John Steinbeck


John Steinbeck

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

John Steinbeck
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1962

Born: 27 February 1902, Salinas, CA, USA

Died: 20 December 1968, New York, NY, USA

Residence at the time of the award: USA

Prize motivation: “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception”

Language: English

Prize share: 1/1


John Steinbeck grew up in a small town in a family that a few generations back had emigrated to the United States from Germany, England and Ireland. While studying at Stanford University, he worked during breaks and summers in farm fields that cultivated sugar beets and other crops. He did not earn a college degree but discontinued his studies to move to New York. There he worked as a writer and critic and met his first wife, Carol Henning. He was married two more times and had two sons.


Conditions for migrants and seasonal workers became a recurring theme in Steinbeck’s writings and were particularly evident in Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. The latter relates how unemployment and abuse of power forced farmers to migrate from Oklahoma to California. Sympathy with the downtrodden and the poor characterizes his writing. It is expressed with a compassionate sense of humor and a sharp eye for social and economic injustices. His other outstanding works include East of Eden (1952) and The Pearl (1947).

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