Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet who won the Nobel Prize in 1971 is famous for his love sonnets, but he also got involved in politics, something the jury of the Swedish award didn’t like to the point they almost denied Neruda the prize.
Newly opened archives from the 1971 list of nominees for the Nobel Prize of literature reveal that some of the members of the jury, during deliberations, were doubtful mainly because of Neruda’s communist tendency and the hymns he wrote in honor of Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union.
It was Anders Österling, Nobel committee chair who was the most hesitant, mainly because he questioned whether “the increasingly dominant communist tendency in his poetry is compatible with the purpose of the Nobel prize”.
According to Kaj Schueler, who researched the Swedish Academy’s documents from 1971 for the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, Österling had reservations about Neruda’s candidacy because of his political stands and wanted to reject the Chilean poet.
“He propagates ideas of a nature that is definitely contrary to the spirit of the Nobel prize”, said Österling. He also rejected Samuel Beckett for his stand to nihilism.
Eventually, Österling changed his mind, and Neruda was awarded the Nobel Prize for writing “poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams”.
The deliberations of the secretive members of the jury at the Swedish Academy remain confidential for 50 years, and just now the documents from 1971 were made public.