The Nobel Prize in Literature

1966 Literature Laureate Nelly Sachs' amethyst stones inspired her writing by giving her feeling of safety and comfort.

© Nobel Media. Photo: Alexander Mahmoud

About the prize

“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 …” (Excerpt from the will of Alfred Nobel)

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.

See all literature laureates or learn about the nomination process.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2021

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2021 is awarded to the novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”

Gurnah was born in 1948 and grew up on the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean but arrived in England as a refugee in the end of the 1960s. He has published ten novels and a number of short stories. The theme of the refugee’s disruption runs throughout his work.
Abdulrazak Gurnah

Ill. Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach.

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Nobel Prizes and laureates

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's LP record was a gift to Stig Fredriksson, who had helped smuggle his Nobel Lecture out of the Soviet Union.

© Nobel Media. Photo: Alexander Mahmoud

Literature prize Q&A

Can anybody be nominated? What criteria do you use? We spoke to Ellen Mattson, who helps to decide the Nobel Prize in Literature, about how the prize process works.
Ellen Mattsson

Writer Ellen Mattson

Photographer: Rickard L Eriksson

Book excerpts

On nobelprize.org, you can find excerpts from many of our literature laureates’ literary works such as Olga Tokarczuk’s book Flights, Gabriel García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude and Wisława Szymborska’s poem ‘The Three Oddest Words’.


Enjoy some excerpts from books or poems written by literature laureates. Discover all the excerpts here.

Books

© Nobel Media. Photo: A. Mahmoud

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2020

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2020 was awarded to the American poet Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”.

Literature laureate Louise Glück outside her home

The Nobel Prize medal and diploma were presented to literature laureate Louise Glück outside her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

© Nobel Prize Outreach. Photo: Daniel Ebersole

Discover more

Doris Lessing talks about her early days as a writer – working on her first book ‘The Grass is Singing’ – and more.

Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing at her home in London, 14 April 2008.

© Nobel Media.

‘Sula’ is the hugely influential second novel from one of the most powerful literary forces of our time.

Toni Morrison speaking

Toni Morrison speaking at 'A Tribute to Chinua Achebe – 50 Years Anniversary of ‘Things Fall Apart.'

Photo: Angela Radulescu