Newspaper claims CIA had say in 1958 literature Nobel award

Back in 1958, literary circles were surprised by the Swedish Academy’s decision to award that year’s Nobel Award for Literature to Soviet writer Boris Pasternak. This was because the author of Doctor Zhivago was considered an outsider, his literary stature overshadowed by those of Italy’s Alberto Moravia and Denmark’s Karen Blixen, who were strongly favored to win the prestigious prize. Furthermore, Pasternak’s novels were at that time considered obscure and had not yet been published in Swedish. His Doctor Zhivago, which was banned in the USSR, was first published in Italian, after the novel’s manuscript was secretly smuggled out of the Soviet Union. It was therefore a big surprise when Pasternak’s candidacy unexpectedly received the support of Anders Esterling, the influential Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy. Now Italian newspaper La Stampa claims it has uncovered information pointing to a CIA role in the Academy’s surprise decision. Specifically, the newspaper alleges that “a CIA lobby operating in the Swedish Academy” pressured its voting members to offer the award to the Soviet writer after learning that his works had been banned in the USSR. Pasternak was eventually prevented from receiving the award by the Soviet authorities. He was rehabilitated in the USSR following Stalin’s death. Intelligence (and literary) historians will be interested to know whether the CIA played a role in the initial smuggling of Pasternak’s novel out of the Soviet Union.

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