1970 Nobel Prize in Literature
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
"for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature."
  • 8 October 1970 (announcement)
  • 10 December 1970
LocationStockholm, Sweden
Presented bySwedish Academy
First awarded1901
WebsiteOfficial website
← 1969 · Nobel Prize in Literature · 1971 →

The 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008) "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature."[1] For political reasons he would not receive the prize until 1974. Solzhenitsyn is the fourth Russian recipient of the prize after Ivan Bunin in 1933, Boris Pasternak in 1958 and Mikhail Sholokhov in 1965.[2]


Main article: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's works grew out of Russia's narrative traditions and reflect Soviet society. His debut, Odin den' Ivana Denisovicha ("One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", 1962), and several of his later works, focus on life in the Soviet gulag camps. Solzhenitsyn's books often lack an obvious main character, moving instead between different characters at the center of the plot. This reflects a humanist view of the universality of human experience. Among his famous literary works include Rakovyi korpus ("Cancer Ward", 1966), V kruge pervom ("The First Circle", 1968), Avgust chetyrnadtsatogo ("August 1914", 1971), and Arkhipelag Gulag ("The Gulag Archipelago", 1973).[3][4]

Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece The Gulag Archipelago was published after he received the Nobel Prize.



In total, the Swedish academy received 128 nominations for 77 writers. Solzhenitsyn received 9 nominations starting in 1969 before being awarded the 1970 prize. He received 6 nominations in 1970.[5]

Nominees included were Patrick White (awarded in 1973), Pablo Neruda (awarded in 1971), Heinrich Böll (awarded in 1972), Jorge Luis Borges and Tarjei Vesaas. 25 of the nominees were nominated first-time, among them Paavo Haavikko, Denis de Rougemont, Heðin Brú, Sei Itō, Tatsuzō Ishikawa, Hugo Bergmann, Alexander Lernet-Holenia, Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca, Amado Yuzon, Abraham Sutzkever and Mikhail Naimy. Repeated nominees included W. H. Auden, Jorge Amado, Graham Greene, André Malraux, Alberto Moravia, Vladimir Nabokov and Simon Vestdijk. The highest number of nominations were for the Norwegian novelist and poet, Tarjei Vesaas, with 9 nominations. Two of the nominees were women: Marie Under and Victoria Ocampo. The oldest nominee was Scottish writer Compton Mackenzie (aged 87) while the youngest was Finnish author Paavo Haavikko (aged 39). Japanese author Sei Itō and Korean writer Yi Kwang-su were nominated posthumously.[6]

The authors Arthur Adamov, Antonio Abad, Louise Bogan, Vera Brittain, Rudolf Carnap, Fernand Crommelynck, Christopher Dawson, John Dos Passos, Leah Goldberg, Amado V. Hernandez, Richard Hofstadter, Roman Ingarden, B. H. Liddell Hart, John O'Hara, Charles Olson, Orhan Kemal, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Alf Prøysen, Salvador Reyes Figueroa, Wilbur Daniel Steele, Elsa Triolet, and Fritz von Unruh died in 1970 without having been nominated for the prize. The Norwegian poet Tarjei Vesaas, Catalan writer Josep Carner, Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti died months before the announcement.

