Nobel Prize for Literature 1956 - 1965

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for literature from 1956 to 1965 including Camus, Pasternak, Steinbeck, and Sartre as well as behind the scenes information on the decision.

1956 Juan Ramon Jimenez (1881-1958) Spanish Work: Platero and I.

1957 Albert Camus (1913-1960). French Work: The Plague; The Stranger.

1958 Boris L. Pasternak (1890-1960), Russian. Work: Dr. Zhivago.

Behind the Award--Pasternak's writings were anticommunist, and this gave the judges a chance to thumb their noses at the Soviet Union. Pasternak said he would "joyfully" accept the award. But then Pravda raged that this "reactionary bourgeois award" had not been given to a novelist and poet but rather to a "lampooner who had blackened the socialist revolution" and who was now a member of the "archreactionary fraternity." Sadly, Pasternak was forced to reject the award. "This refusal," said the Nobel Committee, "does not affect the validity of the prize, and even though it could not be presented, Pasternak retains his position in the line of prizewinners."

1959 Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968), Italian. Work: Incomparable Earth.

Behind the Award--Although he was not mentioned in a single standard English or American biographical dictionary of writers before he was voted a Nobel laureate, the selection of the Sicily-born poet caused no fuss. What did cause a fuss was that he checked into Stockholm's Grand Hotel for the ceremony with a woman who was not his wife.

1960 Saint-John Perse (1887- ), French. Work: Chronique.

1961 Ivo Andric (1892- ), Yugoslavian. Work: The Bridge on the Drina.

1962 John Steinbeck (1902-1968), American. Work: The Grapes of Wrath; Of Mice and Men.

Behind the Award--The Times of London editorialized, "Mr. John Steinbeck's disarming doubts about his own merit are, perhaps, shared by many. . . . It is becoming difficult to take seriously the standards of judgment of an international literary prize which overlooks or deliberately ignores the claims of such writers as Valery, Malraux or Brecht, preferring to honor the accomplishments . . . of Pearl Buck and Quasimodo."

1963 Giorgos Seferis (1900- ), Greek. Work: The Thrush; Log Book III.

1964 Jean-Paul Sartre (1905- ), French. Work: Nausea; No Exit.

Behind the Award--Sartre flatly rejected the prize award and the check for $53,000. He is the only laureate ever to turn down the prize of his own free will. In declining, Sartre stated, "It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner. A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honorable form." The Nobel Academy's only official comment: "The laureate let it be known that he did not wish to accept the prize, but the fact of his declining this distinction naturally in no way modifies the validity of the award."

1965 Mikhail A. Sholokhov (1905- ), Russian. Work: And Quiet Flows the Don.

Behind the Award--The 1st pro-Soviet writer-citizen to be honored by the Swedish judges. There is no clue to the turnabout of the Academy except in the remark of one judge: "Convinced communist though he is, Sholokhov abstains from all political comment." In 1974, a Russian emigre publishing house in Paris brought out a scholarly study, with a foreword by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, which challenged Sholokhov's authorship of And Quiet Flows the Don. According to the expose, an anti-Bolshevik White Russian officer, Fedor D. Krukov, wrote the book before dying of typhus in 1920. Somehow, the expose claimed, the 21-year-old Sholokhov got hold of the manuscript, tacked on a new ending, and published it under his own name when he was 23.

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