Two Lebanese Writers Were on the Nominations List for 1970 Nobel

The Nobel Prize committee has now released the list of 70-some writers who were in contention for the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature:

The Nobel committee releases their archives slowly, 50 years after the prize deliberations in question. The list of writers considered in 1970 is considerably shorter than the one in 1969, when there were 103 authors on the list of nominees, including 28 first-time nominees.

Mikhail Naimy

As in other years, the 1970 list is parochial and male-dominated. There seems to be just two lady-writers in the whole list for 1970: Argentine author Victoria Ocampo and Estonian poet Marie Under.

Surprisingly, there were also two Lebanese writers who made the list: ميخائيل نعيمة, whose name in the US was written as Mikhail Naimy, and يوسف درة حداد, or Joseph Dorra-Haddad.

As Nobel critic M. A. Orthofer and Asymptote noted on Twitter, many of the 1970 nominees seem to have been associated with PEN Centers. Notaby, Mikhail Naimy (1889-1998) was one of the founders of the New York Pen League; Khalil Gibran was its president and Naimy its secretary.

Naimy wrote in a variety of genres, mostly in Arabic but also in English, including The Book of Mirdad and a biography of Khalil Gibran. He was apparently nominated by Toufic Fahd, a scholar at the Université de Strasbourg. According to the Poetry Foundation, Naimy “lived in Palestine as a child and attended the Theological Seminary in Poltava, the Ukraine, from 1906 to 1911.”

They quoted Issa Boullata as saying Naimy’s “meditative mood, coupled with the attraction of his whispering quiet tone, wins over the reader as one who shares the experience with the poet.”

Joseph Dorra-Haddad (1913-1979), nominated by L’Université Libanaise I Beirut, was apparently a religious scholar.

In past years, the only Arabic-language authors nominated have been acclaimed Egyptian authors Taha Hussein and Tawfiq al-Hakim.

In 1970, the Nobel Prize for Literature eventually went to to the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.