The process that the Nobel Prize committee goes through in evaluating candidates for their renowned awards has always been a bit of a black hole. A little window into that process was revealed recently when, per tradition, the documentation and notes from the comittee’s thinking is released to the public 50 years after the award is made.
Back in 1961, J.R.R. Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings epic were nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature but the Nobel committee felt his work was “second rate prose”. In addition to Tolkien, the Nobel committee dismissed the works of Robert Frost, EM Forster and other not to shabby writers.
The prose of Tolkien – who was nominated by his friend and fellow fantasy author CS Lewis – "has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality", wrote jury member Anders Österling. Frost, on the other hand, was dismissed because of his "advanced age" – he was 86 at the time – with the jury deciding the American poet’s years were "a fundamental obstacle, which the committee regretfully found it necessary to state". Forster was also ruled out for his age – a consideration that no longer bothers the jury, which awarded the prize to the 87-year-old Doris Lessing in 2007 – with Österling calling the author "a shadow of his former self, with long lost spiritual health".
Nobel committee, the Eye of Sauron is upon you.