1951 Nobel Prize in Literature
Pär Lagerkvist
"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."
  • November 1951 (announcement)
  • 10 December 1951
LocationStockholm, Sweden
Presented bySwedish Academy
First awarded1901
WebsiteOfficial website
← 1950 · Nobel Prize in Literature · 1952 →

The 1951 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded the Swedish author Pär Lagerkvist "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."[1] Lagerkvist is the fourth Swedish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature after Lagerlöf in 1909, Von Heidenstam in 1916, and Karlfeldt in 1931.


Main article: Pär Lagerkvist

Pär Lagerkvist wrote novels, poetry, plays, short stories and essays and were one of major Swedish literary figures of the first half of the 20th century. In his early years Lagerkvist supported modernist and aesthetically radical views, as shown by his manifesto Ordkonst och bildkonst ("Word Art and Picture Art", 1913) and the play Den Svåra Stunden ("The Difficult Hour", 1918). In 1916, he published Ångest ("Anguish"), a violent and disillusioned collection of poems. The novel Bödeln ("The Hangman", 1933) and the play Mannen utan själ ("The Man Without a Soul", 1936) expresses Lagerkvist's indignation over rising fascism. A recurring theme in his writings is the fundamental question of good and evil, and the problem of man's relation to God. This theme is particularly notable in the 1944 novel Dvärgen ("The Dwarf"), which became his first major success, followed by Barabbas (1950), a novel that won Lagerkvist world recognition.[2] His works also include the notable autobiographical novel Gäst hos verkligheten ("Guest of Reality", 1925),[2] and two of his most important works, the collection of poems Aftonland ("Evening Land", 1953) and the novel Sibyllan ("The Sibyl", 1956), which were published after he was awarded the Nobel prize.[3][4]



Pär Lagerkvist had first been proposed for the prize in 1947.[5] Following the publication of his novel Barabbas, Lagerkvist had been one of the favorites to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950.[6] In 1951, the Nobel committee for literature received nine nominations for Lagerkvist, including nominations from the French authors and previous laureates André Gide and Roger Martin du Gard, and the Swedish Academy decided to award him the prize.[5]

In total the Nobel committee received 44 nominations for 25 writers including Taha Hussein, Paul Claudel, Winston Churchill (awarded in 1953), Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Tarjei Vesaas and Halldór Kiljan Laxness (awarded in 1955). The Greek authors Nikos Kazantzakis and Angelos Sikelianos were nominated both individually and for a shared prize by academy member Sigfrid Siwertz. The Spanish writer José Ortega y Gasset were nominated by 18 members of the Royal Spanish Academy. Six of the nominees were newly nominated among them Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Rómulo Gallegos, José Maria Ferreira de Castro, and María Enriqueta Camarillo. Two women were nominated namely the Australian author Katherine Susannah Prichard and the Mexican writer Maria Enriqueta Camarillo.[7]

The authors Antoine Bibesco, Algernon Blackwood, Tadeusz Borowski, James Bridie, Abraham Cahan, Émile Chartier, Lloyd C. Douglas, René Guénon, Fumiko Hayashi, Sadegh Hedayat, Louis Lavelle, Henri-René Lenormand, Richard Malden, Margaret Mayo, Oscar Micheaux, Takashi Nagai, Andrei Platonov, Pedro Salinas, Božena Slančíková (known as Timrava), Henry De Vere Stacpoole, Vsevolod Vishnevsky, Henrik Visnapuu, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Miyamoto Yuriko died in 1951 without having been nominated for the prize.