Official list of nominees and their nominators for the prize
No. Nominee Country Genre(s) Nominator(s)
1 Jorge Amado (1912–2001)  Brazil novel, short story
2 Jerzy Andrzejewski (1909–1983)  Poland novel, short story Timo Tiusanen (1936–1985)
3 Wystan Hugh Auden (1907–1973)  United Kingdom
 United States
poetry, essays, screenplay
4 Riccardo Bacchelli (1891–1985)  Italy novel, drama, essays
5 Eugen Barbu (1923–1993)  Romania novel, short story, screenplay Alexandru Rosetti (1895–1990)
6 Agustí Bartra (1908–1982)  Spain poetry, songwriting, translation Manuel Durán (1925–2020)
7 Hugo Bergmann (1883–1975)  Czechoslovakia
philosophy André Neher (1914–1988)
8 Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986)  Argentina poetry, essays, translation, short story
9 Heinrich Böll (1917–1985)  Germany novel, short story
  • Karl Theodor Hyldgaard-Jensen (1917–1995)
  • Gustav Korlén (1915–2014)
  • Henry Olsson (1896–1985)
10 Heðin Brú (1901–1987)  Faroe Islands novel, short story, translation Ólavur Michelsen (1933–1978)
11 Josep Carner (1884–1970)  Spain poetry, drama, translation
  • Ramon Aramon i Serra (1907–2000)
  • Émilie Noulet (1892–1978)
  • Jordi Rubió (1887–1982)
12 Aimé Césaire (1913–2008)  Martinique poetry, drama, essays Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
13 André Chamson (1900–1983)  France novel, essays
  • Yves Gandon (1899–1975)
  • Élie Bachas (1903–1986)
  • Armand Lunel (1892–1977)
14 Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca (1914–2008)  Turkey poetry
  • Herbert Howarth (1900–1971)
  • Yaşar Nabi Nayır (1908–1981)
15 Denis de Rougemont (1906–1985)   Switzerland philosophy, essays Jean-Théodore Brutsch (1898-1973)
16 Joseph Dorra-Haddad (1913–1979)  Lebanon essays, theology Fouad Boustany (1904–1994)
17 Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921–1990)   Switzerland drama, novel, short story, essays
  • Werner Betz (1912–1980)
  • Karl Siegfried Guthke (born 1933)
18 Rabbe Enckell (1903–1974)  Finland short story, poetry
  • Carl Fredrik Sandelin (born 1925)
  • Karl Robert Villehad Wikman (1886–1975)
19 Salvador Espriu (1913–1985)  Spain drama, novel, poetry
  • Antoni Comas (1931–1981)
  • Heinrich Bihler (1918–2017)
20 José Maria Ferreira de Castro (1898–1978)  Portugal novel Antônio Olinto (1919–2009)
21 Max Frisch (1911–1991)   Switzerland novel, drama John Stephenson Spink (1909–1985)
22 Robert Ganzo (1898–1995)  Venezuela
poetry, translation, history, essays, drama, biography André Lebois (1915–1978)
23 Günter Grass (1927–2015)  Germany novel, drama, poetry, essays Manfred Windfuhr (born 1930)
24 Graham Greene (1904–1991)  United Kingdom novel, short story, autobiography, essays
25 Jorge Guillén (1893–1984)  Spain poetry, literary criticism Manuel Durán (1925–2020)
26 Paavo Haavikko (1931–2008)  Finland poetry, drama, essays Timo Tiusanen (1936–1985)
27 William Heinesen (1900–1991)  Faroe Islands poetry, short story, novel Harald Noreng (1913–2006)
28 Vladimír Holan (1905–1980)  Czechoslovakia poetry, essays Adolf Hoffmeister (1902–1973)
29 Eugène Ionesco (1909–1994)  Romania
drama, essays Louis Alexander MacKay (1901–1982)
30 Tatsuzō Ishikawa (1905–1985)  Japan novel, essays Kojiro Serizawa (1897–1993)
31 Sei Itō (1905–1969)
(posthumous nomination)
 Japan poetry, essays, novel, short story, translation
32 Eyvind Johnson (1900–1976)  Sweden novel, short story
33 Erich Kästner (1899–1974)  Germany poetry, screenplay, autobiography Gerd Høst-Heyerdahl (1915–2007)
34 Miroslav Krleža (1893–1981)  Croatia
poetry, drama, short story, novel, essays
  • Jara Ribnikar (1912–2007)
  • Marijan Matković (1915–1985)
35 Siegfried Lenz (1926–2014)  Germany novel, short story, essays, drama Johannes Edfelt (1904–1997)
36 Alexander Lernet-Holenia (1897–1976)  Austria poetry, novel, drama, screenplay Hilde Spiel (1911–1990)
37 Saunders Lewis (1893–1985)  United Kingdom poetry, essays, history, literary criticism John Ellis Caerwyn Williams (1912–1999)
38 Lin Yutang (1895–1976)  China novel, philosophy, essays, translation Executive Committee of the Chinese Center – International PEN
