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Reflections of a working writer and reader



The IGnobel prize

Early in his career Henrik Ibsen prophesied: One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door. And they certainly did. They wanted to see and hear the man who had revolutionised drama during the second half of the nineteenth century.

The Nobel committee, however, didn’t come knocking at all. Instead, they gave their 1903 prize in literature to the Norwegian poet Björnstjerne Björnson.

One of your favourite writers, right?

Why didn’t Ibsen get it? He was constantly rejected, apparently, because his writings were too realistic and did not contain any idealism.

In the previous year Leo Tolstoy had been considered and rejected for the prize. Tolstoy claimed that he didn’t mind, because, in his words, it saved me from the painful necessity of dealing in some way with money.

The Permanent Secretary of the Nobel Committee during the early years, was Carl David af Wirsén, “the Don Quixote of Swedish romantic idealism,” and it was he who was bitterly opposed to Tolstoy’s political views, and, presumably, to those of Ibsen.

The IGnobel is the title which Hemingway, the 1954 recipient, bestowed on the prize.

One Response to “The IGnobel prize”

  1. Maxine says:

    There really are IgNobel prizes — in the scientific field they are awarded every year for the silliest discoveries and so on. They are covered in Nature (and everywhere else in the scientific press) each year. The IgNobels are run by the editors of a journal called “Journal of Improbable Research” (I think – I may have misremembered the title). They have a blog and regularly report on the dafter end of scientific research and pronouncements.

    I guess, as with all these prizes and awards, there is nothing like the benefit of hindsight. I am frequently ashamed when the Nobel for literature is announced and I haven’t heard of the recipient, as I regard myself as quite well-read. I suppose somebody thinks that history will appreciate these authors.

    jb says: Hi Maxine. Seems like history has forgotten at least some of them.