10/01/2018 Culture

The real reasons why Jorge Luis Borges never won the Nobel Prize

The Swedish Academy declassified reports of 1967, year in which the Argentine writer was closer than ever to keep the award.


José Fernández/Archive Lana 01/21/2017


"It's an old Scandinavian tradition: they nominate me for the prize and give it to someone else, and that's a kind of ritual." The phrase, pronounced by Jorge Luis Borges in a 1979 interview, sums up his elusive relationship with the Nobel Prize: despite being one of the greatest exponents of literature in the 20th century, the Argentine writer was never awarded.

Now, from the declassification of old archives of the Swedish Academy, which since 1901 chooses a winner every year, one can begin to understand why Borges never received the prize.

Apparently, 1967 was the year in which the author of "The Aleph" was closer to being chosen. Although he was one of the "serious" candidates (of 70 nominees in total), the award that year was in the hands of the Guatemalan Miguel Angel Asturias.

According to the swedish newspaper "Svenska Dagbladet" based on documents of the Academy that were kept secret for more than 50 years, the chairman of the Award Committee, Anders Osterling, then rejected the Argentine with a brief argument as a determinant: "It's too much exclusive or artificial in his ingenious miniature art".



José Fernández/Archive Lana 01/21/2017


Until his death in 1986, Borges' name always remained on the lists of Nobel candidates, but they never recognized him. Always circulated the version that the repeated rejections of the Academy had more to do with politics than with literature. In fact, many sources attributed it for years to the visit he made in 1976 (in the midst of the Chilean dictatorship) to General Augusto Pinochet, to whom he even dedicated some praise.

To this the criticism that he formulated to the work of the Swedish poet Artur Lundkvist, who later was appointed permanent secretary of the Academy, would have been added. It was precisely Lundkvist, an expert in Latin American literature and responsible for the introduction of the work of Borges in his country, who confirmed that suspicion in an interview: "The Swedish society can not reward someone with this background (for the visit to Pinochet)".


mincultargentina/archive lana



Even Maria Kodama, widow of the writer, declared in 2016, that "everyone knows it was a political issue." And he clarified that "he was not invited by Pinochet, but by the University of Chile": "People are very perverse, because when a man like him receives a doctorate, it is protocol that the president of the country goes."