39 Compton Mackenzie (1883–1972)  United Kingdom novel, short story, drama, poetry, history, biography, essays, literary criticism, memoir Norman Jeffares (1920–2005)
40 Hugh MacLennan (1907–1990)  Canada novel, essays Lawrence Lande (1906–1998)
41 Harold Macmillan (1894–1986)  United Kingdom history, essays, memoir Carl Becker (1925–1973)
42 André Malraux (1901–1976)  France novel, essays, literary criticism
  • Aimo Sakari (1911–2001)
  • Eyvind Johnson (1900–1976)
  • Ernest Lee Tuveson (1915–1996)
  • John Henry Raleigh (1920–2001)
  • Pierre Grappin (1915–1997)
  • Jean Bourrilly (1911–1971)
43 Harry Martinson (1904–1978)  Sweden poetry, novel, drama, essays
44 László Mécs (1895–1978)  Hungary poetry, essays Watson Kirkconnell (1895–1977)
45 Vilhelm Moberg (1898–1973)  Sweden novel, drama, history Harald Noreng (1913–2006)
46 Eugenio Montale (1896–1981)  Italy poetry, translation Uberto Limentani (1913–1989)
47 Alberto Moravia (1907–1990)  Italy novel, literary criticism, essays, drama Jacques Robichez (1914–1999)
48 Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977)  Russia
 United States
novel, short story, poetry, drama, translation, literary criticism, memoir Bernard Tervoort (1920–2006)
49 Mikhail Naimy (1889–1988)  Lebanon poetry, drama, short story, novel, autobiography, literary criticism Toufic Fahd (1923–2009)
50 Pablo Neruda (1904–1973)  Chile poetry
51 Victoria Ocampo (1890–1979)  Argentina essays, literary criticism, biography Miguel Alfredo Olivera (1922–2008)
52 Emilio Oribe (1893–1975)  Uruguay poetry, essays, philosophy Sarah Bollo (1904–1987)
53 Germán Pardo García (1902–1991)  Colombia
poetry Kurt Leopold Levy (1917–2000)
54 Pandelis Prevelakis (1909–1986)  Greece novel, poetry, drama, essays Kariophilēs Mētsakēs (1932–2013)
55 Evaristo Ribera Chevremont (1890–1976)  Puerto Rico poetry Ernesto Juan Fonfrías (1909–1990)
56 Hans Ruin (1891–1980)  Finland
philosophy Arthur Arnholtz (1901–1973)
57 Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906–2001)  Senegal poetry, essays Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
58 Georges Simenon (1903–1989)  Belgium novel, short story, memoir Richard Alewyn (1902–1979)
59 Claude Simon (1913–2005)  France novel, essays
60 Charles Percy Snow (1905–1980)  United Kingdom novel, essays Sylvère Monod (1921–2006)
61 Aleksandr Solzjenitsyn (1918–2008)  Russia novel, short story, essays
  • Magnus von Platen (1920–2002)
  • Per Wästberg (b. 1933)
  • Yakov Malkiel (1914–1998)
  • Walther Hinz (1906–1992)
  • Max Rouché (1902–1985)
  • Jacques Proust (1926–2005)
62 Abraham Sutzkever (1913–2010)  Belarus
poetry Joseph Leftwich (1892–1984)
63 Friedebert Tuglas (1886–1971)  Estonia short story, literary criticism Lassi Nummi (1928–2012)
64 Marie Under (1883–1980)  Estonia poetry
65 Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888–1970)  Italy poetry, essays, literary criticism Marco Scovazzi (1923–1971)
66 Lluís Valeri i Sahís (1891–1971)  Spain poetry Antoni Griera y Gaja (1887–1973)
67 Tarjei Vesaas (1897–1970)  Norway poetry, novel
68 Simon Vestdijk (1898–1971)  Netherlands novel, poetry, essays, translation
  • Simon Koster (1900–1989)
  • Dirk de Jong (1910–1974)
  • Jacoba Eggink (1914–1997)
  • Jan Kamerbeek Jr. (1905–1977)
  • Nel Boer-den Hoed (1899–1973)
  • Adriaan Prins (1921–2000)
69 Gerard Walschap (1898–1989)  Belgium novel, drama, essays
70 Frank Waters (1902–1995)  United States novel, essays, memoir, biography Thomas Lyon (b. 1937)
71 Sándor Weöres (1913–1989)  Hungary poetry, translation Áron Kibédi Varga (1930–2018)
72 Patrick White (1912–1990)  Australia novel, short story, drama, poetry, autobiography
73 Thornton Wilder (1897–1975)  United States drama, novel, short story
  • Charles Bracelen Flood (1930–2014)
  • Peter Wapnewski (1922–2012)
74 Edmund Wilson (1895–1972)  United States essays, literary criticism, short story, drama Robert Brustein (1927-2023)
75 Yi Kwang-su (1892–1950)
(posthumous nomination)
 South Korea novel, short story Baek Cheol (1908-1985)
76 Amado Yuzon (1906–1979)  Philippines poetry, essays
  • Chung Tin-wen (?)
  • Emeterio Barcelon Barcelo-Soriano (1897-1978)
77 Carl Zuckmayer (1896–1977)  Germany drama, screenplay Herbert Penzl (1910–1995)

