Ernest Hemingway is one of the most distinguished novelists and short story writers in the history of American literature. The author of enduring works of fiction ranging from The Sun Also Rises to A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway was the recipient of numerous honors and major awards, highlighted by a Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea in 1953 and the Nobel Prize for Literature the following year. However, Hemingway may have missed out on an opportunity to become the third writer, at the time, to win multiple Pulitzers for fiction, a feat achieved only by Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner, and most recently, John Updike.
Hemingway released his fourth and longest novel, an epic about the Spanish Civil War, in 1940. The book was recommended by the Pulitzer fiction jury to be awarded the 1941 prize, a decision that was initially upheld by the Pulitzer Board. However, the Pulitzer Board soon became convinced that For Whom the Bell Tolls was too indecent to merit the prestigious award and reversed the decision, ultimately awarding no prize for fiction that year, a rarity over the course of more than a century. Scholars point to Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University, as the strongest adversary of the book, though his motivations appear to have been political rather than morally based. Today, For Whom the Bell Tolls is regarded as one of Hemingway’s finest works.