Nobel Literature Prize: The past 20 winners
Bob Dylan, Svetlana Alexievich, Annie Ernaux and now Jon Fosse. Here's a look back at the last 20 laureates of the prestigious literary award.
2023: Jon Fosse
The Norwegian playwright has had 1,000 productions of his plays staged in more than 50 languages. He is also the author of novels, poetry and children's books. The Nobel Prize committee selected the writer "for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable." He is shown here at the National Book Awards in 2022, where he was a nominee for "A New Name: Septology VI-VII."
2022: Annie Ernaux
The French author, born in 1940, is renowned for her autobiographical prose works that go "beyond fiction in the narrow sense," said the Swedish Academy. Among others, her 2001 book "Happening" deals with her illegal abortion from the 1960s. She was selected "for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory."
2021: Abdulrazak Gurnah
Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021 "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism," said the Swedish Academy. "His novels recoil from stereotypical descriptions and open our gaze to a culturally diversified East Africa unfamiliar to many in other parts of the world."
2020: Louise Glück
Crowned with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2020, the American poet and essayist had already won major awards in the US, including the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, as well as the National Humanities Medal, which was presented by Barack Obama in 2016. Her most notable works include the "The Triumph of Achilles" (1985) and "The Wild Iris" (1992).
2019: Peter Handke
The Austrian author born in 1942 became famous with experimental plays such as "Offending the Audience" in 1966. He also co-wrote Wim Wenders films, including "Wings of Desire." The decision to award Handke the Nobel Prize was criticized since he is also known for his controversial positions on the Yugoslav Wars. In 2014, he had also called the prize to be abolished, dubbing it a "circus."
2018: Olga Tokarczuk
The Polish writer was actually awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in 2019, since it had been postponed for a year following scandals affecting the Swedish Academy, the body that chooses the laureates for the award. A two-time winner of Poland's top literary prize, the Nike Award, Tokarczuk was also honored in 2010 with the Man Booker International Prize for her novel "Flights."
2017: Kazuo Ishiguro
Japan-born British novelist, screenwriter and short story writer Kazuo Ishiguro won the 2017 award. His most renowned novel, "The Remains of the Day" (1989), was adapted into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins. His works deal with memory, time and self-delusion.
2016: Bob Dylan
An atypical but world famous laureate: US songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. The Swedish Academy selected him "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."
2015: Svetlana Alexievich
Calling her work "a monument to suffering and courage in our time," the Swedish Academy honored the Belarusian author and investigative journalist in 2015. Alexievich is best known for her emotive firsthand accounts of war and suffering, including "War's Unwomanly Face" (1985) and "Voices from Chernobyl" (2005).
2014: Patrick Modiano
The French writer's stories describe a universe of haunted cities, absentee parents, criminality and lost youths. They are all set in Paris with the shadow of the Second World War looming heavily in the background. The Swedish Academy described the novelist, whose work has often focused on the Nazi occupation of France, as "a Marcel Proust of our time."
2013: Alice Munro
Canadian writer Alice Munro is no stranger to accolades, having received the Man Booker International Prize and the Canadian Governor General Literary Award three times over. The Swedish Academy called her a "master of the contemporary short story."
2012: Mo Yan
Guan Moye, better known under his pen name Mo Yan, was praised by the Swedish Academy as a writer "who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary." The decision was criticized by Chinese dissidents like artist Ai Weiwei, who claimed Mo Yan was too close to the Chinese Communist Party and did not support fellow intellectuals who faced political repression
2011: Tomas Transtromer
The Academy chose Tomas Gosta Transtromer as the winner in 2011 "because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality." In the 1960s, the Swedish poet worked as a psychologist at a center for juvenile offenders. His poetry has been translated into over 60 languages.
2010: Mario Vargas Llosa
The Peruvian novelist received the Nobel Prize "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat." In Latin America, he is famous for uttering the phrase "Mexico is the perfect dictatorship" on TV in 1990 and for punching his once-friend and fellow Nobel laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in the face in 1976.
2009: Herta Müller
The German-Romanian author was awarded the Nobel Prize as a writer "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed." She is noted for her work criticizing the repressive communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, which she experienced herself. Müller writes in German and moved to West Berlin in 1987.
2008: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio
The Swedish Academy called J.M.G. Le Clezio an "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization." Le Clezio was born in Nice, France, in 1940 to a French mother and a Mauritian father. He holds dual citizenship and calls Mauritius his "little fatherland."
2007: Doris Lessing
British author Doris May Lessing (1919-2013) wrote novels, plays and short stories, to name just a few of her mediums. The Nobel Prize recognized her for being a writer "who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny." She also campaigned against nuclear weapons and the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
2006: Orhan Pamuk
Ferit Orhan Pamuk, "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures," was the first Turkish author to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. With more than 13 million books sold, he is Turkey's bestselling writer. Pamuk was born in Istanbul and currently teaches at Columbia University in New York City.
2005: Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter, "who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms," was awarded the Nobel Prize three years before his death from liver cancer. He died on Christmas Eve in 2008. The British playwright directed and acted in many radio and film productions of his own work. In total, he received more than 50 awards.
2004: Elfriede Jelinek
The 10th woman to win the award since its creation in 1901, Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek was recognized "for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels" and for her plays that reveal society's clichés. A central theme in Jelinek's work is female sexuality. Her novel "The Piano Teacher" was the basis for the 2001 movie of the same name featuring Isabelle Huppert in the lead role.