In The Writing of One Novel, Irving Wallace talks about a series of conversations he had with a Nobel Prize Committee judge in the 1940s, part of his research for his novel, The Prize. Here are a few disheartening excerpts:
The bitter personal prejudices of a single judge prevented the Nobel Prize from going to Tolstoi, Ibsen or Strindberg.
In 1933, a minor writer, Ivan Bunin, was awarded a Nobel “to pay off” the committee’s “bad consciences on passing on Chekhov and Tolstoi.”
Flagrant immorality barred D’Annunzio, and homosexuality delayed Gide’s receipt of the award for many years.
Anti-semitism may have been the major factor in keeping the award from Albert Einstein until 1921, when he received it for his lesser work on photoelectrics.
The selection of poet Gabriela Mistral over Hesse, Romains, Croce, Sandburg and others was made because one of the judges translated all of her verses into Swedish to convince the committee, singlehandedly swaying their vote.
Dr. Hedin, one of the judges after WWII, had counted Adolf Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler and Goring among his close personal friends and characterized Hitler as “one of the greatest men in world history.”
Neither Thomas Wolfe nor James Joyce were ever nominated.
Several of the Swedish judges admitted being prejudiced against American writers “because they receive more money from Hollywood” than the Nobel is worth.
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