Harry Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) was a leading American novelist and winner of the 1930 Nobel Prize for Literature. He was the first American to win the prize, the Nobel committee commending “his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters.” His works are known to be insightfully critical of capitalism and American life and values.
Lewis was born in Sauk Centre Minnesota, where he began reading at a young age. He attended Oberlin Academy and then Yale University, where he wrote for and later became editor of the Yale Literary Magazine. Lewis graduated from Yale in 1908 and wrote less serious fiction until 1914, when Our Mr. Wren: The Romantic Adventures of a Gentle Man appeared. Lewis’ first commercial success came with the publication of Main Street in 1920 and Babbitt in 1922. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1925 for his novel Aerowsmith, but he declined the honor.
Sinclair Lewis married twice and had two sons. In his later life, Lewis struggled with alcoholism. He wrote eleven more novels after being awarded the Nobel Prize, but none of them achieved the commercial or critical success of his earlier works. Sinclair Lewis died in Rome in 1951, most likely due to alcoholism.