Which countries have won the most Nobel literature prizes?

Which countries have won the most Nobel literature prizes?
By Euronews
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Following the announcement of this year's winner, find out everything you need to know about the Nobel Prize for Literature


The Swedish Academy today named British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro as the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in literature.

He has joined 113 other Nobel literature laureates who have been awarded the prize since 1901.

But which country has won the most Nobel literature prizes? What language is most-commonly awarded? And what is the smallest nation to lay claim to the award?


France has won the most Nobel Prizes for Literature with 16 awards, followed by the United States and the United Kingdom, both with 11.


English is the most common language of Nobel laureates in literature, used by 31 authors. French is second (15), followed by German (13), and Spanish (11).


There have been three multilingual winners:

· 1913: Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali and English)

· 1969: Samuel Beckett (French and English)

· 1987: Joseph Brodsky (Russian and English)


There have been 100 male winners and 14 females.

Smallest state

The smallest nation with a Nobel laureate in literature is Saint Lucia. Derek Walcott won the prize in 1992. The author passed away in March 2017.

Turning it down

· Russian author Boris Pasternak was pushed by the Communist Party to refuse the prize he won in 1958.


· The only person to refuse the prize by his own free will was French writer Jean-Paul Sartre in 1964.

Surprising winners

· Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the prize last year “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Dylan snubbed the formal ceremony in Stockholm and refused to comment on his win for weeks, but eventually accepted the award in a private ceremony. His win sparked widespread debate over whether he was a deserving winner.

· Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was awarded the prize in 1953 “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

Living laureates


There are 16 Nobel laureates in literature who are still alive. The prize was awarded posthumously once, in 1931, to Swedish poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt. From 1974, a rule has been in place that the prize cannot be awarded posthumously unless the writer died after the announcement of that year’s candidates.

Young and old

The youngest literature laureate is Rudyard Kipling, best known for The Jungle Book, who was 41 years old when he was awarded the prize in 1907. The oldest laureate was Doris Lessing, who was 88 years old when she won the prize in 2007. The average age of literature laureates between 1901 and 2016 was 65.

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