Seventy-five years ago today, Pearl Buck became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The king of Sweden gave her the award at a ceremony on December 10, 1938 in the Stockholm Concert Hall. It read:
“By awarding this year’s Prize to Pearl Buck for the notable works which pave the way to a human sympathy passing over widely separated racial boundaries and for studies of human ideals which are a great and living art of portraiture, the Swedish Academy feels that it acts in harmony and accord with the aim of Alfred Nobel’s dream for the future.”
Pearl’s most famous works, her “House of Earth” series, written in the 1930’s (The Good Earth, Sons, A House Divided) are considered important works, making a significant literary contribution around the world. The Good Earth was the best selling novel in the U.S. in both 1931 and 1932 and also won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. It still sells consistently today…Oprah Winfrey named it as one of her must-reads in 2004.
Pearl’s parents were missionaries in China in the early 20th century and Pearl married a missionary and lived in China until the mid-1930’s, when Japan’s war against China was reaching a peak and Westerners left.
I encourage you to read a biography of Pearl’s life (there is an excellent overview at Wikipedia.com), a life about as diverse and culturally rich as was possible in the 20th century. While certainly not a perfect life, there are lessons for authors to be learned from it.
- She was well-read
- She wrote about things most familiar to her
- She wrote with a purpose
- The causes that characterized her life work were consistent with her writing and visa versa.
- She never stopped writing. (She continued to write for 35 years after Nobel, never winning another award for her writing.)
Pearl Buck was truly a remarkable person, someone who lived the “writing life” to it’s fullest. While everyone is different, there are some principles to consider from her life, principles that Christian authors can emulate and earn that ultimate prize, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Have you read any of Pearl’s books?