But Hemingway was unable to attend the official Nobel ceremony, as he was still recovering from an event that some say began his downward spiral to death seven years later.
While on safari in Africa in '54, Hemingway and wife Mary were involved in a plane crash in the African bush. Suffering injuries that weren't life-threatening, the group eventually managed to call another plane. But after picking up Hemingway and company, the second plane crashed on take-off.
The news couldn't have been worse -- papers around the world reported that Hemingway had been killed. Hemingway, who seemed to have been obsessed with death in his prose, had found it in life.
Of course, the news was incorrect. Everyone survived the crash. Mary suffered broken ribs, and among Hemingway's many injuries, "he lost virtually all kidney function for the rest of his life," says Nagel. "Because of the loss of kidney function, he got high blood pressure. He was given a drug for high blood pressure that has depression as a side effect."
Toward the end of the 1950s, it was apparent to many who visited the legendary writer that he was reaching a crisis point -- he was described as withdrawn and moody, at times suffering from delusions. Numerous theories were developed, and are still maintained.
One centers on the idea that Hemingway was upset because he could no longer write well. Another claims, as Nagel says, that he was "depressed because he saw the black emptiness of human existence, or something philosophical."
Nagel says the blood pressure medication combined with the shock treatments that Hemingway underwent for his depression may have been partially responsible for his mood swings.
Beginning in 1960, "they gave him 36 shock treatments at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and shock treatments back then were very severe," Nagel says.
"They caused serious memory loss in Hemingway. If there's anything a writer can't stand, it's the loss of memory. After some of those shock treatments he didn't even know his name. Then he would be sent back home to recover, given that drug for high blood pressure, and it was only a matter of weeks before he was depressed again."
The slow decline was evident in Hemingway's physical condition -- he had dropped in weight to 160 pounds from the 200-plus pounds he weighed in his prime, according to Nagel.
But the treatment went on, as Hemingway showed continued signs of stress.
"He would get on his knees and cry and beg his wife not to send him back for more shock treatments," Nagel says.
When he wasn't at the Mayo Clinic, Hemingway was spending time at his home in Ketchum, Idaho.