The Nobel Prizes in Literature

Alfred Nobel 1833-1896

Established the Nobel Prizes “for the Benefit to Mankind”

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been honoring men and women from all corners of the globe for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and for work in peace. The foundations for the prize were laid in 1895 when Alfred Nobel wrote his last will, leaving much of his wealth to the establishment of the Nobel Prize. But who was Alfred Nobel?


Known as: The inventor of dynamite and holder of 355 patents
Born: 21 October 1833
Died: 10 December 1896
Languages: Spoke five languages fluently at the age of 17
Professions: Swedish chemist, inventor, engineer, entrepreneur, business man, author and pacifist
Fortune: In his will he left 31 million SEK (today about 265 million dollars) to fund the Nobel Prizes

The Nobel Prize in Literature

Awarded to 112 Nobel Laureates since 1901

Excerpt from the will of Alfred Nobel:
“The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: /- – -/ one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction …”

Alfred Nobel had broad cultural interests. During his early youth, he developed his literary interests which lasted throughout his life. His library consisted of a rich and broad selection of literature in different languages. During the last years of his life, he tried his hand as an author and began writing fiction. Literature was the fourth prize area Nobel mentioned in his will.

The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded by the Swedish Academy, Stockholm, Sweden.

Nomination and Selection of Literature Laureates

Nominations to the Nobel Prize in Literature can be made by qualified persons only. The names of the nominees and other information about the nominations cannot be revealed until 50 years later.

Nominations for the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature

For the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy has received 259 proposals, resulting in 198 nominated persons. Among them, 36 are first time nominees. One of these 198 individuals will be awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Process of Nomination and Selection

The Nobel Committee for Literature sends invitation letters to persons who are qualified to nominate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Qualified Nominators

The right to submit proposals for the award of a Nobel Prize in Literature shall, by statute, be enjoyed by:

  •  Members of the Swedish Academy and of other academies, institutions and societies which are similar to it in construction and purpose;
  • Professors of literature and of linguistics at universities and university colleges;
  • Previous Nobel Laureates in Literature;
  • Presidents of those societies of authors that are representative of the literary production in their respective countries.

Selection of Nobel Laureates

The Swedish Academy is responsible for the selection of the Nobel Laureates in Literature, and has 18 members. The Nobel Committee for Literature is the working body that evaluates the nominations and presents its recommendations to the Swedish Academy, and comprises four to five members.

Who is eligible for the Nobel Prize in Literature?

The candidates eligible for the Literature Prize are those nominated by qualified persons who have received an invitation from the Nobel Committee to submit names for consideration. Other persons who are qualified to nominate but have not received invitations may also submit nominations. No one can nominate himself or herself.

How Are the Nobel Laureates in Literature Selected?

Below is a brief description of the process involved in choosing the Nobel Laureates in Literature.

September Invitation letters are sent out. The Nobel Committee sends out nomination forms to 600-700 individuals and organizations qualified to nominate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

FebruaryDeadline for submission. The completed forms must reach the Nobel Committee not later than 31 January of the following year. The Committee then screens the nominations and submits a list for approval by the Academy.

April Preliminary candidates. After further studies, the Committee selects 15–20 names for consideration as preliminary candidates by the Academy.

MayFinal candidates. The Committee whittles down the list to five priority candidates to be considered by the Academy.

June-AugustReading of productions. The members of the Academy read and assess the work of the final candidates during the summer. The Nobel Committee also prepares individual reports.

September Academy members confer. Having read the work of the final candidates, members of the Academy discuss the merits of the different candidates’ contribution.

October Nobel Laureates are chosen. In early October, the Academy chooses the Nobel Laureate in Literature. A candidate must receive more than half of the votes cast. The Nobel Laureates names are then announced.

DecemberNobel Laureates receive their prize. The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony takes place on 10 December in Stockholm, where the Nobel Laureates receive their Nobel Prize, which consists of a Nobel Medal and Diploma, and a document confirming the prize amount.

Are the nominations made public?

The statutes of the Nobel Foundation restrict disclosure of information about the nominations, whether publicly or privately, for 50 years. The restriction concerns the nominees and nominators, as well as investigations and opinions related to the award of a prize.