1931 Nobel Prize in Literature
Erik Axel Karlfeldt
"The poetry of Erik Axel Karlfeldt."
  • 8 October 1931 (announcement)
  • 10 December 1931
LocationStockholm, Sweden
Presented bySwedish Academy
First awarded1901
WebsiteOfficial website
← 1930 · Nobel Prize in Literature · 1932 →

The 1931 Nobel Prize in Literature was posthumously awarded to the Swedish poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864–1931) with the citation: "The poetry of Erik Axel Karlfeldt."[1] He was the third Swede to win the prize and remains the only recipient to be posthumously awarded.[1] Karlfeldt had been offered the award already in 1919 but refused to accept it, because of his position as permanent secretary to the Swedish Academy (1913–1931), which awards the prize.[2]


Main article: Erik Axel Karlfeldt

Karlfeldt's poetry is strongly influenced by the customs and environment of his childhood. But the area started to mirror the universal by becoming more and more of a microcosm. His art is primarily wild in character, marked by austerity and an antipathy to egotism. His alter ego, Fridolin, frequently appears in his poetry to convey his humor, sadness, longings, and mood. His poetry exhibits a superb command of words. Karlfeldt explored the potential offered by his imagination and poetry as an artistic medium, even though he had a strong bond with his home country and its customs.[3][4]



Karlfeldt was nominated in 10 different occasions starting in 1916. In 1931, he received a single nomination from the 1930 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nathan Söderblom, also a member of the Swedish Academy, with which he was awarded posthumously afterwards.[5]

In total, the Nobel committee received 49 nominations for 29 writers. Ten of the nominees are nominated first-time among them Hermann Hesse (awarded in 1946), Francis Jammes, Ole Edvart Rølvaag, Erich Maria Remarque, Ramón Pérez de Ayala, and Ramón Menéndez Pidal. The highest number of nominations were for the Spanish philologist Ramón Menéndez Pidal with 8 nominations followed by Concha Espina de la Serna with 6 nominations. Three of the nominees were women namely Concha Espina de la Serna, Laura Mestre Hevia, and Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić.[6]

The authors Arnold Bennett, Hjalmar Bergman, Rachel Bluwstein, Hall Caine, Enrico Corradini, Ernst Didring, Max Elskamp, Khalil Gibran, Frank Harris, Mary St. Leger Kingsley (known as Lucas Malet), Vachel Lindsay, George Herbert Mead, John Gambril Nicholson, Arthur Schnitzler, Hara Prasad Shastri, John Lawson Stoddard, Milan Šufflay, Ida B. Wells, Xu Zhimo, and Ieronim Yasinsky died in 1931 without having been nominated for the prize. Norwegian-American author Ole Edvart Rølvaag died weeks before the announcement.[relevant?]

Official list of nominees and their nominators for the prize
No. Nominee Country Genre(s) Nominator(s)
1 Georg Bonne (1859–1945)  Germany essays Carl Heldmann (1869–1943)[a]
2 Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić (1874–1938)  Yugoslavia
( Croatia)
novel, short story Gavro Manojlović (1856–1939)
3 Olaf Bull (1883–1933)  Norway poetry Jens Thiis (1870–1942)
4 Ivan Bunin (1870–1953)  Soviet Union short story, novel, poetry
5 Olav Duun (1876–1939)  Norway novel, short story Helga Eng (1875–1966)
6 Paul Ernst (1866–1933)  Germany novel, short story, drama, essays
7 Concha Espina de la Serna (1869–1955)  Spain novel, short story
8 Édouard Estaunié (1862–1942)  France novel, essays Erik Staaff (1867–1936)
9 John Galsworthy (1867–1933)  United Kingdom novel, drama, essays, short story, memoir Martin Lamm (1880–1950)
10 Stefan George (1868–1933)  Germany poetry, translation Andreas Hofgaard Winsnes (1889–1972)
11 Bertel Gripenberg (1878–1947)  Finland
poetry, drama, essays
  • Rolf Lagerborg (1874–1959)
  • Johannes Sundwall (1877–1966)
12 Hermann Hesse (1877–1962)  Germany
novel, poetry, short story, essays Thomas Mann (1875–1955)
13 Francis Jammes (1868–1938)  France poetry, songwriting, essays Anders Österling (1884–1981)
14 Johannes Vilhelm Jensen (1873–1950)  Denmark novel, short story, poetry
15 Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864–1931)  Sweden poetry Nathan Söderblom (1866–1931)
16 Rudolf Kassner (1873–1959)  Austria philosophy, essays, translation 19 professors from Austria, Germany and Switzerland[f]
17 Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1869–1968)  Spain philology, history
18 Dmitry Merezhkovsky (1865–1941)  Soviet Union novel, essays, poetry, drama Sigurd Agrell (1881–1937)[b]
19 Laura Mestre Hevia (1867–1944)  Cuba translation Juan Miguel Dihigo Mestre (1866–1952)
20 Martin Andersen Nexø (1869–1954)  Denmark novel, short story Alfred Döblin (1878–1957)
21 Kostis Palamas (1859–1943)  Greece poetry, essays
22 Ramón Pérez de Ayala (1880–1962)  Spain novel, poetry, literary criticism Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1869–1968)
23 Erich Maria Remarque[i] (1898–1970)  Germany novel, short story, essays, drama Tor Hedberg (1862–1931)
24 Ole Edvart Rølvaag[j] (1876–1931)  Norway
 United States
novel, short story, essays Laurence Marcellus Larson (1868–1938)
25 Johann Rump (1871–1941)
(pseud. Nathanael Jünger)
 Germany theology, essays Fredrik Wulff (1845–1930)
26 Ivan Shmelyov (1873–1950)  Soviet Union
novel, short story Thomas Mann (1875–1955)
27 Frans Eemil Sillanpää (1888–1964)  Finland novel, short story, poetry Rafael Erich (1879–1946)
28 Paul Valéry (1871–1945)  France poetry, philosophy, essays, drama Denis Saurat (1890–1958)
29 Anton Wildgans (1881–1932)  Austria poetry, drama Axel Romdahl (1880–1951)[k]

