Nobel Prize Award for Literature 1948 to 1950

About the Nobel Prize Award for Literature 1948 to 1950 including the authors such as Eliot and Faulkner, their works, and history.


1948 T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), British

Work: The Waste Land

Nobel Laureate: Born in St. Louis, Mo., seventh in a family of very proper Bostonians, Bertrand Russell's best student did brilliantly at Harvard, then studied in Paris and Oxford. In London, in 1915, he married a portrait painter's daughter, described as vivacious if "a little vulgar," whose "bad nerves" worsened catastrophically. Eliot taught school briefly and clerked at Lloyd's Bank for eight years, while his literary moonlighting (and his misalliance) became the talk of London. When The Waste Land appeared in 1922, one critic called it "the greatest fraud of the century." A voice in the wilderness. Those 433 lines constituted a literary landmark. ("It's just a piece of rhythmical grumbling," was the author's offhand apologia.) In 1927 he became a member of the Church of England, a British subject, a member of the establishment, and a celebrity. He later wrote popular plays and lectured regularly in the U.S. (on one occasion, to 13,523 people at the University of Minnesota). Marks of public esteem ranged from the Order of Merit bestowed on him by George VI in 1948 to Time magazine's cover story in March, 1950. In 1957, 10 years after the death of his first wife, he married his former secretary. Aldous Huxley reported wryly that Eliot seemed "curiously dull--as a result, perhaps, of being, at last, happy in his second marriage." The elderly Eliot carried on a lively correspondence with--of all people--Groucho Marx. And what did the elitist (and notoriously anti-Semitic) Englishman have in common with Minnie Marx's son? A taste for good cigars, cats, and puns.

Nobel Lore: En route to Stockholm, a reporter asked Eliot which of his works had earned him the Nobel Prize. "I believe," came the answer, "it's given for the entire corpus." "When did you publish that?" inquired the newsman. "It really might make a good title for a mystery," pondered Eliot afterward. "The Entire Corpus."

1949 William Faulkner (1897-1962), American

Work: The Sound and the Fury; Sanctuary

1950 Bertrand A. Russell (1872-1970), British

Work: Human Knowledge

Nobel Laureate: He was a rebel with many causes, a pacifist who fought on a dozen farflung humanitarian fronts. Scion of aristocratic individualists, the orphaned infant was brought up by his grandfather (twice prime minister under Queen Victoria). He was educated privately and at Trinity College, Cambridge. Writing at the rate of 3,000 words a day, he wrote over 40 books, dealing with logic, mathematics, morals, sociology, politics, polemics, and education. But the founding father of modern analytic philosophy was no ivory-towered sophist. This activist's activities were always getting him into trouble and even into jail (for opposing conscription in 1918, for nuclear disarmament agitation in 1961). In 1916 Trinity College fired him for his pacifist principles (28 years later they had second thoughts and appointed him a Fellow). In 1940 New York's City College went to court to annul his appointment because of his immoral views. He inherited an earldom in 1931, received the Order of Merit in 1949, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950. He started to write fiction (Satan in the Suburbs) at 81, and in his 90s he was energetically opposing U.S. involvement in Vietnam and proposing assorted peace plans. In spite of (or because of?) his variegated matrimonial career (three divorces and four wives), he called himself "a happy pessimist."

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