Nobel prize in literature

   One of several prizes established through the will of Alfred Nobel (1833—1896), the Nobel Prize in literature is awarded by the Swedish Academy, a self-perpetuating body of 18 Swedish men and women of letters elected for life and first established by King Gustav III. Since Nobel's will specified that the prize was to be awarded to a writer from any country who had produced "the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency," there has been some debate about what "idealistic" was intended to mean. Such social critics as, for example, Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg did not receive the prize. Since its inception in 1901, the following Scandinavian writers have been selected as recipients: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1903), Selma Lagerlof (1909), Verner von Heidenstam (1916), Karl Gjellerup (1917; shared prize), Henrik Pontoppidan (1917; shared prize), Knut Hamsun (1920), Sigrid Undset (1928), Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1931), Frans Eemil Sillanpaa (1939), Johannes V. Jensen (1944), Par Lagerkvist (1951), Halldor Kiljan Laxness (1955), Eyvind Johnson (1974; shared prize), and Harry Martinson (1974; shared prize). More men than women have historically received the prize, and more Scandinavian writers than non-Scandinavians, given the size of the populations of the Scandinavian countries relative to the rest of the world.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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