October 8: Leo Tolstoy rejected the Nobel Prize

October 8: Leo Tolstoy rejected the Nobel Prize
08 October 2014

108 years ago today, one of the world’s greatest authors rejected the Nobel Prize: Leo Tolstoy!

When the first Nobel Prize winner, the French poet Rene Sully-Prudhomme, was announced in 1901, many of Tolstoy’s admirers were disappointed. This was especially true in the Swedish literature circle, where Tolstoy was considered as the ideal candidate for the award.

Several years passed, but Tolstoy did not appear on the list of nominees. In 1906 the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg submitted an application in support of the author’s nomination. When Leo Tolstoy learned of the rumour that he should be the Nobel Laureate, he wrote a letter to Arvid Jarnefelt, his Finnish translator, asking him to remove his name from the list of nominees. He wrote that it would be extremely uncomfortable to have to reject the prize if he won. Jarnefelt sent a translation of the letter to the committee, and in the end, the Nobel Prize went to the Italian poet Carducci Geosue, who was only well-known amongst literary specialists.

Leo Tolstoy was the only nominee to have asked discreetly for the removal of his name, and also to refuse the prize money of $ 100,000. Some years later, when the public was again outraged that Tolstoy was not nominated, he wrote: “First, it has saved me the predicament of managing so much money, because such money, in my opinion, only brings evil. Secondly, I felt very honoured to receive such sympathy from people I have not even met. ”

 

This blog was brought to you by Amy, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz

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