1.2001: V. S. Naipaul
British writer V. S. Naipaul took the Nobel in 2001 “for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories," the awards committee said in a statement. He was born to Indian parents in the town of Chaguanas, on the island of Trinidad.
He has taken up India in both his fiction and his politics, aligning himself with right-wing Hindutva ideology. The New York Times said at the time: "Like many writers, Mr. Naipaul is often a better guide to the world in his prose than in his spoken remarks, which have resulted in accusations of homophobia and racism."
He has in the past declared the novel is dead, though he continues to write them.
2002: Imre Kertész
Hungarian writer Imre Kertész took the Nobel in 2002 for "writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history," according to the committee statement. A survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp, Mr. Kertész published his first novel in 1975, "Sorstalanság" (published as "Fateless" in 1992), about Hungarian Jews sent to the Nazi concentration camps in Poland.
According to the committee, "Kertész's message is that to live is to conform. The capacity of the captives to come to terms with Auschwitz is one outcome of the same principle that finds expression in everyday human coexistence."
2003: John M. Coetzee
South African-born writer John M. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2003. Now a resident of Australia, Mr. Coetzee's novels are able to capture the "divine spark in man," according to the committee statement.
"Coetzee’s interest is directed mainly at situations where the distinction between right and wrong, while crystal clear, can be seen to serve no end. Like the man in the famous Magritte painting who is studying his neck in a mirror, at the decisive moment Coetzee’s characters stand behind themselves, motionless, incapable of taking part in their own actions."
2004: Elfriede Jelinek
Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek won in 2004 for, according to the committee statement, "her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power."
Ms. Jelinek skipped the awards ceremony in Sweden, however. She explained her reason to The New York Times: "I would attend the ceremony if I were able to. But unfortunately I'm mentally ill with agoraphobia. I'm unable to be in crowds, and I can't bear to be looked at."
2005: Harold Pinter
The late British playwright Harold Pinter produced 29 original stage plays, 27 screenplays, and numerous other essays, letters, and literary works. Mr. Pinter "in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms," the committee said in a statement awarding him the 2005 Nobel for Literature.
His style is so notable as to be called "Pinteresque," and he is best known for the plays "The Caretaker" and "Betrayal." The writer, who died in 2008, was a longtime pacifist, and was highly critical of the war in Iraq.
2006: Orhan Pamuk
The Nobel committee in 2006 awarded the literature prize to Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures." He is the first and only Turkish citizen to win the award.
Some observers saw political implications in the European committee awarding the Nobel to Mr. Pamuk, a vocal critic of the killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in World War I. Much of Europe labels the killings a genocide, a classification that Turkey denies. Arne Ruth, the former editor-in-chief of the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, told The New York Times that Pamuk “is a symbol of the relationship between Europe and Turkey, and they couldn’t have overlooked this when they made their choice.”
2007: Doris Lessing
The 2007 Nobel committee described British writer Doris Lessing as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny." Born to British parents in what is now Iran, the feminist and former communist is perhaps noted best for her breakthrough novel, “The Golden Notebook.”
Ms. Lessing never finished high school.
2008: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio is an "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization," the Nobel committee said in its 2008 award statement.
Mr. Le Clézio was relatively unknown at the time in the United States, where few of his works were available in translation. That led to criticism that the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize each year, was veering Eurocentric. Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Academy, did not help this view when he criticized American writers as “too isolated, too insular,” and declared Europe was “the center of the literary world," The New York Times then reported.
2009: Herta Müller
The Nobel for Literature was awarded in 2009 to Romanian-born German novelist Herta Müller, "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed," the Swedish Academy said in a statement. She was the 12th woman to win the prize.
The Monitor wrote at the time: "Müller is a courageous figure whose own life has much in common with that of her fictional works. She was born in Romania in 1953 into a family that made up part of Romania's German-speaking minority." Among her most-noted works is the novel "Herztier" (published in English as "The Land of Green Plums"), which focuses on five Romanian youths and their lives under the Ceausescu regime.
2010: Mario Vargas Llosa
Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa won the prize this year "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat," the Swedish Academy said in a statement.
Then why, you might ask, has it taken so long to recognize him?
As Antonio Cisneros, a Peruvian poet who recently won one of Latin America’s top literature prizes, told the Monitor today is a dispatch from Peru, Mr. Vargas Llosa’s right-wing political activism is likely why it took the Nobel committee so many years before nodding to his achievements.
“Mario has deserved this prize for many years," says Mr. Cisneros, who recently won the Pablo Neruda Iberian-American poetry prize in Chile. "The only thing that kept him on the short list and not among the winners probably had to do with his politics. He has never kept his opinions quiet."