1966 Nobel Prize in Literature
Shmuel Yosef Agnon and
Nelly Sachs
Agnon "for his profoundly characteristic narrative art with motifs from the life of the Jewish people," and Sachs "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength."
  • 20 October 1966 (announcement)
  • 10 December 1966
LocationStockholm, Sweden
Presented bySwedish Academy
First awarded1901
WebsiteOfficial website
← 1965 · Nobel Prize in Literature · 1967 →

The 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature was divided equally between Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888–1970) "for his profoundly characteristic narrative art with motifs from the life of the Jewish people" and Nelly Sachs (1891–1970) "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength."[1]

It is one of four occasions (1904, 1917, and 1974) when the Nobel Prize in Literature has been shared between two individuals.[2]


Nobel laureates Nelly Sachs and Samuel Agnon preparing for the festivities in Stockholm on 10 December 1966.

Shmuel Yosef Agnon

Main article: Shmuel Yosef Agnon

Shmuel Agnon was one of the central figures of modern Hebrew literature. His works deal with the conflict of Jewish tradition and language and the modern world. His first works were published when he was a teenager and he immediately gained a reputation. His breakthrough novel was Hakhnāsat kallāh ("The Bridal Cannopy", 1931). After World War II, under the impact of the holocaust, Agnon wrote Ir Umeloah ("A City in its Fullness", 1973), which is a collection of folktales, legends, and chronicles portraying his birth town, Buczacz.[3][4]

Nelly Sachs

Main article: Nelly Sachs

Nelly Sachs was a German poet and dramatist whose works deal with the dark fate of the Jewish people in the 20th century. She borrows subjects for her poetry from the Jewish beliefs and mysticism, but her authorship is also strongly colored by Nazi persecution of the Jews, with the horrors of the death camps as its ultimate expression. Sachs' poetry combines echoes from the poetry of ancient religious texts with modernist language. Besides poetry, her writings also include a couple of plays.[5][6] Her best-known collections include In den Wohnungen des Todes ("In the Houses of Death", 1947), Sternverdunkelung ("Eclipse of Stars", 1949), and Flucht und Verwandlung ("Flight and Metamorphosis", 1959).



In 1966, the Nobel committee for literature received 99 nominations for 72 writers including Jean Anouilh, Louis Aragon, W. H. Auden, Samuel Beckett (awarded in 1969), Jorge Luis Borges, Heinrich Böll (awarded in 1972), Alejo Carpentier, René Char, Lawrence Durrell, E. M. Forster, Max Frisch, Robert Graves, Graham Greene, Jorge Guillén, Yasunari Kawabata (awarded in 1968), André Malraux, Harry Martinson (awarded in 1974), Alberto Moravia, Vladimir Nabokov, Pablo Neruda (awarded in 1971), Ezra Pound, Mika Waltari, Tarjei Vesaas and Simon Vestdijk. Ten of the nominees were nominated first-time, among them Pierre-Henri Simon, Witold Gombrowicz, Arnold Wesker, Carlo Emilio Gadda and Günter Grass (awarded in 1999). Three of the nominees were women: Anna Achmatova, Katherine Anne Porter and Nelly Sachs.[7]

The authors Margery Allingham, Hans Christian Branner, Dimitar Dimov, Helga Eng, Svend Fleuron, C. S. Forester, Jean Galtier-Boissière, Mina Loy, Lao She, Kathleen Norris, Frank O'Connor, Frank O'Hara, Brian O'Nolan, Delmore Schwartz, Cordwainer Smith, Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki, Yórgos Theotokás, Henry Treece, and Marja-Liisa Vartio died in 1966 without having been nominated for the prize. Russian poet Anna Akhmatova died months before the announcement.

