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List of Nobel laureates in Literature

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The Nobel Prize in Literature (Swedish: Nobelpriset i litteratur) is awarded annually by the Swedish Academy to authors for outstanding contributions in the field of literature. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the 1895 will of Alfred Nobel, which are awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. As dictated by Nobel’s will, the award is administered by the Nobel Foundation and awarded by a committee that consists of five members elected by the Swedish Academy.

The first Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded in 1901 to Sully Prudhomme of France. Each recipient receives a medal, a diploma and a monetary award prize that has varied throughout the years.[3] In 1901, Prudhomme received 150,782 SEK, which is equivalent to 7,731,004 SEK in December 2007. In 2008, the prize was awarded to Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio of France, who was awarded the prize amount of 10,000,000 SEK.[4] The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death.[5]

As of 2010, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to 107 laureates.[6] When he received the award in 1958, Russian-born Boris Pasternak was forced to decline it under pressure from the government of the Soviet Union. In 1964, Jean-Paul Sartre refused to accept the Nobel Prize in Literature, as he had consistently refused all official honors in the past.[7] Twelve women have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, more than any other Nobel Prize with the exception of the Nobel Peace Prize.[8] Among all the years the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded, there have been only four instances in which the award was given to two individuals (1904, 1917, 1966, 1974). There have been seven years in which the Nobel Prize in Literature was not awarded (1914, 1918, 1935, 1940–1943).[6]

Laureates

Year

Laureate

Country[A]

Language

Rationale

1901

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Sully Prudhomme

France

French

"in special recognition of his poetic composition, which gives evidence of lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect"[9]

1902

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Theodor Mommsen

Germany

German

"the greatest living master of the art of historical writing, with special reference to his monumental work, A History of Rome"[10]

1903

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Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Norway

Norwegian

"as a tribute to his noble, magnificent and versatile poetry, which has always been distinguished by both the freshness of its inspiration and the rare purity of its spirit"[11]

1904

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Frédéric Mistral

France

Occitan

"in recognition of the fresh originality and true inspiration of his poetic production, which faithfully reflects the natural scenery and native spirit of his people, and, in addition, his significant work as a Provençal philologist"[12]

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José Echegaray

Spain

Spanish

"in recognition of the numerous and brilliant compositions which, in an individual and original manner, have revived the great traditions of the Spanish drama"[12]

1905

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Henryk Sienkiewicz

Poland

Polish

"because of his outstanding merits as an epic writer"[13]

1906

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Giosuè Carducci

Italy

Italian

"not only in consideration of his deep learning and critical research, but above all as a tribute to the creative energy, freshness of style, and lyrical force which characterize his poetic masterpieces"[14]

1907

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Rudyard Kipling

United Kingdom

English

"in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author"[15]

1908

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Rudolf Christoph Eucken

Germany

German

"in recognition of his earnest search for truth, his penetrating power of thought, his wide range of vision, and the warmth and strength in presentation with which in his numerous works he has vindicated and developed an idealistic philosophy of life"[16]

1909

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Selma Lagerlöf

Sweden

Swedish

"in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings"[17]

1910

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Paul von Heyse

Germany

German

"as a tribute to the consummate artistry, permeated with idealism, which he has demonstrated during his long productive career as a lyric poet, dramatist, novelist and writer of world-renowned short stories"[18]

1911

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Maurice Maeterlinck

Belgium

French

"in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers’ own feelings and stimulate their imaginations"[19]

1912

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Gerhart Hauptmann

Germany

German

"primarily in recognition of his fruitful, varied and outstanding production in the realm of dramatic art"[20]

1913

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Rabindranath Tagore

India

Bengali

"because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West"[21]

1914

Not awarded

1915

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Romain Rolland

France

French

"as a tribute to the lofty idealism of his literary production and to the sympathy and love of truth with which he has described different types of human beings"[22]

1916

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Verner von Heidenstam

Sweden

Swedish

"in recognition of his significance as the leading representative of a new era in our literature"[23]

1917

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Karl Adolph Gjellerup

Denmark

Danish

"for his varied and rich poetry, which is inspired by lofty ideals"[24]

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Henrik Pontoppidan

Denmark

Danish

"for his authentic descriptions of present-day life in Denmark"[24]

1918

Not awarded

1919

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Carl Spitteler

Switzerland

German

"in special appreciation of his epic, Olympian Spring"[25]

1920

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Knut Hamsun

Norway

Norwegian

"for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil"[26]

1921

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Anatole France

France

French

"in recognition of his brilliant literary achievements, characterized as they are by a nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament"[27]

