Books

Pablo Neruda almost lost the Nobel Prize due to “communist tendencies”

It’s been revealed that Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda was almost denied the prestigious prize due to his affiliations with Stalin and communism.

Having won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda has long been considered one of the major forces in twentieth-century poetry. But according to a new report from journalist Kaj Schueler, who examined the Swedish Academy’s documents from 1971 for the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, Neruda almost lost the Nobel due to his affiliations with communism.

In the documents, while Neruda was praised by the award givers for being a writer of “a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams,” some members of the Swedish Academy were uncertain of the decision.

pablo neruda nobel
Pablo Neruda during his tenure as a politician. (Photo: Manifestación a Pablo Neruda (1972) _ © Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional)

Works like Naruda’s odes to Stalin (To Be Men! That Is the Stalinist Law) were at the centre of the members’ indecision, and whether they aligned with Alfred Nobel’s original requirement that the Nobel Prize be awarded to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.”

However, the controversy around the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature seems to be nothing new. Writers like Samuel Beckett, EM Forster, Vladimir Nabokov, and Ezra Pound, among others, have been the subject of regular debates amidst the committee for the political and personal beliefs that pervade much of their work.