The requirements to win a Nobel Prize in Literature

Nobel Prize for Literature

This October 6 – the first Thursday of the tenth month, as usual – the Swedish Academy will announce the winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature. In the days before, the names of the usual suspects to win the award begin to resonate, as each year, in tabloids around the world. For Spain, Javier Marías (RIP) has been waiting for years —and it is not ruled out that he will be the second Nobel Prize for Literature awarded posthumously—; for Canada, Margaret Atwood and Anne Carson; for Japan, Haruki Murakami… and the list goes on.

The truth is that, leaving aside the sea of ​​possible winners, there is a question that many followers of the Swedish Academy ask themselves: “What are the requirements to win a Nobel Prize in Literature?”. Below, some important details that will clarify this mystery and will motivate many to continue working hard in their literary career.

First: get nominated

Annually, the foundation is responsible for making the formal request for candidates. Subsequently, the academies, organizations and outstanding writers of each country are in charge of sending their applications.

In this regard, Ellen Mattson, a member of the prestigious Nobel Committee, commented: “We have people all over the world who have the right to nominate: academics, critics, spokespersons for literary organizations, other academies. Also the previous laureates and, of course, the members of the Swedish Academy.”

Necessary requirements?

Mainly: to be possessor of a consonant, constant trajectory and thataccording to the prize’s founder, Alfred Nobel, the work has given “the greatest benefit to humanity”.

It can be assumed after reading that sentence that the writer must have promoted values, principles, forceful changes, or, as in the case of Abdulrazak Gurnah —winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature—, having been the voice of those who had not been able to speak. The foregoing must be notorious, hence the importance of having had a visible and palpable literary path.

Pass the first purge out of thousands of proposals: possess the “divine spark”

After the request for the applications by the governing body, the names of the applicants are received until February 1st. Normally, thousands of proposals arrive. The two months after, the Academy is in charge of doing an exhaustive purification up to 20 candidates.

Haruki Murakami.

Haruki Murakami.

Although it can be said that they study the career and work of each writer to know who is qualified to be within this select group, The truth is that it is not known for sure what criteria are applied to determine who passes this first crucial filter..

However, what we do know, and the information is recent from Mattson herself, is that looking for a “divine spark”… “some kind of power, a development that endures through the books.”

That the work stands out among the 5 finalists

The month of April and May pass with another cut that takes the number of candidates from 20 to 5. From then on, after the filter, the works of the chosen ones are studied in depth, and in October —through the vote of the Nobel Committee— it is decided who will go down in the history of the letters of humanity.

Xavier Marias.

Javier Marías, who died on September 11.

It is important to note that the writer who receives more than half of the votes wins. Another slightly strange aspect is that no one can win if they have not been nominated at least twice for the award. Therefore, no new candidate may be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, even if his work says otherwise. Now it is understandable why we tend to hear common names among potential winners every year.

Data of interest and other obvious

  • Nobody can make a self-application;
  • To date, 114 Nobel Prizes for Literature have been awarded;
  • There are 118 winners (119 next Thursday);
  • Four times the award has been double;
  • 101 men have been awarded;
  • Only 16 women have won the Nobel Prize for Literature;
  • There were 7 times where the prize was not awarded;
  • Erik Axel Karlfeldt is the only person to have received the Nobel Prize for Literature posthumously.. It happened at the 1931 award ceremony.
  • Writers of 25 different languages ​​have been distinguished;
  • Rudyard Kipling is the youngest person to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature.. It happened in 1907. At the time of the award ceremony she was 41 years old;
  • 100 years later it was the turn of the oldest person to receive the award, he was 88 years old. It happened in 2007, and it was Doris Lessing;
  • On two occasions the award has been rejected. The first time was Boris Pasternak, in 1958; then Jean-Paul Sartre in 1964.

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The requirements to win a Nobel Prize in Literature