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Sunday Read: John Steinbeck Was Not the Popular Choice to Win the 1962 Nobel Prize for Literature

In an article in the Guardian, Alison Flood writes about the release of the Swedish Academy’s records, which, after keeping them secret for fifty years, they finally released this week. The revealed shortlist allows the world to see who was actually the frontrunner for the prize. In 1962, partly due to the death of Karen Blixen in September, John Steinbeck moved up in the ranks. Not only that, but each of the other contenders had serious issues that at the time made the decision of the Academy more difficult, but ultimately lead to Steinbeck’s win. He seemed, as Flood writes, to have been “the best of a bad lot”. On being asked whether he deserved the prize, Steinbeck himself replied “Frankly, no.”

East of EdenOf Mice and MenThe Red PonyThe Grapes of WrathThe Winter of Our DiscontentThe Pearl

Such is the secrecy surrounding the process of deciding who is awarded this prize that the final reveal becomes a true dénouement. Steinbeck produced a body of work that has stood the test of time. Despite any misgivings the Nobel committee may have had, books like Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl and East of Eden, The Winter of Our Discontent remain a legacy that is uncontested. Steinbeck’s name is easily among the more recognised of the winners of that era.

Giant of American letters John Steinbeck beat the British authors Robert Graves and Lawrence Durrell to win the Nobel prize for literature in 1962, according to newly opened archives in Sweden – but he was not a popular choice.

The Swedish Academy keeps secret for 50 years all information about the authors nominated for the Nobel, only releasing their shortlist for the 1962 prize yesterday. The names of 66 authors were put forward for the prize that year, with the shortlist consisting of Steinbeck, Graves, Durrell, French dramatist Jean Anouilh and Danish author Karen Blixen.

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