Nobel Prize for Literature 1926 - 1930

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for literature from 1926 to 1930 including Daledda, Thomas Mann, and Sinclair Lewis as well as behind the scenes information on the decision.

1926 Grazia Deledda (1875-1936), Italian. Work: The Mother.

Behind the Award--The judges secretly decided to give the prize to someone of Italian citizenship. The favorite was Gabriele D'Annunzio. Next choice was Guglielmo Ferrero, a professor of history. Third choice was Grazia Deledda, little-known but admired by Mussolini. In the debate, Ferrero was dropped as being a minor historian. A wrangle ensued over D'Annunzio. His private life was considered too fantastic, too immoral--his numerous mistresses, his affair with actress Eleonora Duse, his adventure as dictator of Fiume--and at last he was voted down. And that left Deledda the winner.

1927 Henri Bergson (1859-1941), French. Work: Creative Evolution.

1928 Sigrid Undset (1882-1949), Norwegian. Work: Kristin Lavransdatter.

1929 Thomas Mann (1875-1955), German. Work: Buddenbrooks.

Behind the Award--The award was given for a novel, Buddenbrooks, which he had published 28 years earlier, with no mention of The Magic Mountain, published 5 years earlier. Mann lost part of his $46,229 prize to the Nazis, presented part to a German author's league, used the rest to go to Palestine to research Joseph and His Brothers. He was embarrassed by the publicity. "It is an unnerving experience to have come publicly into the possession of a sum of money, as much as any industrialist puts away every year and no notice taken of it, and suddenly to be stared in the face by all the wretchedness of the world."

1930 Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951), American. Work: Main Street; Babbitt; Arrowsmith.

Behind the Award--Lewis's publisher, Alfred Harcourt, lobbied for this award. The judges were split on Lewis. Half felt his writing was erratic, uneven. The rest felt his work was important. At last he was voted the prize because it was agreed that to continue to ignore American writers would be scandalous. In fact, Theodore Dreiser proved to be the runner-up. In Stockholm, Lewis gave a brilliant speech attacking the U.S. genteel literary establishment, saying, "American professors like their literature clear, cold, pure, and very dead."

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