Hot List: Here are the Top Nobel Laureates in Literature

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 2015, 112 authors from around the globe have been conferred by this honor, out of which 12 are women. We have enlisted, here, the people who have won this honor till 2015, along with what the Nobel committee had to say about their choice.

1901 Sully Prudhomme

France

Language: French

Genre: 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

Germany

Language: German

Genre: History, law

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

1903 Bjørnstjerne Martinius Bjørnson

Norway

Language: Norwegian

Genre: 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 José Echegaray y Eizaguirre

Spain

Language: Spanish

Genre: 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”

Frédéric Mistral

France

Language: Occitan

Genre: 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 Provençal philologist”

1905 Henryk Sienkiewicz

Poland

Language: Polish

Genre: Novel

“because of his outstanding merits as an epic writer”

1906 Giosuè Carducci

Language: Italian

Genre: 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 Kingdom

Language: English

Genre: 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

Germany

Language: German

Genre: 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 Lagerlöf

Sweden

Language: Swedish

Genre: Novel, short story

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

1910 Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse

Germany

Language: German

Genre: 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

Belgium

Language: French

Genre: 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

Germany

Language: German

Genre: Drama, novel

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

1913 Rabindranath Tagore

Language: Bengali

Genre:
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

France

Language:
French

Genre:
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

Sweden

Language:
Swedish

Genre:
Novel, poetry

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

1917 Karl Adolph Gjellerup

Denmark

Language:
Danish

Genre:
Poetry

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

Henrik Pontoppidan

Denmark

Language:
Danish

Genre:
Novel

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

1918 No Nobel Prize Awarded in Literature Category

1919 Carl Friedrich Georg Spitteler

Switzerland

Language:
German

Genre:
Poetry

“in special appreciation of his epic, Olympian Spring

1920 Knut Pedersen Hamsun

Norway

Language:
Norwegian

Genre:
Novel

“for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil



1921 Anatole France

France

Language:
French

Genre:
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

Spain

Language:
Sapnish

Genre:
Drama

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



1923 William Butler Yeats

Ireland

Language:
English

Genre:
Poetry

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

1924 Władysław Stanisław Reymont

Poland

Language:
Polish

Genre:
Novel

“for his great national epic, The Peasants



1925 George Bernard Shaw

Ireland

Language:
English

Genre:
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

Italy

Language:
Italian

Genre:
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

France

Language:
French

Genre:
Philosophy

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

1928 Sigrid Undset

Norway

Language:
Norwegian

Genre:
Novel

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

1929 Thomas Mann

Germany

Language:
German

Genre:
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 States

Language:
English

Genre:
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

Sweden

Language:
Swedish

Genre:
Poetry

“The poetry of Erik Axel Karlfeldt”

1932 John Galsworthy

United Kingdom

Language:
English

Genre:
Novel

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

1933 Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin

Russia

Language:
Russian

Genre:
Novel, poetry, short story

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



1934 Luigi Pirandello

Italy

Language:
Italian

Genre:
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 States


Language: English

Genre:
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

France

Language:
French

Genre:
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 States

Language:
English

Genre:
Novel

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

1939 Frans Eemil Sillanpää

Finland

Language:
Finnish

Genre:
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

Denmark

Language: Danish

Genre: 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

Chile

Language: Spanish

Genre: 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

Switzerland

Language: German

Genre: Novel, poetry

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

1947 André Paul Guillaume Gide

France

Language: French

Genre: 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 Kingdom

Language: English

Genre: Poetry

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

1949 William Faulkner

United States

Language: English

Genre: Novel, short story

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

1950 Earl (Bertrand Arthur William) Russell

United Kingdom

Language: English

Genre: Philosophy

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

1951 Pär Fabian Lagerkvist

Sweden

Language: Swedish

Genre: 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 François Mauriac

France

Language: French

Genre: 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 Kingdom

Language: English

Genre: 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 States

Language: English

Genre: 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 Halldór Kiljan Laxness

