Great Quotes From 100 Years Of Nobel Prize For Literature Winners

List of literature quotes from the last 100 years of Nobel Literature Prize winners.
Gathered by Regina Kenney 


“Death is the fairest thing in the world. No one’s ever gotten out of it. The earth takes everyone – the kind, the cruel, the sinners. Aside from that, there’s no fairness on earth.”
– Svetlana Alexievich
From Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster
2015 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“You were right to tell me that in life it is not the future which counts, but the past.”
― Patrick Modiano
From Missing Person
2014 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“There is a limit to the amount of misery and disarray you will put up with, for love, just as there is a limit to the amount of mess you can stand around a house. You can’t know the limit beforehand, but you will know when you’ve reached it. I believe this.”
― Alice Munro
2013 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“Finally, she mused that human existence is as brief as the life of autumn grass, so what was there to fear from taking chances with your life?”
― Mo Yan
From Red Sorghum
2012 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

Sweden Nobel Literature

“In the middle of life, death comes to take your measurements. The visit is forgotten and life goes on. But the suit is being sewn on the sly.”
― Tomas Tranströmer
From The Deleted World
2011 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“One can’t fight with oneself, for this battle has only one loser.”
― Mario Vargas Llosa
From Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter
2010 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“I have packed myself into silence so deeply and for so long that I can never unpack myself using words. When I speak, I only pack myself a little differently.”
― Herta Müller
From The Hunger Angel
2009 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Real lives have no end. Real books have no end.”
― Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
From The Book of Flights
2008 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“What’s terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don’t need love when you do; or you like your work when you know quite well you’re capable of better.”
― Doris Lessing
From The Golden Notebook
2007 Nobel Literature Prize Winner



“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.”
― Orhan Pamuk
From The New Life
2006 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness.”
― Harold Pinter
From Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics
2005 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Every day, a piece of music, a short story, or a poem dies because its existence is no longer justified in our time. And things that were once considered immortal have become mortal again, no one knows them anymore. Even though they deserve to survive.”
― Elfriede Jelinek
From The Piano Teacher
2004 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Truth is not spoken in anger. Truth is spoken, if it ever comes to be spoken, in love. The gaze of love is not deluded. It sees what is best in the beloved even when what is best in the beloved finds it hard to emerge into the light.”
― John M. Coetzee
From Slow Man
2003 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“You just sit there and tolerate it, the same way everything in this country is tolerated. Every deception, every lie, every bullet in the brains. Just as you are already tolerating bullets in the brains that will be implemented only after the bullet is put in your brains.”
― Imre Kertész
From Liquidation
2002 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“Most people are not really free. They are confined by  the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.”
― Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul
2001 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“You should know that there is little you can seek in this world, that there is no need for you to be so greedy, in the end  all you can achieve are memories, hazy, intangible, dreamlike memories which are impossible to articulate. When you try to relate them, there are only sentences, the dregs left from the filter of linguistic structures.”
― Gao Xingjian
From Soul Mountain
2000 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Granted: I AM an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there’s a peep-hole in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.”
―Günter Grass
From The Tin Drum
1999 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Words were not given to man in order to conceal his thoughts”
― José Saramago
1998 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“A theatre, a literature, an artistic expression that does not speak for its own time has no relevance.”
― Dario Fo
1997 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

2. Festiwal Czes³awa Mi³osza w Krakowie

“Let the people who never find true love
keep saying that there’s no such thing.
Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.”
― Wislawa Szymborska
From View With a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems
1996 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

Seamus Heaney
“I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world.”
― Seamus Heaney
1995 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“…I kept trying to run away. And I almost did. But it seems that reality compels you to live properly when you live in the real world.”
― Kenzaburō Ōe
From A Personal Matter
1994 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
― Toni Morrison
1993 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“The future happens. No matter how much we scream.”
―Derek Walcott
From The Odyssey
1992 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“The truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.”
― Nadine Gordimer
1991 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“Love is an attempt to penetrate another being, but it can only be realized if the surrender is mutual.”
― Octavio Paz
From The Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writing
1990 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“I’m not made to philosophize, I don’t have the heart for it. My heart is more like a machine for making blood to be spilled in a knife fight…”
― Camilo José Cela
From La familia de Pascual Duarte
1989 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“Home is not where you are born;
home is where all your attempts
to escape cease”
― Naguib Mahfouz
1988 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“The eye identifies itself not with the body it belongs to but with the object of its attention.”
― Joseph Brodsky
From Watermark
 1987 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Romance is the sweetening of the soul