Official list of nominees and their nominators for the prize
No. Nominee Country Genre(s) Nominator(s)
1 Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966)  Russia poetry
2 Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1887–1970)  Israel novel, short story Eyvind Johnson (1900–1976)
3 Jean Anouilh (1910–1987)  France drama, screenplay, translation
  • Paul Pédech (1912–2005)
  • Viktor Pöschl (1910–1997)
4 Louis Aragon (1897–1982)  France novel, short story, poetry, essays Robert Ricatte (1913–1995)
5 Alexandre Arnoux (1884–1973)  France screenplay François Bar (?)
6 Miguel Ángel Asturias (1899–1974)  Guatemala novel, short story, poetry, essays, drama Charles Vincent Aubrun (1906–1993)
7 Wystan Hugh Auden (1907–1973)  United Kingdom
 United States
poetry, essays, screenplay
8 Samuel Beckett (1906–1989)  Ireland novel, drama, poetry
9 Johan Borgen (1902–1979)  Norway novel, literary criticism Harry Martinson (1904–1978)
10 Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986)  Argentina poetry, essays, translation, short story
11 Henri Bosco (1888–1976)  France novel, short story Louis Guinet (1911–1993)
12 Heinrich Böll (1917–1985)  Germany novel, short story René Wellek (1903–1995)
13 Alejo Carpentier (1904–1980)  Cuba novel, short story, essays Henri Peyre (1901–1988)
14 René Char (1907–1988)  France poetry Georges Blin (1917–2015)
15 Lawrence Durrell (1912–1990)  United Kingdom novel, short story, poetry, drama, essays Henry Olsson (1896–1985)
16 Pierre Emmanuel (1916–1984)  France poetry, autobiography Jacqueline Duchemin (1910–1988)
17 Edward Morgan Forster (1879–1970)  United Kingdom novel, short story, drama, essays, biography, literary criticism
18 Max Frisch (1911–1991)   Switzerland novel, drama
19 Carlo Emilio Gadda (1893–1973)  Italy novel, short story, poetry Mario Pei (1901–1978)
20 Rómulo Gallegos (1884–1969)  Venezuela novel, short story Andrés Iduarte Foucher (1907–1984)
21 Hossein Ghods-Nakhai (1911–1977)  Iran poetry, essays Arthur John Arberry (1905–1969)
22 Jean Giono (1895–1970)  France novel, short story, essays, poetry, drama Jean-Jacques Leveque (1931–2012)
23 Witold Gombrowicz (1904–1969)  Poland short story, novel, drama Gunnar Jacobsson (1918–2001)
24 Günter Grass (1927–2015)  Germany novel, drama, poetry, essays Erwin Wolff (1924–2007)
25 Robert Graves (1895–1985)  United Kingdom history, novel, poetry, literary criticism, essays
  • The English PEN-Club
  • Marvin Spevack (1927–2013)
26 Graham Greene (1904–1991)  United Kingdom novel, short story, autobiography, essays Kristian Smidt (1916–2013)
27 Jorge Guillén (1893–1984)  Spain poetry, literary criticism Henri Peyre (1901–1988)
28 Leslie Poles Hartley (1895–1972)  United Kingdom novel, short story, essays Geoffrey Tillotson (1905–1969)
29 Gyula Illyés (1902–1983)  Hungary poetry, novel, drama, essays János Lotz (1913–1973)
30 Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (1894–1980)  Poland poetry, essays, drama, translation, short story, novel Jean Fabre (1904–1975)
31 Marcel Jouhandeau (1888–1979)  France short story, novel Jean Gaulmier (1905–1997)
32 Ernst Jünger (1895–1998)  Germany philosophy, novel, memoir Rudolf Till (1911–1979)
33 Yasunari Kawabata (1899–1972)  Japan novel, short story Karl Ragnar Gierow (1904–1982)
34 Miroslav Krleža (1893–1981)  Yugoslavia
poetry, drama, short story, novel, essays Gunnar Jacobsson (1918–2001)
35 Erich Kästner (1899–1974)  Germany poetry, screenplay, autobiography Werner Betz (1912–1980)
36 Carlo Levi (1902–1975)  Italy memoir, novel, short story Maria Bellonci (1902–1986)
37 Robert Lowell (1917–1977)  United States poetry, translation Eric Bentley (1916–2020)
38 André Malraux (1901–1976)  France novel, essays, literary criticism
  • Henry Caraway Hatfield (1912–1995)
  • John Martin Cocking (1914–1986)
  • Yves Le Hir (1919–2005)
  • Georges Matoré (1908–1998)
39 Harry Martinson (1904–1978)  Sweden poetry, novel, drama, essays Alf Önnerfors (1925–2019)
40 Thierry Maulnier (1909–1988)  France drama, essays, literary criticism Félix Carrère (1911–1991)
41 Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1869–1968)  Spain philology, history
  • Gunnar Tilander (1894–1973)
  • Henri Guiter (1909–1994)
42 Vilhelm Moberg (1898–1973)  Sweden novel, drama, history Gösta Bergman (1894–1984)
43 Eugenio Montale (1896–1981)  Italy poetry, translation Uberto Limentani (1913–1989)
44 Henry de Montherlant (1895–1972)  France essays, novel, drama Barthélémy-Antonin Taladoire (1907–1976)
45 Alberto Moravia (1907–1990)  Italy novel, literary criticism, essays, drama
46 Henri Muller (1902–1980)  France novel, memoir, essays Pierre Lyautey (1893–1976)
47 Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977)  Russia
 United States
novel, short story, poetry, drama, translation, literary criticism, memoir Jacques Guicharnaud (1924–2005)
48 Pablo Neruda (1904–1973)  Chile poetry
  • Lennart Breitholtz (1909–1998)
  • Jürgen von Stackelberg (1925–2020)
  • The Chilean Writers Society
  • Juan Marichal (1922–2010)
49 Junzaburō Nishiwaki (1894–1982)  Japan poetry, literary criticism Naoshirō Tsuji (1899–1979)
50 Walter Pabst (1907–1992)  Germany essays, literary criticism Günther Reichenkron (1907–1966)
51 Marcel Pagnol (1895–1974)  France novel, memoir, drama, screenplay Jean Ricci (1933–2011)
52 Konstantin Paustovsky (1892–1968)  Russia novel, poetry, drama Karl Ragnar Gierow (1904–1982)
53 José María Pemán (1897–1981)  Spain poetry, drama, novel, essays, screenplay
54 Katherine Anne Porter (1890–1980)  United States short story, essays Cleanth Brooks (1906–1994)
55 Ezra Pound (1885–1972)  United States poetry, essays
56 John Boynton Priestley (1894–1984)  United Kingdom novel, drama, screenplay, literary criticism, essays Archibald Tucker (1904–1980)
57 Jules Romains (1885–1972)  France poetry, drama, screenplay Yves Gandon (1899–1975)
58 Nelly Sachs (1891–1970)  Germany
poetry, drama
59 Paul Celan (1920–1970)  Romania
poetry, translation Henry Olsson (1896–1985)
60 Pierre-Henri Simon (1903–1972)  France essays, novel, literary criticism, poetry Pierre Jonin (1912–1997)
61 Gustave Thibon (1903–2001)  France philosophy Édouard Delebecque (1910–1990)
62 Miguel Torga (1907–1995)  Portugal poetry, short story, novel, drama, autobiography Jean-Baptiste Aquarone (1903–1989)
63 Pietro Ubaldi (1886–1972)  Italy philosophy, essays Academia Santista de Letras
64 Mika Waltari (1908–1979)  Finland short story, novel, poetry, drama, essays, screenplay Manfred Mayrhofer (1926–2011)
65 Tarjei Vesaas (1897–1970)  Norway poetry, novel
66 Arnold Wesker (1932–2016)  United Kingdom drama, novel, essays Alistair Campbell (1907–1974)
67 Simon Vestdijk (1898–1971)  Netherlands novel, poetry, essays, translation
68 Thornton Wilder (1897–1975)  United States drama, novel, short story Morton Wilfred Bloomfield (1913–1987)
69 Edmund Wilson (1895–1972)  United States essays, literary criticism, short story, drama Leon Samuel Roudiez (1917–2004)
70 Arnold Zweig (1887–1968)  Germany novel, short story Heinz Mettke (1924–2007)
71 Arnulf Øverland (1889–1968)  Norway poetry, essays Eyvind Johnson (1900–1976)
72 Alberto Hidalgo Lobato (1897–1967)  Peru poetry, essays Peruvian Writers Association

