1972 Nobel Prize in Literature
Heinrich Böll
"for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature."
  • 19 October 1972 (1972-10-19) (announcement)
  • 10 December 1972
LocationStockholm, Sweden
Presented bySwedish Academy
First awarded1901
WebsiteOfficial website
← 1971 · Nobel Prize in Literature · 1973 →

The 1972 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the German author Heinrich Böll (1917–1985) "for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature."[1][2] Böll is the fifth German author to be recipient of the prize.[a]


Main article: Heinrich Böll

The events of World War II had a significant influence on Heinrich Böll's literature. In his debut novel Der Zug war pünktlich ("The Train Was on Time", 1949) and the short story collection Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa... ("Stranger, Bear Word to the Spartans We...", 1950), he illustrated the folly of war and the pain it causes. Böll published a number of books that critiqued West German society after World War II, such as Gruppenbild mit Dame ("Group Portrait with Lady", 1971). Among his best-known works include Und sagte kein einziges Wort ("And Never Said a Word", 1953), Ansichten eines Clowns ("The Clowns", 1963), and Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum ("The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum", 1974).[3][4]

Böll's 1974 novel The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum



In 1972, the Swedish Academy received nominations for 100 writers. Böll started earning nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1960. In total, he received 29 nominations with the highest number in 1972 which eventually led to his awarding.[5]

Twenty-seven authors were newly nominated such as Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, Nadine Gordimer (awarded in 1991), V. S. Naipaul (awarded in 2001), Francis Stuart, Doris Lessing (awarded in 2007), Alan Paton, Astrid Lindgren, Anthony Burgess, and Sri Chinmoy. The most number of nominations was for the British-American poet W. H. Auden with 10 nominations. The oldest nominee was Compton Mackenzie (aged 89) and the youngest was Philip Roth (aged 39). The Polish-born American poet Jacob Glatstein and Indian novelist Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay were nominated posthumously by Moshe Starkman (1906–1975) and the Academy's Nobel Committee respectively. Five of the nominees were women namely Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, Astrid Lindgren, Anna Seghers, and Marie Under.[6][7]

