Author: Sherry Helms
The Nobel Prize in Literature is conferred annually by the Swedish Academy to authors who has made an outstanding contributions in the field of literature. One of the five Nobel Prizes established by the 1895 will of Alfred Nobel, this award is presented every year in Stockholm at a formal ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death. The very first Nobel Prize in Literature was bestowed to Sully Prudhomme of France in 1901.
As of 2012, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to 109 individuals with two eccentric situation in its history –in 1958, Russian-born Boris Pasternak was forced to decline his award under pressure from the government of the Soviet Union, and in 1964, Jean-Paul Sartre turned down to accept the prize, saying that he always declined official honors and that “a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution”. With twelve women winners, the history of the Nobel Prize in Literature has witnessed four instances in which the award was conferred to two individuals, that is, on 1904, 1917, 1966, 1974, and there have been seven years (1914, 1918, 1935, 1940–1943) in which the Nobel Prize in Literature was not bestowed at all.
With the support of our editorial team, we have created a chronological list of all the 21st century Nobel Laureates in Literature –winners from the years 2001 – 2012, that includes a brief info on why they are awarded and what were their contributions. Take a look:
V. S. NAIPAUL - He is a Trinidadian-British writer of Indo-Trinidadian heritage of Kanyakubja Brahmin known for his novels focusing on the legacy of the British Empire’s colonialism. Mr. Naipaul won the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories”. He also won Man Booker Prize for his novel In a Free State. His other popular works include many fiction and non-fiction such as The Mimic Men, Guerrillas, A Bend in the River, Half a Life, India: A Wounded Civilization, etc.
IMRE KERTÉSZ - He is a Hungarian author of Jewish descent, Holocaust concentration camp survivor, who received Nobel Prize in Literature, “for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history”. His popular works are Fatelessness, Liquidation, Detective Story, The Pathseeker, The Union Jack, and Fiasco.
JOHN MAXWELL COETZEE - An Australian of South African origin, he is a novelist, essayist, linguist, and translator, who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider, and for which he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Also. he was the first author to be awarded the Man Booker Prize twice: first for Life & Times of Michael K in 1983, and again for Disgrace in 1999. His works include:
ELFRIEDE JELINEK - She is an Austrian playwright and novelist, who awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 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”. Jelinek’s novels in English are The Piano Teacher, Lust, Wonderful Wonderful Times, Women as Lovers, and Greed.
HAROLD PINTER - He was an English playwright, screenwriter, director and actor, who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms, and that led him to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. One of the most influential modern British dramatists, his writing career spanned more than 50 years with popular plays like The Birthday Party, The Homecoming, and Betrayal, each of which he adapted to film. His other popular screenplays are The Servant, The Go-Between, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Trial, and Sleuth (2007).
ORHAN PAMUK - The first Turkish writer to have won the Noble Prize, he in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures through his award-winning books like My Name Is Red, Istanbul, The New Life, Snow, etc.
DORIS LESSING - She is a British novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, biographer and short story writer. Her novels include The Grass Is Singing, The Golden Notebook, The Good Terrorist, Martha Quest, The Four-Gated City, A Proper Marriage, Landlocked, etc. While conferring the Nobel Prize in Literature to her, the Swedish Academy described her as “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”.
JEAN-MARIE GUSTAVE LE CLÉZIO - Popularly known as J. M. G. Le Clézio, he is a French-Mauritian writer and professor who was bestowed the Nobel Prize in Literature as an “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization”. He has written many award-winning books in French that are translated in English as: The Interrogation, The Flood, Terra Amata, War, Desert, The Prospector, Wandering Star, and Onitsha.
HERTA MÜLLER - The Swedish Academy conferred the Nobel Prize in Literature to this Romanian-born German novelist, poet, and essayist by describing her as a woman “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”. Her much acclaimed novels include The Hunger Angel, Traveling on One Leg, The Land of Green Plums, The Passport, The Appointment, etc.
MARIO VARGAS LLOSA - A Peruvian-Spanish writer, politician, journalist, and essayist, Vargas Llosa rose to fame in the 1960s with novels such as The Time of the Hero, The Green House, and Conversation in the Cathedral. Upon announcing the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy said it had been given to Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat”.
TOMAS TRANSTRÖMER - As per the Swedish Academy, the Nobel Prize in Literature was bestowed to him “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”. This Swedish poet, psychologist and translator has offered us some great work of poems that are as fresh as life, such as The Half-Finished Heaven and The Great Enigma.
MO YAN - Best known to Western readers for his 1987 novel Red Sorghum that later adapted into a film of the same name, this Chinese novelist has been referred by Donald Morrison of U.S. news magazine TIME as “one of the most famous, oft-banned and widely pirated of all Chinese writers”. Mo is the most recent winner the Nobel Prize in Literature, who won for his work as a writer “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”.