Nobel Prize for Literature 1906-1910

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature from 1906 to 1910 including Kipling and Carducci, behind the scenes of the decision.


1906 Giosue Carducci (1835-1907), Italian.

Work: Barbarian Odes.

Behind the Award--Anders Osterling, former Secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Carducci "is one of the few prizewinners who have been chosen unanimously." To elect him unanimously, the Nobel judges passed over Mark Twain, Rainer Maria Rilke, George Meredith, and Henry James. While Carducci, an antiromantic poet and politician, was admired in Italy (and Sweden), he never acquired international renown.

1907 Rudyard Kipling (1856-1936), British.

Work: Jungle Book; Captains Courageous.

Behind the Award--The nominees for this one included Algernon Swinburne and Georg Brandes, but Kipling won as "the result of a compromise." Chosen at 42, he remains the youngest literature winner. As one Nobel judge told us, "We do not like to honor young men, because if they are too young, they may retrogress. Sinclair Lewis is a case in point." Stockholm was in mourning for King Oscar's death when Kipling arrived for his award. He wrote, "We reached the city, snow-white under sun, to find all the world in evening dress, the official mourning which is curiously impressive. Next afternoon, the prizewinners were taken to be presented to the new King. . . They said that the last words of the old King had been, 'Don't let them shut the theatres for me.' So Stockholm that night went soberly about her pleasures, all dumbed down under the snow."

1908 Rudolf C. Eucken (1846-1926), German. Work: Meaning and Value of Life.

Behind the Award--Crotchety senior judge Wirsen wanted Swinburne, lesser judges wanted Selma Lagerlof, so another compromise was reached. Secretary Osterling admitted that Eucken was "unquestionably one of the Academy's weakest selections," and Donald Fleming, writing in Atlantic, labeled it "a scandalous choice." As for Eucken, the great unread, he taught philosophy at Basle, Jena, Cambridge, and is not even listed in Twentieth Century Authors.

1909 Selma Lagerlof (1858-1940), Swedish.

Work: Story of Gosta Berling.

Behind the Award--She was elected over Wirsen's vigorous opposition. He equated her work with "artificiality" and "unreality" and regarded her as one of "the fads of the day." Former Swedish Prime Minister Hjalmar Hammarskjold, one of the judges, said of Miss Lagerlof, after she too became a judge, "She writes idiotically, but she votes quite intelligently." For the 9th time Sweden's leading dramatist, August Strindberg, was not even nominated. Judge Sven Hedin hated Strindberg for ridiculing him, and judge Carl David at Wirsen regarded Strindberg as "old-fashioned," and other judges frowned on Strindberg's drinking, 3 divorces, and belief in black magic.

1910 Paul J. L. Heyse (1830-1914), German.

Work: Novellen.

Behind the Award-Said judge Wirsen, "Germany has not had a greater literary genius since Goethe." No further comment.

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