsky (Soviet Union/ Russia)
1988: Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt)
1989: Camilo Cela (Spain)
1990: Octavio Paz (Mexico)
1991: Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)
1992: Derek Walcott (St Lucia)
1993: Toni Morrison (USA)
1994: Kenzaburo Oe (Japan)
1995: Seamus Heaney (Ireland)
1996: Wislawa Szymborska (Poland)
1997: Dario Fo (Italy)
1998: Jose Saramago (Portugal)
1999: Gunther Grass (Germany)
2000: Gao Xingjian (China)
2001: Vidiadhar Naipaul (India)
2002: Imre Kertesz (Hungary)
2003: John Coetzee (South Africa)
2004: Elfriede Jelinek (Austria)
2005: Harold Pinter (Britain)
2006: Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)
2007: Doris Lessing (Britain)
2008: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio (France)
2009: Herta Muller (Germany)
2010: Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)
2011: Tomas Transtroemer (Sweden)
2012: Mo Yan (China)
2013: Alice Munro (Canada)
2014: Patrick Modiano (France)
2015: Svetlana Alexievich (Belarus)
2016: Bob Dylan (USA)
2017: Kazuo Ishiguro (Britain)
2018: not awarded
By country:

Australia: 1
Austria: 1
Belarus: 1
Belgium: 1
Britain: 9
Bulgaria: 1
Canada: 1
Chile: 2
China: 2
Colombia: 1
Czech: 1
Denmark: 3
Egypt: 1
Finland: 1
France: 14
Germany: 10
Greece: 2
Guatemala: 1
Hungary: 1
Iceland: 1
India: 2
Ireland: 3
Israel: 1
Italy: 6
Japan: 2
Mexico: 1
Nigeria: 1
Norway: 3
Peru: 1
Poland: 4
Portugal: 1
Russia: 5
South Africa: 2
Spain: 5
St Lucia: 1
Sweden: 7
Switzerland: 1
Turkey: 1
USA: 11 Yugoslavia: 1

TM, ®, Copyright © 1998 Piero Scaruffi