Nobel Prize in Literature
The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded each year since 1901 to an author who has produced a body of work that is considered to be outstanding. This one of five Nobel Prizes established in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. The others are Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, and Peace.
Nobel stipulated that the author’s work contribute in “an ideal direction,” a phrase that has generated some controversy in the selection of recipients. During the early years of the prize, the selection committee interpreted the words strictly, and several substantial authors, including James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, Henry James, and Anton Chekhov, were never nominated. The first recipient in 1901 was Sully Prudhomme. Winners receive a gold medal, a diploma, and a cash award.
Other notable writers to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature have been Rudyard Kipling (1907), William Butler Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925), Eugene O’Neill (1936), William Faulkner (1949), Ernest Hemingway (1954), Albert Camus (1957), John Steinbeck (1962), and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982). Selma Lagerlof was the first woman recipient, in 1909, Rabindranath Tagore of India was the first non-European in 1913 and Sinclair Lewis (1930) was the first American writer to receive the award. Controversy has dogged the selection, with laureates being heavily European, and a large percentage of those writers being Swedish and obscure outside of Scandinavia.