Award ceremony

His wife, Gerda Holmberg–Karlfeldt, was the one who received the Nobel diploma, medal and monetary prize worth SEK173,206 from King Gustaf V and permanent secretary, Per Hallström.[3][failed verification]

In the award ceremony held on 10 December 1931, Anders Österling, Swedish Academy member, explained the Nobel Committee's justification of awarding the prize posthumously, by saying:

Thus the decision to honour the poetry of Erik Axel Karlfeldt with this year’s Nobel Prize is intended as an expression of justice by international standards. Death has stepped between the laureate and his reward; under the circumstances the Prize will be given to his family. He has left us, but his work remains. The tragic world of chance is outshone by the imperishable summer realm of poetry. Before our eyes we see the tomb in the dusk of winter. At the same time we hear the great victorious harmonies sung by the happiness of the creative genius; we feel the scents from the Northern pleasure garden that his poetry created for the comfort and joy of all receptive hearts.[8]


The prize was controversial not just because it was the first and only time the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded posthumously, but because the Academy had previously awarded two other Swedish writers of the same literary era, Selma Lagerlöf in 1909 and Verner von Heidenstam in 1916.[9] The prize decision was not well received in the Swedish press. In newspapers such as Dagens Nyheter and Stockholms Dagblad the Swedish Academy's decision to posthumously award an author, particularly one who had refused to accept it before, was questioned and said to be against the purpose of the award. A positive reaction was however expressed in Svenska Dagbladet saying that while the award to Karlfeldt was surprising it "on closer deliberation prove to be not just justifiable but beautiful".[2] Internationally, it was heavily criticized as few had heard of Karlfeldt.[9]


  1. ^ Georg Bonne was nominated by a number of other professors, of which at least 4 were eligible to make a nomination for the Prize.
  2. ^ a b Sigurd Agrell proposes that the Prize be shared by both Ivan Bunin and Dmitry Merezhkovsky
  3. ^ Kullmann's nomination (he appeared to be eligible to make a nomination), along with that of three other Russians living in Paris, France, was forwarded by cabinet minister Emanuel Nobel.
  4. ^ a b Paul Ernst was nominated by 6 professors of the University in Zurich who signed the previous year's nomination, as well as a further 14 professors from Germany, Bohemia and Switzerland, at least four of whom were eligible to nominate a candidate.
  5. ^ Eligible professors and Academy members from Bordeaux, La Paz (Bolivia), Lima, Madrid, Salamanca, Valencia and Zaragoza nominated Concha Espina.
  6. ^ Rudolf Kassner was nominated by 19 people, at least 10 of whom were Austrian, German and Swiss professors, eligible to make nominations.
  7. ^ Nominations from individuals, mostly professors, eligible to make nominations came from Algiers, Barcelona, Breslau, Buenos Aires, Brussels, Dublin, Glasgow, Granada, Groningen, Copenhagen, La Laguna, La Plata, Leeds, London, Madrid, Mexico, Montevideo, Murcia, Naples, Paris, Pothiers, Porto, Salamanca, San José de Costa Rica, Sevilla, Strasbourg, Torino, Toronto, Utrecht, Valencia, Valladolid, and from the United States (Berkeley, CA, Bloomington, IN, Cambridge, MA, Columbus, OH, Madison, WI, Iowa City, IA, Ithaca, NY, New York, Northampton, MA, and Princeton, NJ). A large number of nominations were also made by individuals whose eligibility to nominate was not confirmed.
  8. ^ Kostis Palamas was also nominated by professors of Modern Greek in Paris, France and Leiden, Netherlands.
  9. ^ Remarque: Der Weg zurück ("The Road Back", 1931)[7]
  10. ^ Rølvaag: Giants in the Earth (1927)[7]
  11. ^ Anton Wildgans was also nominated by a 22 professors from Austria, who were eligible to nominate a candidate.


  1. ^ a b The Nobel Prize in Literature 1931 nobelprize.org
  2. ^ a b Gustav Källstrand Andens olympiska spel: Nobelprisets historia, Fri Tanke Förlag 2021, ISBN 9789180203715
  3. ^ a b Erik Axel Karlfeldt – Facts nobelprize.org
  4. ^ Erik Axel Karlfeldt britannica.com
  5. ^ Nomination archive – Erik Axel Karlfeldt nobelprize.org
  6. ^ Nomination archive – 1931 nobelprize.org
  7. ^ a b Svensén, Bo. "Nobelpriset i litteratur. Nomineringar och utlåtanden 1901–1950". Swedish Academy. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  8. ^ 1931 Award ceremony nobelprize.org
  9. ^ a b Helmer Lång, 100 nobelpris i litteratur 1901–2001, Symposion 2001, page 131