Iceland

Language: Icelandic

Genre: Drama, novel, poetry, short story

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

1956 Juan Ramón Jiménez

Spain

Language: Spanish

Genre: Poetry

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

1957 Albert Camus

France

Language: French

Genre: 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 Union

Language: Russia

Genre: 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

France

Language: French

Genre: 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 Andrić

Yugoslavia

Language: Serbian

Genre: 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 States

Language: English

Genre: Novel, screenplay, short story

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

1963 Giorgos Seferis

Greece

Language: Greek

Genre: Poetry

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

1964 Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre

France

Language: French

Genre: 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 Union

Language: Russian

Genre: 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

Germany

Language: German

Genre: Poetry, drama

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

Shmuel Yosef Agnon

Israel

Language: Hebrew

Genre: Novel, short story

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

1967 Miguel Angel Asturias Rosales

Guatemala

Language: Spanish

Genre: Novel, poetry

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

1968 Yasunari Kawabata

Japan

Language: Japanese

Genre: Novel, short story

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

1969 Samuel Barclay Beckett

Ireland

Language: English, French

Genre: 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

Russia

Language: Russian

Genre: Novel

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

1971 Pablo Neruda

Chile

Language: Spanish

Genre: Poetry

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

1972 Heinrich Theodor Böll

Germany

Language: German

Genre: 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

Australia

Language: English

Genre: Drama, novel, short story

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

1974 Harry Martinson

Sweden

Language: Swedish

Genre: Drama, novel, poetry

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

Eyvind Johnson

Sweden

Language: Swedish

Genre: Novel

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

1975 Eugenio Montale

Language: Italian

Genre: 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 States

Language: English

Genre: Novel, short story

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

1977 Vicente Pío Marcelino Cirilo Aleixandre y Merlo

Spain

Language: Spanish

Genre: 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 States

Language: Yiddish

Genre: 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

Greece

Language: Greek

Genre: 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 Czesław Miłosz

Poland

Language: Polish

Genre: Essay, poetry

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

1981 Elias Canetti

Bulgaria

Language: German

Genre: Drama, essay, memoirs, novel

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

1982 Gabriel García Márquez

Colombia

Language: Spanish

Genre: 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 Kingdom

Language: English

Genre: 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

Czechoslovakia

Language: Czech

Genre: 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

France

Language: French

Genre: 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

Nigeria

Language: English

Genre: Drama, novel, poetry

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

1987 Joseph Brodsky

Soviet Union

Language: Russian, English

Genre: Poetry

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

1988 Naguib Mahfouz

Egypt

Language: Arabic

Genre: 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 José Cela y Trulock

Spain

Language: Spanish

Genre: 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

Mexico

Language: Spanish

Genre: Essay, poetry

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

1991 Nadine Gordimer

South Africa

Language: English

Genre: 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 Lucia

Language: English

Genre: Poetry

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

1993 Toni Morrison

United States

Language: English

Genre: Novel

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

1994 Kenzaburo Oe

Japan

Language: Japanese

Genre: 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

Ireland

Language: English

Genre: Poetry

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

1996 Wisława Szymborska-Włodek

Poland

Language: Polish

Genre: 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

Language: Italian

Genre: Drama

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

1998 José de Sousa Saramago

Portugal

Language: Portuguese

Genre: Drama, novel, poetry

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

1999 Günter Wilhelm Grass

Germany

Language: German

Genre: Drama, novel, poetry

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

2000 Gao Xingjian

China

Language: Chinese

Genre: 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 Kingdom

Language: English

Genre: Essay, novel

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

2002 Imre Kertész

Hungary

Language: Hungarian

Genre: Novel

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

2003 John M. Coetzee

South Africa

Language: English

Genre: Essay, novel, translation

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

2004 Elfriede Jelinek

Austria

Language: German

Genre: 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 clichés and their subjugating power”

2005 Harold Pinter

United Kingdom

Language: English

Genre: Drama

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

2006 Ferit Orhan Pamuk

Turkey

Language: Turkish

Genre: 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 Kingdom

Language: English

Genre: 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 Clézio

France

Language: French

Genre: 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 Müller

Germany

Language: German

Genre: 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

Language: Spanish

Genre: 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 Tranströmer

Sweden

Language: Swedish

Genre: Poetry, translation

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

2012 Mo Yan

China

Language: Chinese

Genre: Novel, short story

“who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”

2013 Alice Munro

Canada

Language: English

Genre: Short story

“master of the contemporary short story”

2014 Patrick Modiano

France

Language: French

Genre: Journalism, Prose

“for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

2015 Svetlana Alexievich

Belarus

Language: Russian

Genre: Journalist and prose writer

“for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”

* Source: nobelprize.org

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *