Nobel Prize for Literature 1966 - 1970

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for literature from 1966 to 1970 including Kawabata, Beckett, and Solzhenitsyn as well as behind the scenes information on the decision.

1966 Samuel Y. Agnon (1888-1970), Israeli. Work: The Bridal Canopy; A Guest for the Night.

Nelly Sachs (1891-1970), Swedish. Work: Collected Poems.

1967 Miguel Angel Asturias (1899-1974). Guatemalan. Work: Men of Corn; Mulata.

1968 Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1974), Japanese. Work: Snow Country; Thousand Cranes.

Behind the Award--Among the nominees in this particular year were Chairman Mao Tsetung, Gunter Grass, Alberto Moravia, Robert Graves, Lawrence Durrell. Yet, none was seriously considered because, as The People's Almanac learned exclusively, the Swedish Academy had secretly determined that the 1968 award should go to a Japanese writer. A Swedish official was flown to Tokyo to scout the field. The leading Japanese writers--Mishima, Abe, Oe, Tanizaki--were passed over for the lesser-known Kawabata, who was considered a safer choice. In April, 1972, Kawabata put a gas hose in his mouth and committed suicide.

1969 Samuel Beckett (1906- ), Irish. Work: Waiting for Godot.

Behind the Award--Among those voted upon, besides Beckett, were Eugene Ionesco, Vladimir Nabokov, Andre Malraux, Leopold Senghor, President of Senegal. Beckett, onetime secretary to James Joyce and an avant-garde author, was able to get the $72,800 prize only because the Swedish Academy had been infused by some younger blood and had become more liberal.

1970 Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (1918- ), Russian. Work: The Cancer Ward; One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Behind the Award--The winner, whose anti-Stalinist novels are banned in his homeland, was nominated by Francois Mauriac, among others. The Soviet Union accused the Swedish judges of "anti-Soviet motives" in crowning a novelist who was banned by Russian authorities. The Soviet Union was right. The award was political as well as literary. Solzhenitsyn declined a trip to Stockholm, fearful that he might not be allowed back in Russia to be with his 2nd wife and children. He suggested that the ceremony be held in Moscow's Swedish Embassy. Swedish Premier Olof Palme chickened out on this, feeling such a ceremony might be interpreted as a political manifestation against the Soviet Union. In 1973, Solzhenitsyn told the foreign press that his life had been threatened by the KGB (Soviet Security Police). In February, 1974, after publishing in Paris The Gulag Archipelago, an expose of Stalinist repression and terror, Solzhenitsyn was arrested, then deported from Russia. He now lives in exile in Norway. He finally received his Nobel Prize in Stockholm on December 10, 1974.

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