Nobel Prize in Literature
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Nobel Prize in Literature (Swedish: Nobelpriset i litteratur) is awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words of Alfred Nobel, produced "the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency" (original Swedish: den som inom litteraturen har producerat det utmärktaste i idealisk riktning). The "work" in this case refers to an author's work as a whole, though individual works are sometimes also cited. The Swedish Academy decides who, if anyone, will receive the prize in any given year and announces the name of the chosen laureate in early October.
The original citation of this Nobel Prize has led to much controversy. In the original Swedish, the word idealisk can be translated as either "idealistic" or "ideal". In earlier years the Nobel Committee stuck closely to the intent of the will, and left out certain world-renowned writers such as Leo Tolstoy and Henrik Ibsen for the Prize, probably because their works were not "idealistic" enough. In later years the wording is interpreted much more liberally, and the Prize is awarded, as is often argued that it should be, for lasting literary merit. The choice of the Academy can still generate controversy, particularly for the selection of lesser-known writers (or writers working in avant garde forms) such as Dario Fo in 1997 and Elfriede Jelinek in 2004.
The Nobel Prize is not the sole measure of literary excellence and lasting worth. Critics of the prize point out that many prominent writers have not been awarded the prize, or even been nominated.