The authors Natalie Clifford Barney, John Berryman, Victor Bridges, Fredric Brown, Américo Castro, Michał Choromański, Richard Church, Cecil Day-Lewis, R. F. Delderfield, Jacques Deval, Robert Faesi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Ernestine Hill, Helen Hoyt, Vera Inber, Norah Lange, Violette Leduc, Laurence Manning, José Nucete Sardi, Kenneth Patchen, Betty Smith, Edgar Snow, Violet Trefusis, Mark Van Doren, and Ivan Yefremov died in 1972 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 Said Akl (1911–2014)  Lebanon poetry, philosophy, drama Association of Cultural Clubs in Lebanon
2 Tawfiq al-Hakim (1898–1987)  Egypt novel, drama, essays, short story, biography
  • Ibrāhīm Madkūr (1902–1995)
  • Ḥusnī Farīz (1907–1990)
3 Edward Albee (1928–2016)  United States drama Dieter Schaller (1929–2003)
4 Jorge Amado (1912–2001)  Brazil novel, short story Marcos Almir Madeira (1916–2003)
5 Louis Aragon (1897–1982)  France novel, short story, poetry, essays Jean Gaudon (1926–2019)
6 Wystan Hugh Auden (1907–1973)  United Kingdom
 United States
poetry, essays, screenplay
7 Riccardo Bacchelli (1891–1985)  Italy novel, drama, essays Beniamino Segre (1903–1977)
8 Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay (1898–1971)
(posthumous nomination)
 India novel, short story, drama, essays, autobiography, songwriting Nobel Committee
9 Saul Bellow (1915–2005)  Canada
 United States
novel, short story, memoir, essays Elsie Patton (?)
10 Louis Paul Boon (1912–1979)  Belgium novel, essays, short story, poetry
  • Renaat Declerck (born 1949)
  • Carel Jules Emile Dinaux (1898–1980)
11 Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986)  Argentina poetry, essays, translation, short story
12 Luis Buñuel (1900–1983)  Spain screenplay Lars Forssell (1928–2007)
13 Anthony Burgess (1917–1993)  United Kingdom novel, poetry, drama, screenplay, autobiography, biography, essays,
literary criticism, translation
Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
14 Heinrich Böll (1917–1985)  Germany novel, short story
  • Manfred Durzak (born 1938)
  • Karl Hyldgaard-Jensen (1917–1995)
  • Gustav Korlén (1915–2014)
  • Hans Mayer (1907–2001)
  • Gerhard Nickel (1928–2015)
  • Marcel Reich-Ranicki (1920–2013)
  • Herbert Morgan Waidson (1916–1988)
  • Leevi Valkama (1915–2000)
15 Michel Butor (1926–2016)  France poetry, novel, essays, translation Leon Samuel Roudiez (1917–2004)
16 Elias Canetti (1905–1994)  Bulgaria
 United Kingdom
novel, drama, memoir, essays Keith Spalding (1913–2002)
17 Aimé Césaire (1913–2008)  Martinique poetry, drama, essays Lassi Nummi (1928–2012)
18 André Chamson (1900–1983)  France novel, essays
19 René Char (1907–1988)  France poetry Henri Peyre (1901–1988)
20 Suniti Kumar Chatterji (1890–1977)  India essays, pedagogy, literary criticism Pratul Chandra Gupta (1910–1990)
21 Sri Chinmoy (1931–2007)  India
 United States
poetry, drama, short story, essays, songwriting
22 Austin Clarke (1896–1974)  Ireland poetry, drama, novel, memoirs
23 Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca (1914–2008)  Turkey poetry Yaşar Nabi Nayır (1908–1981)
24 Denis de Rougemont (1906–1985)   Switzerland philosophy, essays Suzanne Deriex (born 1926)
25 Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921–1990)   Switzerland drama, novel, short story, essays
26 Odysseas Elytis (1911–1996)  Greece poetry, essays, translation Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
27 Rabbe Enckell (1903–1974)  Finland short story, poetry
  • Eeva Kilpi (born 1928)
  • Carl-Eric Thors (1920–1986)
28 Salvador Espriu (1913–1985)  Spain drama, novel, poetry Antoni Comas i Pujol (1931–1981)
29 Max Frisch (1911–1991)   Switzerland novel, drama Elisabet Hermodsson (1927–2017)
30 Romain Gary (1914–1980)  Lithuania
novel, essays, literary criticism, screenplay Walther Hinz (1906–1992)
31 Jacob Glatstein (1896–1971)
(posthumous nomination)
 United States
poetry, essays, literary criticism Moshe Starkman (1906–1975)
32 William Golding (1911–1993)  United Kingdom novel, poetry, drama, essays Nobel Committee
33 Nadine Gordimer (1923–2014)  South Africa novel, short story, essay, drama Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
34 Julien Gracq (1910–2007)  France novel, drama, poetry, essays Georges Matoré (1908–1998)
35 Günter Grass (1927–2015)  Germany novel, drama, poetry, essays
  • Henry Caraway Hatfield (1912–1995)
  • Emil Ernst Ploss (1925–1972)
  • Manfred Windfuhr (born 1930)
36 Julien Green (1900–1998)  France novel, autobiography, essays Johannes Edfelt (1904–1997)
37 Graham Greene (1904–1991)  United Kingdom novel, short story, autobiography, essays
38 Paavo Haavikko (1931–2008)  Finland poetry, drama, essays Lassi Nummi (1928–2012)
39 William Heinesen (1900–1991)  Faroe Islands poetry, short story, novel Harald Noreng (1913–2006)
40 Joseph Heller (1923–1999)  United States novel, short story, drama, screenplay Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
41 Vladimír Holan (1905–1980)  Czechoslovakia poetry, essays Nobel Committee
42 Taha Hussein (1889–1973)  Egypt novel, short story, poetry, translation Ibrāhīm Madkūr (1902–1995)
43 Gyula Illyés (1902–1983)  Hungary poetry, novel, drama, essays
44 Eugène Ionesco (1909–1994)  Romania
drama, essays Johannes Söderlind (1918–2001)
45 Roman Jakobson (1896–1982)  Russia
 United States
essays Jean Dubois (1920–2015)
