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George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1925

Award: "for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty."

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Medal, Cash and Charity

It is said that George Bernard Shaw wanted the Nobel foundation to use his Nobel Prize money to translate Swedish books to English. The foundation was unable to accept the offer. Then Shaw founded the Anglo-Swedish Literary Foundation in London.

“A contribution towards the cost of the translation [of the book below] has been made by the Anglo-Swedish Literary Foundation in London, which was established by a donation from George Bernard Shaw from his Nobel Prize for Literature.”

Title: The Legacy of Alfred Nobel
Author: Ragnar Sohlman 
Authorized by: The Nobel Foundation
Publisher: The Bodley Head, London 1983
Translation by: E. Schubert
Summary: First published in Swedish (Ett Testamente) in 1950 and tells the full, dramatic story of the establishment of the Nobel Foundation. Written by Ragnar Sohlman, Alfred Nobel's secretary and assistant whom Alfred Nobel appointed as one of the executors of his will. The English translation was published in 1983, in association with the Nobel Foundation, to mark the 150th anniversary of Alfred Nobel's birth.

This book is written by Alfred Nobel's assistant with great love and respect for his boss.

““Only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.
–George Bernard Shaw, who refused his Nobel Prize money in 1926

Although on record as a skeptic of literary prizes — “They eat up money; elicit a lot of trash; and invariably go to some second best composition” — it was mostly the Nobel cash award that upset Shaw. In the Fabian spirit, and because he already had “sufficient money for my needs,” Shaw requested that the Nobel committee use the cash to publish some good English translations of Swedish literature. When the committee balked, Shaw set up his own trust fund to accomplish his goal. As described in Michael Holroyd’s Bernard Shaw, the fund only diverted the calamity’s course and turned it to a flood:

When the news of the prize was announced, thousands of people all over Europe “wrote to me for loans, mostly for the entire sum,” Shaw told [Augustin] Hamon. “When the further news came that I had refused it another million or so wrote to say that if I was rich enough to throw away money like that, I could afford to adopt their children, or pay off the mortgages on their houses…or let them have £XXXX to be repaid punctually next May, or to publish a priceless book explaining the mystery of the universe. It says a good deal for female virtue that only two women proposed that I should take them on as mistresses.” To grapple with the emergency, he began practicing a complicated facial expression which combined universal benevolence with a savage determination to rescue no one from financial ruin.”

-Steve King, English Department, Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

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George Bernard Shaw Photo Wikimedia Commons

Name: George Bernard Shaw
Birth: 26 July 1856, Dublin, Ireland
Death: 2 November 1950, Ayot St. Lawrence, United Kingdom
Residence at the time of the award: United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty."
Portion of Cash: 1/1
Pigmalion/My Fair Lady
Medal Cash and Charity