The Entangled Histories of the Nobel Prize in Literature and PEN

In: Journal of World Literature
Jørgen Sneis Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Munich Germany

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Drawing on archival records, this paper explores the interrelation and modes of interaction between two major institutions of world literature: the Nobel Prize and PEN, with special attention paid to Swedish PEN and its activities from 1950 into the 1970s. While the Nobel Prize lent prestige to the newly founded PEN Club in the 1920s, insofar as Nobel laureates were recruited as honorary members, PEN in turn – and Swedish PEN in particular – became a highly successful nominator of candidates for the Nobel Prize from 1950 onwards. A striking correspondence between the activities of Swedish PEN and the Swedish Academy’s decisions suggests that the academy oriented itself towards PEN and the circuits of recognition it (re)presented in awarding the Nobel Prize. It also points to the significance of networks and value brokers on a local level and what might be called the ‘glocal’ management of the Nobel Prize.

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