With fragrance offered by the stricken heart.”
―Wole Soyinka
From The Lion and the Jewel
1986 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Life is not only full of sound and fury. It also has butterflies, flowers, art.”
― Claude Simon
1985 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Everything on earth has happened before,
nothing is new,
but woe to the lovers
who fail to discover a fresh blossom
in every future kiss.”
― Jaroslav Seifert
From The Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert
1984 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.”
― William Golding
From Lord of the Flies
1983 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
― Gabriel García Márquez
1982 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“I cannot become modest; too many things burn in me; the old solutions are falling apart; nothing has been done yet with the new ones. So I begin, everywhere at once, as if I had a century ahead of me.”
― Elias Canetti
1981 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

To believe you are magnificent. And gradually to discover that you are not magnificent. Enough labor for one human life.”
― Czeslaw Milosz
1980 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

Odysseus ELYTIS, 1961

“If a separate personal Paradise exists for each of us, mine must be irreparably planted with trees of words which the wind silvers like poplars, by people who see their confiscated justice given back, and by birds that even in the midst of truth of death insist on singing in Greek and saying eros, eros, eros.”
― Odysseus Elytis
1979 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Night is a time of rigor, but also of mercy. There are truths which one can see only when it’s dark”
― Isaac Bashevis Singer
From Teibele And Her Demon
1978 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“I would say a few words
in your ear. A doubtful man has little faith.
Live a long time and it gets dark, and suddenly you know you don’t
know yourself.
But I’d say them even so. Since my eyes repeat what they take in:
your beauty, your name, the river’s sound, the woods, the soul on its own.”
― Vicente Aleixandre
1977 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

Saul Bellow Portrait Session

“People can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.”
― Saul Bellow
1976 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Absent one, how I miss you on this shore
that conjures you and fades if you’re away”
― Eugenio Montale
From Collected Poems, 1920-1954
1975 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“A poet or prose narrator usually looks back on what he has achieved against a backdrop of the years that have passed, generally finding that some of these achievements are acceptable, while others are less so.”
― Eyvind Johnson
1974 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“now we have fathomed what our space-ship is
–a tiny bubble in a glass of God.”
― Harry Martinson
From Aniara: An Epic Science Fiction Poem
1974 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Because he had nothing to hide, he did perhaps appear to have forfeited a little of his strength. But that is the irony of honesty.”
― Patrick White
From The Tree Of Man
1973 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“An artist is like a woman who can do nothing but love, and who succumbs to every stray male jackass.”
― Heinrich Böll
From The Clown
1972 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
― Pablo Neruda
From 100 Love Sonnets
1971 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“The belly is an ungrateful wretch, it never remembers past favors, it always wants more tomorrow.”
― Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
From One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
1970 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
― Samuel Beckett
From Worstward Ho
1969 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Time flows in the same way for all human beings; every human being flows through time in a different way.”
― Yasunari Kawabata
1968 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Rise and demand; you are a burning flame.
You are sure to conquer there where the final horizon
Becomes a drop of blood, a drop of life,
Where you will carry the universe on your shoulders,
Where the universe will bear your hope.”
― Miguel Angel Asturias
1967 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Not every man remembers the name of the cow which supplied him with each drop of milk he has drunk.”
― Shmuel Yosef Agnon
1966 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

World, they have taken the small children like butterflies and thrown them, beating their wings, into the fire–”
― Nelly Sachs
1966 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“The grass grows over the graves, time overgrows the pain. The wind blew away the traces of those who had departed; time blows away the bloody pain and the memory of those who did not live to see their dear ones again—and will not live, for brief is human life, and not for long is any of us granted to tread the grass.”
― Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov
From And Quiet Flows the Don
1965 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
1964 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Don’t ask me who’s influenced me. A lion is made up of all the lambs he’s digested, and I’ve been reading all my life.”
― Giorgos Seferis
1963 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

John Steinbeck

“There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do.”
― John Steinbeck
From The Grapes of Wrath
1962 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“Between the fear that something would happen and the hope that still it wouldn’t, there is much more space than one thinks. On that narrow, hard, bare and dark space a lot of us spend their lives.”
― Ivo Andric
1961 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“And it is enough for the poet to be the guilty conscience of his time.”
― Saint-John Perse
1960 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“No, you listen! All my life, you’ve told me that the world is a dark, cruel place. But now I see that the only thing dark and cruel about it is people like you!”
― Salvatore Quasimodo
1959 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them. ”
― Boris Leonidovich Pasternak
1958 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
― Albert Camus
1957 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“To live is nothing more than to come here to die, to be what we were before being born, but with apprenticeship, experience, knowledge of cause, and perhaps with will.”
― Juan Ramón Jiménez
1956 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“For man is essentially alone, and one should pity him and love him and grieve with him.”
― Halldór Kiljan Laxness
1955 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Miller Hemingway
1954 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”
― Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
1953 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.”