Prize decision

The Nobel committee, a working group within the Swedish Academy, proposed that the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature should be awarded to the Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata, but, unconventionally, the 18 members of the Academy did not follow the recommendation and voted for a prize to Agnon and Sachs.[8] A shared prize to the Latin American writers Jorge Luis Borges and Miguel Angel Asturias,[9] and to Nelly Sachs and Paul Celan were proposed.[7]

Award ceremony

In his award ceremony speech on 10 December 1966 Anders Österling of the Swedish Academy said:

This year’s Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to two outstanding Jewish authors – Shmuel Yosef Agnon and Nelly Sachs – each of whom represents Israel’s message to our time. Agnon’s home is in Jerusalem, and Miss Sachs has been an immigrant in Sweden since 1940, and is now a Swedish subject. The purpose of combining these two prizewinners is to do justice to the individual achievements of each, and the sharing of the prize has its special justification: to honour two writers who, although they write in different languages, are united in a spiritual kinship and complement each other in a superb effort to present the cultural heritage of the Jewish people through the written word. Their common source of inspiration has been, for both of them, a vital power.[10]


  1. ^ The Nobel Prize in Literature 1966 nobelprize.org
  2. ^ Facts on the Nobel Prize in Literature nobelprize.org
  3. ^ S.Y. Agnon Britannica.com
  4. ^ Shmuel Agnon – Facts nobelprize.org
  5. ^ Nelly Sachs Britannica.com
  6. ^ Nelly Sachs – Facts nobelprize.org
  7. ^ a b Nomination archive 1966 nobelprize.org
  8. ^ Kaj Schueler Svenska Akademien körde över Nobelkommittén Svenska Dagbladet 2 January 2017 (in Swedish)
  9. ^ Nabokov, Neruda and Borges revealed as losers of 1965 Nobel prize The Guardian 6 January 2016
  10. ^ Award Ceremony speech nobelprize.org