This week the 2011 winners of the Nobel Prize are unveiled. Alfred Nobel, for whom the Prize is named, specified that prizes be awarded in several different disciplines: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Peace, Economics, and of course Literature. Nobels own interest in literature began in childhood, and the contents of his personal library are quite impressive.
While the other Nobel Prizes are announced every year in early October, the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded later. The first prize was awarded in 1901, and since then 107 people have earned the award. And youre right; those numbers dont add up! Thats because in some years, the prize has been shared, while in others no Nobel Prize was awarded for Literature. Nobel stipulated that if no nominated works fit the criteria for the prize, then no prize should be awarded.
The Nobel Prize in Literature has an incredibly rich history. A few interesting facts about the prize:
- The prize has been shared four times:
- 1904 - Frédéric Mistral, José Echegaray
- 1917 - Karl Gjellerup, Henrik Pontoppidan
- 1966 - Shmuel Agnon, Nelly Sachs
- 1974 - Eyvind Johnson, Harry Martinson
- The youngest Nobel laureate in Literature was Rudyard Kipling, who was only 42 years old when he earned the prize in 1907.
- Doris Lessing was the oldest winner. She was 88 years old when she won the prize.
- The first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature was Selma Lagerlöf. She was later nominated to the Swedish Academy to select Nobel Prize winners.
- Only two people have ever declined the award. Boris Pasternak accepted the prize in 1958, but was later caused by the authorities of his country (Soviet Union) to decline the Prize." Jeal Paul Sartre also declined in 1964 because he declined all official recognition.
- The prize has been awarded posthumously twice: first to Erick Axel Karlfeldt in 1931, and to Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961, The Nobel Foundation stipulated in 1974 that prizes not be awarded posthumously, unless the winner dies after the winner has been selected.
Want to watch the Nobel Prize announcements unfold? Watch them live right here! Then take a moment to browse our selection of literature by Nobel laureates.