1954 Nobel Prize in Literature
Ernest Hemingway
"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"
  • 28 October 1954 (announcement)
  • 10 December 1954
LocationStockholm, Sweden
Presented bySwedish Academy
Hosted byAnders Österling
First awarded1901
WebsiteOfficial website
← 1953 · Nobel Prize in Literature · 1955 →

The 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the American author Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) "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."[1]

Following William Faulkner in 1949, Hemingway is the fifth American to be a recipient of the prize.


Main article: Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway is known for his succinct and lucid prose had a powerful influence on 20th century fiction. His works explore love, war, wilderness, and loss. The theme of emasculation is also prevalent in his works, most notably in The Sun Also Rises (1926). In 1952, he published The Old Man and the Sea, a work that was praised by the Swedish Academy when awarding the Nobel Prize.[2] Among his other famous works are A Farewell to Arms (1929) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).

Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway's short novel The Old Man and the Sea was specifically referred to in his Nobel citation. Drawing on his personal experiences as a fisherman in crafting the novella, it tells the tragic story of a Cuban fisherman in the Gulf Stream and the giant Marlin he kills and loses. It won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.[2]



Ernest Hemingway was nominated for the prize on four occasions between 1947 and 1954, the first three times by members of the Swedish Academy and in 1954 by an Austrian professor of English linguistics.[3]

In total, the Nobel committee received 35 nominations for 27 writers. The most number of nominations were for Halldór Kiljan Laxness with 6 nominations. Other nominated authors included André Malraux, Nikos Kazantzakis, Rudolf Kassner, Mark Aldanov, E. M. Forster, Gottfried Benn, Ramón Menéndez Pidal, and Robert Frost.[4] 5 of the nominees were nominated first-time among them Carl Jung, Ricardo Rojas, and Jaroslav Seifert (awarded in 1984). Two of the nominees were women: Henriette Charasson and Concha Espina de la Serna.

The authors Sait Faik Abasıyanık, Frederick Lewis Allen, Juan Álvarez, Vitaliano Brancati, Frans G. Bengtsson, Maxwell Bodenheim, Ludovic Dauș, Stig Dagerman, Oswald de Andrade, Winnifred Eaton, Miles Franklin, Boris Gorbatov, Joseph Hergesheimer, James Hilton, Édouard Le Roy, Zofia Nałkowska, Mikhail Prishvin, Sokotsu Samukawa, Hella Wuolijoki and Francis Brett Young died in 1954 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 Mark Aldanov (1886–1957)  Soviet Union
( Ukraine)
biography, novel, essays, literary criticism Samson Soloveitchik (1887–1974)
2 Riccardo Bacchelli (1891–1985)  Italy novel, drama, essays Accademia dei Lincei
3 Julien Benda (1867–1956)  France novel, philosophy, essays, literary criticism Holger Sten (1907–1971)
4 Gottfried Benn (1886–1956)  Germany poetry, essays
5 Martin Buber (1878–1965)  Austria
philosophy Fritz Strich (1882–1963)
6 Albert Camus (1913–1960)  France
( Algeria)
novel, short story, essays, philosophy, drama
7 Henriette Charasson (1884–1972)  France poetry, essays, drama, novel, literary criticism, biography Pierre Moreau (1895–1972)
8 Concha Espina de la Serna (1869–1955)  Spain novel, short story Jacinto Benavente (1866–1954)
9 Johan Falkberget (1879–1967)  Norway novel, short story, essays Hans Heiberg (1904–1978)
10 Edward Morgan Forster (1879–1970)  United Kingdom novel, short story, drama, essays, biography, literary criticism
11 Robert Frost (1874–1963)  United States poetry, drama Sten Selander (1891–1957)
12 Franz Hellens (1881–1972)  Belgium novel, poetry, literary criticism Émilie Carner-Noulet (1892–1978)
13 Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961)  United States novel, short story, screenplay Leo von Hibler-Lebmannsport (1884–1956)
14 Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881–1958)  Spain poetry, novel Harry Martinson (1904–1978)
15 Carl Jung (1875–1961)   Switzerland philosophy, essays Ernst Alker (1895–1972)
16 Rudolf Kassner (1873–1959)  Austria philosophy, essays, translation Ernst Alker (1895–1972)
17 Nikos Kazantzakis (1883–1957)  Greece novel, philosophy, essays, drama, memoir, translation Henry Olsson (1896–1985)
18 Halldór Laxness (1902–1998)  Iceland novel, short story, drama, poetry
19 André Malraux (1901–1976)  France novel, essays, literary criticism Georges Blin (1917–2015)
20 Max Mell (1882–1971)  Austria drama, novel, screenplay Austrian Academy of Sciences
21 Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1869–1968)  Spain philology, history Gunnar Tilander (1894–1973)
22 Ricardo Rojas Sosa (1882–1957)  Argentina poetry, history, drama, pedagogy, essays Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1869–1968) and
a number of learned societies and individuals
23 Jaroslav Seifert (1901–1986)  Czechoslovakia poetry Albert Prazák (1880–1956)
24 Herman Teirlinck (1879–1967)  Belgium novel, poetry, essays, drama Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature
25 Gustave Vanzype (1869–1955)  Belgium novel, drama, short story Gustave Charlier (1885–1959)
26 Tarjei Vesaas (1897–1970)  Norway poetry, novel Sigmund Skard (1903–1995)
27 Georges Vouyouklatis (1903–1956)  Greece poetry, essays Writers Association of the Hellenes

