In a plot twist that sounds more like one of Irving Wallace’s
novels than his own life, the author got a taste of excitement following the
release of The Prize. Briefly, the
novel is about the ceremony for the annual Nobel Prize. From the book cover, “Six
people all around the world are catapulted to international fame as they
receive the most important telegraph of their lives, which invites them to
Stockholm to receive the prize. This will be a turning point in their lives, in
which personal affairs and political intrigue will engulf every one of the
Although Wallace was meticulous in his research, a reviewer
in Norway took issue with how Wallace portrayed the Nobel Prize institution and
its judges, calling the book a scandal and accusing Wallace of “declar[ing] war
on Scandinavians.” A
rather heated exchange took place through letters and newspaper columns and
responses in which Wallace defended his research process and called on
witnesses to vouch for him. In one set of Wallace’s notes he stated, “I
interviewed [Dr. Anders Osterling] September 23, 1946. He was extremely frank.
Among other things he told me that he fought against Pearl Buck receiving the
Nobel Prize, that Bunin got it to “pay off” for the omission of Tolstoy and Chekhov, that Thomas Wolfe, Somerset Maugham, James Joyce were never nominated,
that Frost, Upton Sinclair, Dreiser were long ago considered and voted down. He
felt Mann deserved the prize twice.”
Despite a good many people, including Dr.
Osterling, coming to Wallace’s defense, the eventual fall-out of the
controversy over his novel resulted in his book translation being rejected in
Copenhagen, and by multiple publishers in Norway. The controversy seemed to
finally blow over, but as recently as 1985, debate continued to ensue with the
release of the major motion picture starring Paul Newman and Elke Summers in
the Scandinavian countries
“U.S. Author Declares War on Scandinavians,” in the Eagle, Wichita, Kansas, 20 September 1962.
Irving Wallace, “untitled note,” 1962, Box 28, Folder 13, Irving Wallace Papers, H.Mss.1076. Special Collections, Honnold Mudd Library, Claremont University Consortium.
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