46 Eyvind Johnson (1900–1976)  Sweden novel, short story Pär Lagerkvist (1891–1974)
47 Ferenc Juhász (1928–2015)  Hungary poetry Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
48 Erich Kästner (1899–1974)  Germany poetry, screenplay, autobiography Johann Maier (1933–2019)
49 Miroslav Krleža (1893–1981)  Croatia
poetry, drama, short story, novel, essays Nobel Committee
50 Manbohdan Lal (?)  India Udai Narain Tewari (?)
51 Philip Larkin (1922–1985)  United Kingdom poetry, novel, essays Jørgen Læssøe (1924–1993)
52 Siegfried Lenz (1926–2014)  Germany novel, short story, essays, drama Nobel Committee
53 Doris Lessing (1919–2013)  United Kingdom novel, short story, memoirs, drama, poetry, essays Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
54 Saunders Lewis (1893–1985)  United Kingdom poetry, essays, history, literary criticism John Ellis Caerwyn Williams (1912–1999)
55 Lin Yutang (1895–1976)  China novel, philosophy, essays, translation Peng Yao (?)
56 Astrid Lindgren (1907–2002)  Sweden novel, short story, drama, screenplay
  • Klaud Doderer (born 1925)
  • Josef Stummvoll (1902–1982)
57 Väinö Linna (1920–1992)  Finland novel
58 Stanislaus Lynch (1907–1983)  Ireland poetry, essays Desmond Clarke (1907–1979)
59 Compton Mackenzie (1883–1972)  United Kingdom novel, short story, drama, poetry, history, biography, essays,
literary criticism, memoirs
Norman Jeffares (1920–2005)
60 Hugh MacLennan (1907–1990)  Canada novel, essays Lawrence Lande (1906–1998)
61 Harold Macmillan (1894–1986)  United Kingdom history, essays, memoirs Carl Becker (1925–1973)
62 Norman Mailer (1923–2007)  United States novel, short story, poetry, essays, biography, drama, screenplay Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
63 Bernard Malamud (1914–1986)  United States novel, short story Lars Gyllensten (1921–2006)
64 André Malraux (1901–1976)  France novel, essays, literary criticism
65 Frederick Manfred (1912–1994)  United States novel, essays
  • Wayne Shafer Knutson (born 1926)
  • John J. Timmerman (1908–2004)
66 Gabriel Marcel (1889–1973)  France philosophy, drama Charles Dédéyan (1910–2003)
67 Gustave Lucien Martin-Saint-René (1888–1973)  France poetry, novel, essays, literary criticism, drama, songwriting, short story Henri Guiter (1909–1994)
68 Harry Martinson (1904–1978)  Sweden poetry, novel, drama, essays Pär Lagerkvist (1891–1974)
69 László Mécs (1895–1978)  Hungary poetry, essays Watson Kirkconnell (1895–1977)
70 Veijo Meri (1928–2015)  Finland novel, short story, poetry, essays Osmo Hormia (1926–1983)
71 Vilhelm Moberg (1898–1973)  Sweden novel, drama, history Harald Noreng (1913–2006)
72 Eugenio Montale (1896–1981)  Italy poetry, translation
  • Carlo Bo (1911–2001)
  • Lanfranco Caretti (1915–1995)
  • Uberto Limentani (1913–1989)
73 Alberto Moravia (1907–1990)  Italy novel, literary criticism, essays, drama Jacques Robichez (1914–1999)
74 Sławomir Mrożek (1930–2013)  Poland drama, essays Kauko Aatos Ojala (1919–1987)
75 Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (1932–2018)  Trinidad and Tobago
 United Kingdom
novel, short story, essays Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
76 Mikhail Naimy (1889–1988)  Lebanon poetry, drama, short story, novel, autobiography, literary criticism Joseph Bassila (?)
77 Pak Dujin (1916–1998)  South Korea poetry Baek Cheol (1908–1985)
78 Alan Paton (1903–1988)  South Africa novel, autobiography, essays Astley Cooper Partridge (1901–?)
79 José María Pemán (1897–1981)  Spain poetry, drama, novel, essays, screenplay Juan de Contreras y López de Ayala (1893–1978)
80 Ezra Pound (1885–1972)  United States poetry, essays Hans Galinsky (1909–1991)
81 Pandelis Prevelakis (1909–1986)  Greece novel, poetry, drama, essays Kariophilēs Mētsakēs (1932–2013)
82 Henri Queffélec (1910–1992)  France novel, short story, screenplay Edmond Jarno (1905–1985)
83 Evaristo Ribera Chevremont (1890–1976)  Puerto Rico poetry
84 Yannis Ritsos (1909–1990)  Greece poetry, songwriting Per Wästberg (born 1933)
85 Philip Roth (1933–2018)  United States novel, short story, memoirs, essays Artur Lundkvist (1906–1991)
86 Georges Schéhadé (1905–1989)  Lebanon poetry, drama, novel
  • Joseph Bassila (?)
  • Camille Aboussouan (1919–2013)
  • Fouad Boustany (1904–1994)
87 Arno Schmidt (1914–1979)  Germany novel, short story, biography, essays Nobel Committee
88 Anna Seghers (1900–1983)  Germany novel, short story
89 Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906–2001)  Senegal poetry, essays Lassi Nummi (1928–2012)
90 Claude Simon (1913–2005)  France novel, essays Nobel Committee
91 Zaharia Stancu (1902–1974)  Romania poetry, novel, philosophy, essays
92 Francis Stuart (1902–2000)  Ireland novel, short story, poetry, essays Desmond Clarke (1907–1979)
93 Abraham Sutzkever (1913–2010)  Belarus
poetry Joseph Leftwich (1892–1984)
94 Marie Under (1883–1980)  Estonia poetry Lassi Nummi (1928–2012)
95 Gerard Walschap (1898–1989)  Belgium novel, drama, essays
96 Patrick White (1912–1990)  Australia novel, short story, drama, poetry, autobiography
97 Elie Wiesel (1928–2016)  Romania
 United States
novel, memoirs, essays, drama André Neher (1914–1988)
98 Thornton Wilder (1897–1975)  United States drama, novel, short story Wolfgang Clemen (1909–1990)
99 Vũ Hoàng Chương (1915–1976)  South Vietnam poetry, drama Thanh Lãng (1924–1978)
100 Aaron Zeitlin (1898–1973)  Belarus
drama, short story, essays, literary criticism Moshe Starkman (1906–1975)