Prize decision

Hemingway's candidacy in 1947 was rejected by committee member Per Hallström, saying in a report that Hemingway's style of writing were too entertaining and lightweight. Hemingway was considered and rejected again in 1950, when the Swedish Academy found that his recent book Across the River and Into the Trees was not as strong as his previous works and also noted that Hemingway already had a great deal of success, and that he was unlikely to need the prize money.[5]

Nominated again in 1953, Hemingway was a serious contender for the prize in that year according to The New York Times, but his candidacy was postponed as members of the Academy thought that Hemingway and his wife may have perished in an air crash in Africa.[6] Hemingway was included in the shortlisted nominees for the prize together with Albert Camus and Halldór Laxness – both authors were eventually awarded.


Hemingway was a favourite to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 along with Halldór Kiljan Laxness. In an interview, he expressed his gladness in receiving the prize, saying: "I am very pleased and very proud to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature."[6] He modestly told the press that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen and Bernard Berenson deserved the prize,[7][8] James Mellow says Hemingway "had coveted the Nobel Prize", but when he won it, months after his plane accidents and the ensuing worldwide press coverage, "there must have been a lingering suspicion in Hemingway's mind that his obituary notices had played a part in the academy's decision."[9] Because he was suffering pain from the African accidents, he decided against traveling to Stockholm.[10] Instead he sent a speech to be read, defining the writer's life:

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.[11]


  1. ^ Nobel Prize in Literature 1954 nobelprize.org
  2. ^ a b Ernest Hemingway nobelprize.org
  3. ^ Ernest Hemingway Nomination archive nobelprize.org
  4. ^ Nomination archive nobelprize.org
  5. ^ "För rik, för berömd, för dålig. Hemingway fick vänta på sitt Nobelpris" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. 23 January 2005.
  6. ^ a b Hemingway Is the Winner Of Nobel Literature Prize The New York Times 29 October 1954
  7. ^ Kenneth S. Lynn. Hemingway (1987), 574
  8. ^ Carlos Baker. Ernest Hemingway: The Writer as Artist (1972), 38
  9. ^ James R. Mellow. Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences (1992), 588–589
  10. ^ Jeffrey Meyers. Ernest Hemingway (1985), 509
  11. ^ "Ernest Hemingway The Nobel Prize in Literature 1954 Banquet Speech". The Nobel Foundation. Archived from the original on August 2, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2009.