Prize decision

Alexander Solzhenitsyn had been considered for the prize the previous year. In 1970, five of the six members of the Swedish Academy's Nobel committee supported the proposal that Solzhenitsyn should be awarded the prize. Artur Lundkvist was however highly critical of the candidacy and opposed a prize to Solzhenitsyn. Lundkvist questioned the artistic value of Solzhenitsyn's work and argued that the Nobel prize in literature should not be a political prize. The other members of the committee supported a prize to Solzhenitsyn. Committee member Lars Gyllensten concluded that Solzhenitsyn "with a quantitatively rather small output appears as an impressively richly equipped, complicated and independently conscious author with a rare versatile material and unusual psychological ability of portrayal." The committee had also received several proposals from outside the Swedish Academy that Solzhenitsyn should be awarded the Nobel prize in literature, one such proposal came from the 1952 laureate Francois Mauriac and a number of other prominent French authors and cultural persons. While a majority of the members of the Nobel committee acknowledged that Solzhenitsyn was worthy of the prize, the committee was worried about how the authorities in the Soviet Union would react if Solzhenitsyn was awarded. For this reason the committee presented an alternative proposal with Patrick White and W.H. Auden as the main candidates weeks before the final vote, should it be known that Solzhenitsyn's life was in danger. On the final vote on 8 October 1970 Solzhenitsyn got the majority of the delivered votes from the members of the Swedish Academy.[7][8]

Reaction and controversy

In 1969, Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Russian Union of Writers. The following year, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he intentionally did not attend for fear that the USSR would prevent his return afterwards (his works there were circulated in samizdat—clandestine form).[9] After the Swedish government refused to honor Solzhenitsyn with a public award ceremony and lecture at its Moscow embassy, Solzhenitsyn refused the award altogether, commenting that the conditions set by the Swedes (who preferred a private ceremony) were "an insult to the Nobel Prize itself." Solzhenitsyn did not accept the award and prize money until 10 December 1974, after he was deported from the Soviet Union.[10] Within the Swedish Academy, member Artur Lundkvist had argued that the Nobel Prize in Literature should not become a political prize and questioned the artistic value of Solzhenitsyn's work.[11]

Harassed by the Communist party and the KGB, Solzhenitsyn was fearful that if he goes to Stockholm to accept the Nobel medal and diploma, he would be stripped of his Soviet citizenship and prevented from coming home.[11] Plans were arranged for the Swedish Academy's permanent secretary, Karl Ragnar Gierow, to give him the award in a Moscow apartment. But when Gierow was refused a Russian visa, Solzhenitsyn expressed his anger in an open letter he released to the press, asking the Swedish Academy to "keep the Nobel insignia for an indefinite period... If I do not live long enough myself, I bequeath the task of receiving them to my son."[11][10]