1922

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Jacinto Benavente

Spain

Spanish

"for the happy manner in which he has continued the illustrious traditions of the Spanish drama"[28]

1923

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William Butler Yeats

Ireland

English

"for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation"[29]

1924

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Władysław Reymont

Poland

Polish

"for his great national epic, The Peasants"[30]

1925

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George Bernard Shaw

Ireland

English

"for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty"[31]

1926

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Grazia Deledda

Italy

Italian

"for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general"[32]

1927

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Henri Bergson

France

French

"in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented"[33]

1928

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Sigrid Undset

Norway

Norwegian

"principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages"[34]

1929

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Thomas Mann

Germany

German

"principally for his great novel, Buddenbrooks, which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature"[35]

1930

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Sinclair Lewis

United States

English

"for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters"[36]

1931

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Erik Axel Karlfeldt

Sweden

Swedish

"The poetry of Erik Axel Karlfeldt"[37]

1932

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John Galsworthy

United Kingdom

English

"for his distinguished art of narration which takes its highest form in The Forsyte Saga"[38]

1933

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Ivan Bunin

Russia
France

Russian

"for the strict artistry with which he has carried on the classical Russian traditions in prose writing"[39]

1934

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Luigi Pirandello

Italy

Italian

"for his bold and ingenious revival of dramatic and scenic art"[40]

1935

Not awarded

1936

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Eugene O’Neill

United States

English

"for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy"[41]

1937

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Roger Martin du Gard

France

French

"for the artistic power and truth with which he has depicted human conflict as well as some fundamental aspects of contemporary life in his novel cycle Les Thibault"[42]

1938

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Pearl S. Buck

United States

English

"for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces"[43]

1939

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Frans Eemil Sillanpää

Finland

Finnish

"for his deep understanding of his country’s peasantry and the exquisite art with which he has portrayed their way of life and their relationship with Nature"[44]

1940

Not awarded

1941

Not awarded

1942

Not awarded

1943

Not awarded

1944

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Johannes Vilhelm Jensen

Denmark

Danish

"for the rare strength and fertility of his poetic imagination with which is combined an intellectual curiosity of wide scope and a bold, freshly creative style"[45]

1945

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Gabriela Mistral

Chile

Spanish

"for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world"[46]

1946

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Hermann Hesse

Switzerland

German

"for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style"[47]

1947

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André Gide

France

French

"for his comprehensive and artistically significant writings, in which human problems and conditions have been presented with a fearless love of truth and keen psychological insight"[48]

1948

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T. S. Eliot

United Kingdom

English

"for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry"[49]

1949

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William Faulkner

United States

English

"for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel"[50]

1950

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Bertrand Russell

United Kingdom

English

"in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought"[51]

1951

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Pär Lagerkvist

Sweden

Swedish

"for the artistic vigour and true independence of mind with which he endeavours in his poetry to find answers to the eternal questions confronting mankind"[52]

1952

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François Mauriac

France

French

"for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life"[53]

1953

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Winston Churchill

United Kingdom

English

"for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values"[54]

1954

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Ernest Hemingway

United States

English

"for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style"[55]

1955

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Halldór Laxness

Iceland

Icelandic

"for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland"[56]

1956

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Juan Ramón Jiménez

Spain

Spanish

"for his lyrical poetry, which in Spanish language constitutes an example of high spirit and artistical purity"[57]

1957

Albert Camus

France

French

"for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times"[58]

1958

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Boris Pasternak

Soviet Union

Russian

"for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition"[59]

1959

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Salvatore Quasimodo

Italy

Italian

"for his lyrical poetry, which with classical fire expresses the tragic experience of life in our own times"[60]

1960

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Saint-John Perse

France

French

"for the soaring flight and the evocative imagery of his poetry which in a visionary fashion reflects the conditions of our time"[61]

1961

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Ivo Andrić

Yugoslavia

Serbo-Croatian

"for the epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies drawn from the history of his country"[62]

1962

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John Steinbeck

United States

English

"for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception"[63]

1963

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Giorgos Seferis

Greece

Greek

"for his eminent lyrical writing, inspired by a deep feeling for the Hellenic world of culture"[64]

1964

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Jean-Paul Sartre

France

French

"for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age"[65]

1965

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Mikhail Sholokhov

Soviet Union

Russian

"for the artistic power and integrity with which, in his epic of the Don, he has given expression to a historic phase in the life of the Russian people"[66]

1966

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Shmuel Yosef Agnon

Israel

Hebrew

"for his profoundly characteristic narrative art with motifs from the life of the Jewish people"[67]