Prize decision

Heinrich Böll had been considered for the prize by the Nobel committee since the first time he was nominated in 1960. The publication of Gruppenbild mit Dame in 1971, a year when Böll was not nominated for the prize, is believed to have strengthened his candidacy, and in 1972 the Nobel committee proposed that Böll should be awarded the prize. The other final candidates were Günter Grass, Eugenio Montale and Patrick White. A shared prize between Böll and Grass was proposed but rejected by the committee.[8]

Nobel lecture

Böll delivered a Nobel lecture entitled An Essay on the Reason of Poetry on May 2, 1973 at the Swedish Academy.[9] In his lecture, he said:

"Art is always a good hiding-place, not for dynamite, but for intellectual explosives and social time bombs. Why would there otherwise have been the various Indices? And precisely in their despised and often even despicable beauty and lack of transparency lies the best hiding-place for the barb that brings about the sudden jerk or the sudden recognition."[9]


  1. ^ Heinrich Böll is the first German citizen to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature since Thomas Mann won it in 1929. Hermann Hesse, born in Germany, was a Swiss citizen when he won the prize in 1946. The late poet Nelly Sachs, who was born in Germany and wrote in German, was honored in 1966, but she was a Swedish subject.[2]


  1. ^ "Nobel Prize in Literature 1972". nobelprize.org.
  2. ^ a b "Heinrich Boll Wins Nobel for Literature". The New York Times. 20 October 1972. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  3. ^ Heinrich Böll – Facts nobelprize.org
  4. ^ Heinrich Böll britannica.com
  5. ^ Nomination archive – Heinrich Böll nobelprize.org
  6. ^ Nomination archive – 1972 nobelprize.org
  7. ^ "Nobelarkivet-1972" (PDF). svenskaakademien.se. April 2020. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
  8. ^ Kaj Schueler (2 January 2023). "Nobelpristagaren ansågs stödja terroristerna". Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish).
  9. ^ a b 1972 Nobel lecture nobelprize.org