Interesting revelation from the Swedish Academy:

John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. 50 years on, the Swedish academy have opened records of the judges’ decision which show British writers Robert Graves and Lawrence Durrell were shortlisted.

The records, which were first reported in Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, show the names of the 66 authors nominated, the shortlist and the judges comments on them. The latter suggests 1962 was a tough year in literary recognition for all the wrong reasons.

A Nobel committee member recorded, “There aren’t any obvious candidates for the Nobel prize and the prize committee is in an unenviable situation.”

Graves was rejected for being a poet first and a novelist second. The committee were unwilling to award a poet before Ezra Pound’s death as they believed his skill was unbeatable, although his politics cost him the prize.

(I suppose the article means the fact that Pound became a fascist.)

Steinbeck won for The Winter of Our Discontent, which I am happy to say I’ve never read.  My senior year of high school, it seemed as if we read nothing but Steinbeck, one damned work after another.  While I thought Of Mice And Men pretty good, each successive blast – The Red Pony, The Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl – made me cringe more and more.  Clang! Clang! Clang!  Finally, I point-blank refused to read Travels With Charlie.  The teacher quite calmly and sympathetically listened to my objections and then failed me for the unit.   Perhaps I had it coming, but I felt vindicated later on when evidence came to light that he had faked a good bit of its content.

On the other hand, I’ve always been a big fan of Graves’ historickal novels, liking in particular his efforts to shape the language of each to the period in which it’s set.  My favorite is still probably Hercules, My Shipmate.  The Telegraph article doesn’t say which work of Graves’ was up for consideration.  He had a couple collections of poetry (which generally don’t interest me) come out in 1961, and his novel They Hanged My Saintly Billy (which I haven’t read) was published a couple years before.

Too bad.

(Oh, and I’ve never heard of Lawrence Durrell.)