Official list of nominees and their nominators for the prize
No. Nominee Country Genre(s) Nominator(s)
1 Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1887–1970)  Israel novel, short story Simon Halkin (1899–1987)
2 Mark Aldanov (1886–1957)  Soviet Union
( Ukraine)
biography, novel, essays, literary criticism Ivan Bunin (1870–1953)
3 María Enriqueta Camarillo (1872–1968)  Mexico novel, short story, drama, poetry, translation Leavitt Olds Wright (1891–1980)
4 Winston Churchill (1874–1965)  United Kingdom history, essays, memoir
5 Paul Claudel (1868–1955)  France poetry, drama, essays, memoir Kåre Foss (1895–1967)
6 Júlio Dantas (1876–1962)  Portugal poetry, drama, novel, essays
7 Georges Duhamel (1884–1966)  France novel, short story, poetry, drama, literary criticism Hjalmar Hammarskjöld (1862–1953)
8 José Maria Ferreira de Castro (1898–1978)  Portugal novel Holger Sten (1907–1971)
9 Rómulo Gallegos (1884–1969)  Venezuela novel, short story
10 Manuel Gálvez (1882–1962)  Argentina novel, poetry, drama, essays, history, biography Manuel Alcobre (1900–1977)
11 Taha Hussein (1889–1973)  Egypt novel, short story, poetry, translation Academy of the Arabic Language
12 Nikos Kazantzakis (1883–1957)  Greece novel, philosophy, essays, drama, memoir, translation Sigfrid Siwertz (1882–1970)
13 Pär Lagerkvist (1891–1974)  Sweden poetry, novel, short story, drama
14 Halldór Laxness (1902–1998)  Iceland novel, short story, drama, poetry
15 Ezequiel Martínez Estrada (1895–1964)  Argentina poetry, essays, literary criticism, biography Sociedad Argentina de Escritores
16 Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1869–1968)  Spain philology, history
17 Alfred Noyes (1880–1958)  United Kingdom poetry, drama, essays, biography, novel, short story, literary criticism Laurence McGinley, S.J. (1905–1992)
18 José Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955)  Spain philosophy, essays
19 Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883–1969)  Australia novel, short story, drama, poetry, autobiography
20 Zalman Shneour (1887–1959)  Soviet Union
( Belarus)
 United States
poetry, essays
21 Angelos Sikelianos (1884–1951)  Greece poetry, drama Sigfrid Siwertz (1882–1970)
22 Sotíris Skípis (ca. 1881–1952)  Greece poetry, drama, translation unnamed[8]
23 Tarjei Vesaas (1897–1970)  Norway poetry, novel
24 Mika Waltari (1908–1979)  Finland short story, novel, poetry, drama, essays, screenplay Aarne Anttila (1892–1952)

Prize decision

Pär Lagerkvist was first nominated for the prize in 1947. In 1947 and 1949 Lagerkvist, himself a member of the Swedish Academy, declined to be considered for the prize and the Nobel committee did thus not discuss his candidacy. While respecting his will, the committee the latter year still urged the Academy to "take notice of the proposition". Lagerkvist was nominated again in 1950 and nominators argued that his prominent role as a pioneer and innovator in Swedish language literature and his humanity qualified him for the prize. The international success of Lagerkvist's 1950 novel Barabbas and the nominations from the French Nobel laureates André Gide and Roger Martin du Gard became decisive for the Academy to award Lagerkvist the prize in 1951.[9]


Although several Nordic and Swedish authors had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature before and Lagerkvist himself was a member of the awarding institution the Swedish Academy, the decision to award him was defended as a legitimate choice in the Swedish press by critics Erik Hjalmar Linder and Sten Selander, saying the internationally recognised Lagerkvist undoubtedly deserved the prize. Selander argued that Lagerkvist was a classic modernist in the same class as the two recent laureates William Faulkner and T. S. Eliot.[10]

Banquet speech

At the banquet at Stockholm City Hall on 10 December 1951, Pär Lagerkvist thanked his colleagues in the Swedish Academy for the honour of awarding him the Nobel Prize and then read a piece from an unpublished novel written in 1922 called Myten och människan ("The Myth and the human being"). "I found that the beginning of it roughly includes just what I was going to say here today, but in the form of fiction, which undeniebly suits me better", Lagerkvist said, "It is about the mysterious of our essence and our existence, about this what makes the destiny of the human being so grand - and so difficult."[11]


  1. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Literature 1951". nobelprize.org.
  2. ^ a b "Par Lagerkvist | Swedish author". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
  3. ^ Håkan Möller "Pär Lagerkvist, Barabbas and the Nobel Prize for Literature" Journal of World Literature 1 2016, p.515-516
  4. ^ Pär Lagerkvist – Facts nobelprize.org
  5. ^ a b "Nomination Archive - Pär Fabian Lagerkvist". nobelprize.org.
  6. ^ Håkan Möller "Pär Lagerkvist, Barabbas and the Nobel Prize for Literature" Journal of World Literature 1 2016, p.505
  7. ^ Nomination archive – 1951 nobelprize.org
  8. ^ According to the Nobel's nomination archives, the nominator's name is Parnasse from Athens, Greece.
  9. ^ Håkan Möller Pär Lagerkvist Ögonblickets diktare och marknaden, Atlantis 2012 p. 213-224
  10. ^ Håkan Möller "Pär Lagerkvist, Barabbas and the Nobel Prize for Literature" Journal of World Literature 1 2016, p.514-515
  11. ^ "Banquet speech". nobelprize.org.