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Nelly Sachs

Sweden

German

"for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel’s destiny with touching strength"[67]

1967

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Miguel Ángel Asturias

Guatemala

Spanish

"for his vivid literary achievement, deep-rooted in the national traits and traditions of Indian peoples of Latin America"[68]

1968

Kawabata Yasunari

Japan

Japanese

"for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind"[69]

1969

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Samuel Beckett

Ireland

English and French

"for his writing, which – in new forms for the novel and drama – in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation"[70]

1970

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Soviet Union

Russian

"for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature"[71]

1971

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Pablo Neruda

Chile

Spanish

"for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams"[72]

1972

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Heinrich Böll

West Germany

German

"for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature"[73]

1973

Patrick White

Australia

English

"for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature"[74]

1974

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Eyvind Johnson

Sweden

Swedish

"for a narrative art, farseeing in lands and ages, in the service of freedom"[75]

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Harry Martinson

Sweden

Swedish

"for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos"[75]

1975

Eugenio Montale

Italy

Italian

"for his distinctive poetry which, with great artistic sensitivity, has interpreted human values under the sign of an outlook on life with no illusions"[76]

1976

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Saul Bellow

United States

English

"for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work"[77]

1977

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Vicente Aleixandre

Spain

Spanish

"for a creative poetic writing which illuminates man’s condition in the cosmos and in present-day society, at the same time representing the great renewal of the traditions of Spanish poetry between the wars"[78]

1978

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Isaac Bashevis Singer

United States

Yiddish

"for his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life"[79]

1979

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Odysseas Elytis

Greece

Greek

"for his poetry, which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts with sensuous strength and intellectual clear-sightedness modern man’s struggle for freedom and creativeness"[80]

1980

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Czesław Miłosz

Poland
United States

Polish

"who with uncompromising clear-sightedness voices man’s exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts"[81]

1981

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Elias Canetti

Bulgaria
United Kingdom

German

"for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power"[82]

1982

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Gabriel García Márquez

Colombia

Spanish

"for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts"[83]

1983

William Golding

United Kingdom

English

"for his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today"[84]

1984

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Jaroslav Seifert

Czechoslovakia

Czech

"for his poetry which endowed with freshness, and rich inventiveness provides a liberating image of the indomitable spirit and versatility of man"[85]

1985

Claude Simon

France

French

"who in his novel combines the poet’s and the painter’s creativeness with a deepened awareness of time in the depiction of the human condition"[86]

1986

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Wole Soyinka

Nigeria

English

"who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence"[87]

1987

Joseph Brodsky

United States

English and Russian

"for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity"[88]

1988

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Naguib Mahfouz

Egypt

Arabic

"who, through works rich in nuance – now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous – has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind"[89]

1989

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Camilo José Cela

Spain

Spanish

"for a rich and intensive prose, which with restrained compassion forms a challenging vision of man’s vulnerability"[90]

1990

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Octavio Paz

Mexico

Spanish

"for impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity"[91]

1991

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Nadine Gordimer

South Africa

English

"who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity"[92]

1992

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Derek Walcott

Saint Lucia

English

"for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment"[93]

1993

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Toni Morrison

United States

English

"who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality"[94]

1994

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Ōe Kenzaburō

Japan

Japanese

"who with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today"[95]

1995

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Seamus Heaney

Ireland

English

"for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past"[96]

1996

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Wisława Szymborska

Poland

Polish

"for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality"[97]

1997

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Dario Fo

Italy

Italian

"who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden"[98]

1998

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José Saramago

Portugal

Portuguese

"who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality"[99]

1999

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Günter Grass

Germany

German

"whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history"[100]

2000

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Gao Xingjian

France

Chinese

"for an oeuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama"[101]

2001

V. S. Naipaul

United Kingdom

English

"for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories"[102]

2002

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Imre Kertész

Hungary

Hungarian

"for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history"[103]

2003

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J. M. Coetzee

South Africa

English

"who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider"[104]

2004

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Elfriede Jelinek

Austria

German

"for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society’s clichés and their subjugating power"[105]

2005

Harold Pinter

United Kingdom

English

"who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms"[106]

2006

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Orhan Pamuk

Turkey

Turkish

"who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures"[107]

2007

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Doris Lessing

United Kingdom

English

"that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny"[108]

2008

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J. M. G. Le Clézio

France
Mauritius

French

"author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization"[109]

2009

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Herta Müller

Germany

German

"who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed"[110]

2010

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Mario Vargas Llosa

Peru
Spain

Spanish

"for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat".[111]

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