Nobel Prize for Literature 1971 - 1975

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for literature from 1971 to 1975 including Neruda, Boll, and Patrick White as well as behind the scenes information on the decision.

1971 Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), Chilean. Work: The Poetry of Neruda.

Behind the Award--Ricardo Reyes adopted the pen name of Pablo Neruda (from a Czech writer who had died in 1891) because his laborer-father disapproved of poetry. Neruda became a Loyalist during the Spanish Civil War. Spain's great poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, who was killed or murdered in that war, called him "A real man who knows that the reed and the swallow are more immortal than the hard cheek of a statue." Neruda wrote 7,000 pages of poetry in his lifetime. In one of his best-known radical poems, "The United Fruit Co.," he wrote: "Jehovah divided his universe:/Anaconda, Ford Motors,/Coca-Cola Inc., and similar entities:/the most succulent item of all,/The United Fruit Company Incorporated." In 1953, he won the Stalin Peace Prize and praised Stalin; in 1963, disenchanted, he said of Stalin, "This cruel man stopped life." In 1970, he started to run as communist candidate for President of Chile, then withdrew. When Salvador Allende became President, he appointed Neruda Ambassador to France. This appointment, as well as the fact that his closest rival for the Nobel Prize, Patrick White, received poor reviews on his latest book, won the $88,000 award for Neruda, whom the Swedes called "the poet of violated human dignity." Noting that in the previous 10 years 3 other diplomats had become laureates, Neruda welcomed the latest "Nobel old age pension for diplomats."

1972 Heinrich Boll (1917- ), German. Work: Billiards at 9:30; Group Portrait with Lady.

Behind the Award--Drafted into the Wehrmacht, he was wounded 3 times. A Catholic, he refused to pay Church taxes as a protest against "the fiscalization of faith." A leftist democrat, he is also published in East Germany. When a housewife boxed the ears of Chancellor Kiesinger, because of his Nazi past, Boll outraged the nation by sending her flowers. He was the 1st German inside Germany to get the Nobel Prize since Mann won it in 1929 (Hesse and Sachs got it while in exile). Many believe Boll got the award "to defuse East-West political tensions." Notified of his $100,000 prize while visiting Athens, Boll announced he would give part of it to assist jailed writers and their families around the world, and then defended writers in Greece who were political prisoners. He believes future Nobel winners "should be" the South American Garcia Marquez, the Russian Vladimir Maximoff, the Englishman Graham Greene, the Americans "possibly Mailer, Bellow, Salinger."

1973 Patrick White (1912- ), Australian. Work: The Tree of Man; Voss.

Behind the Award--He topped Graham Greene, Andre Malraux, Vladimir Nabokov to win the $121,000 prize. He won for introducing "a new continent into literature . . . for the 1st time [he] has given the continent of Australia a voice that carries across the world." Freely translated this means the Swedish Academy was once more playing it safe after recent controversies and playing its game of geographical distribution by giving Australia its 1st literary award. White, graduate of the RAF, student at Cambridge, music and dog lover, is a tight-lipped loner. About his body of work, he's said, "The books are more important than words."

1974 Eyvind Johnson (1900- ), Swedish. Work: The Novel About Olav.

Harry E. Martinson (1904- ), Swedish. Work: The Road; The Days of His Grace.

Behind the Award--Two Nobel judges were made winners by Nobel judges. Both were virtually unknown outside their native Sweden. Wrote Professor Sven Delblanc, of Uppsala University, in the Stockholm Expressen: "The choice reflects a lack of judgment by the Academy . . . this can only too easily be interpreted as corruption through comraderie. Mutual admiration is one thing, but this smells almost like embezzlement." Among nominees who did not get the prize were Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow.

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