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[News] Samuel Beckett rejected as unsuitable for the Nobel prize in 1968.

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Newly released papers show the committee chairman’s doubts in 1968 whether a prize for the Irish author would be in the spirit of the award.
‘Lacking heart’ … Samuel Beckett. Photograph: Jane Bown/Observer
▼ Samuel Beckett won the Nobel  prize in literaturein 1969, but newly released archives reveal that just a year earlier, the secretive committee that selects the winners had raised serious concerns about whether his writing was consistent with the spirit of the award.
In the words of Alfred Nobel’s will, the honour goes to an author who has written “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. The winner is decided each year by the members of the Swedish Academy, with their deliberations kept secret for 50 years. Just-released documents from 1968 showthe committee’s chairman, Anders Österling, writing that “regarding Samuel  Beckett, unfortunately, I have to maintain my basic doubts as to whether a prize to him is consistent with the spirit of Nobel’s will”.
“Of course, I do not dispute the artistic effect of Beckett’s dramas, but misanthropic satire (of the Swift type) or radical pessimism (of the Leopardi type) has a powerful heart, which in my opinion is lacking in Beckett,” wrote Österling. He had previously slammed the possibility of the Waiting for Godot author winning the Nobel in 1964, when he said that he “would almost consider a Nobel prize for him as an absurdity in his own style”.
Beckett had been a popular choice with other committee members in 1968, who praised “the human compassion that inspires his work”. Other leading contenders for the prize that year included French novelist André Malraux, British poet WH Auden and Japanese novelist Yasunari Kawabata.
Other names put forward for the world’s top literature prize in 1968 included Ezra Pound and EM Forster – both dismissed on account of their advancing ages – Chinua Achebe, Charles de Gaulle and Graham Greene. Vladimir Nabokov was again set aside by a jury that had previously describedhis novel Lolita as immoral, and was not inclined to change its mind; Eugène Ionesco was considered, and hailed for the novelty he had brought to modern drama, but dismissed because of the controversial nature of his work.
Australian author Patrick White, who would win the Nobel five years later, was already emerging in 1968 as a serious contender. (▪ ▪ ▪)

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