― François Mauriac
1952 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Bitter, too, to be forced to acknowledge in one’s heart how little love has to do with kindness.”
― Pär Fabian Lagerkvist
From The Sibyl
1951 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”
― Earl (Bertrand Arthur William) Russell
1950 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.
Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”
― William Faulkner
1949 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.”
― Thomas Stearns Eliot
From Four Quartets
1948 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.”
― André Paul Guillaume Gide
From Autumn Leaves
1947 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”
― Hermann Hesse
From Demian. Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend
1946 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“You shall create beauty not to excite the senses
but to give sustenance to the soul.”
― Gabriela Mistral
1945 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“During half a century of literary work, I have endeavoured to introduce the philosophy of evolution into the sphere of literature, and to inspire my readers to think in evolutionary terms.”
― Johannes Vilhelm Jensen
1944 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1940 -1943 – No Nobel Literature Prizes were awarded these years.

“How sad that love is still awakening of the finest and most pure, and in most cases only after it becomes dirty.”
― Frans Eemil Sillanpää
1939 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“Love cannot be forced, love cannot be coaxed and teased. It comes out of heaven, unasked and unsought.”
― Pearl Buck
1938 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“I always have a pad of paper and a pencil within reach, to catch on the wing this turn of phrase which strikes me as felicitous, that idea which I hope to be able to examine more closely in the light of day.”
― Roger Martin du Gard
1937 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid to love, I who love love?”
― Eugene Gladstone O’Neill
From The Great God Brown and Other Plays
1936 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1935 – No Nobel Literature Prizes were awarded this year.

“Life is full of strange absurdities, which, strangely enough, do not even need to appear plausible, since they are true.”
― Luigi Pirandello
From Six Characters in Search of an Author
1934 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Words are one thing, deeds are quite another.”
― Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin
1933 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“Love is not a hot-house flower, but a wild plant, born of a wet night, born of an hour of sunshine; sprung from wild seed, blown along the road by a wild wind. A wild plant that, when it blooms by chance within the hedge of our gardens, we call a flower; and when it blooms outside we call a weed; but, flower or weed, whose scent and colour are always, wild!”
― John Galsworthy
From The Forsyte Saga
1932 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“It whispers; all is waiting here
Kept safe for thee, year after year,
Beautiful songs in thousands;
Where hast thou been, where, where?”
― Erik Axel Karlfeldt
1931 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“We’d get sick on too many cookies, but ever so much sicker on no cookies at all.”
― Sinclair Lewis
1930 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
― Thomas Mann
From Essays of Three Decades
1929 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“All my days I have longed equally to travel the right road and to take my own errant path.”
― Sigrid Undset
From Kristin Lavransdatter
1928 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
― Henri Bergson
1927 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“According to an ancient Sardinian legend, the bodies of those who are born on Christmas Eve will never dissolve into dust but are preserved until the end of time.”
― Grazia Deledda
1926 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
― George Bernard Shaw
1925 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“I dreamed of great actions, of voyages–rovings across the oceans of a free and independent life.”

― Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont
1924 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“I have spread my dreams under your feet.

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
― William Butler Yeats
1923 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“If people could hear our thoughts, very few of us would escape from being locked away as mad men.”

― Jacinto Benavente
1922 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“We have never heard the devil’s side of the story, God wrote all the book.”

―Anatole France
1921 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“…I will exile my thoughts if they think of you again, and I will rip my lips out if they say your name once more. Now if you do exist, I will tell you my final word in life or in death, I tell you goodbye.”

― Knut Pedersen Hamsun
From Hunger
1920 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“Halt silent, my dear, and take me with you!

The evening is nigh, and the summit is remote.
I will play for Kurzweil a ditty like. ”
― Carl Friedrich Georg Spitteler
1919 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1918 – No Nobel Literature Prizes were awarded this year.

“Thor sang: Who is Svend among the attendants, who beyond Sundet stand?”
― Karl Adolph Gjellerup
1917 Nobel Literature Prize Winner


“This thought has been ascribed to Voltaire: If God did not exist, mankind would have invented Him. I find more truth in the reverse: If there really is a God, then we should seek to forget Him, to raise up men who will to do good for goodness’ sake, not out of fear of punishment for their bad deeds. How can someone give alms to a poor man with a clean heart when he believes, and has an interest in believing, that there is a God who keeps score in heaven, who looks down and nods in approval?”
― Henrik Pontoppidan
From Lykke Per
1917 Nobel Literature Prize Winner

“You smile, my people, but with stiff moves,
and sing, but without hope.”
― Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam
1916 Nobel Literature Prize Winner



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