Award ceremony

At the award ceremony in Stockholm City Hall on 10 December 1970, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy Karl Ragnar Gierow said:

"A message about special circumstances seldom travels far and the words that fly round the world are those which appeal to, and help us, all. Such are the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. They speak to us of matters that we need to hear more than ever before, of the individual's indestructible dignity. Wherever that dignity is violated, whatever the reason or the means, his message is not only an accusation but also an assurance: those who commit such a violation are the only ones to be degraded by it. The truth of this is plain to see wherever one travels. Even the external form which Solzhenitsyn seeks for his work bears witness to his message. This form has been termed the polyphone or horizontal novel. It might equally be described as a story with no chief character. Which is to say that this is not individualism at the expense of the surroundings. But nor may the gallery of persons act as a collective that smothers the individuals of which it is entirely composed. Solzhenitsyn has explained what he means by polyphonism: each person becomes the chief character whenever the action concerns him. This is not just a technique, it is a creed. The narrative focuses on the only human element in existence, the human individual, with equal status among equals, one destiny among millions and a million destinies in one. This is the whole of humanism in a nutshell, for the kernel is love of mankind. This year's Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to the proclaimer of such a humanism."[12]

Solzhenitsyn could not receive the award until four years later. Presenting him the award, Gierow said at the award ceremony on 10 December 1974 :

"Not only for the Swedish Academy but for all of us the ceremony today has a particular significance: we can, finally, hand over to the laureate of 1970 the insignia of his award. Mr Alexander Solzhenitsyn: I have already made two speeches to you. The first one you couldn't listen to, because there was a frontier to cross. The second one I couldn't deliver, because there was a frontier to cross. Your presence here today doesn't mean that the frontiers have at last been abolished. On the contrary, it means that you are now on this side of a border that still exists. But the spirit of your writings, as I understand it, the driving force of your work, like the spirit and force of Alfred Nobel's last will and testament, is to open all frontiers, to enable man to meet man, freely and confidently."[12]

Solzhenitsyn's visit to Stockholm and his presence at the award ceremony in 1974 was much noticed in the Swedish press.[13]

Nobel lecture

Alexander Solzhenitsyn delivered his Nobel lecture at the Swedish Academy on 7 December 1974.[13]


  1. ^ Nobel Prize in Literature 1970 nobelprize.org
  2. ^ Victor Zorza, "Archive, 1970: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wins the Nobel Prize in Literature", The Guardian, 9 October 2020
  3. ^ Alexandr Solzhenitsyn – Facts nobelprize.org
  4. ^ Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn britannica.org
  5. ^ Nomination archive – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn nobelprize.org
  6. ^ Nomination archive – 1970 nobelprize.org
  7. ^ Kaj Schueler (10 May 2021). "Hemligstämplat: Så fick Solzjenitsyn Nobelpriset" (in Swedish). Svenska Dagbladet.
  8. ^ Lennart Samuelson (2021). "NYA INGÅNGAR I SOLZJENITSYNS NOBELPRIS NÄR SEKRETESSEN HÄVS" (in Swedish). Respons.
  9. ^ Feldbrugge, F. J. M. (1975). Samizdat and Political Dissent in the Soviet Union. Leyden: A.W. Sijthoff. p. 24. ISBN 9789028601758.
  10. ^ a b Stig Fredrikson, "How I Helped Alexandr Solzhenitsyn Smuggle His Nobel Lecture from the USSR", nobelprize.org, 22 February 2006. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  11. ^ a b c Alison Flood, "Nobel archives reveal judges’ safety fears for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn", The Guardian, 14 May 2021.
  12. ^ a b "Award ceremony speech". nobelprize.org.
  13. ^ a b "Solzjenitsyn på besök i Stockholm 1974". Svenska Akademien.