Once when I drove Bern to the Eugene Airport to fly to New York, he asked me if I knew about the National Book Award. I didn't. The award then was relatively new and not nearly so identifiable as the Pulitzer Prize. He explained that he was going to New York to receive the award. Some years later he won it again along with the Pulitzer Prize for The Fixer.
He never mentioned to me the international Nobel Prize, but any writer of note could not help but dream about it. He never did win it. I had heard rumors that Bern should have been eligible, but I had never known that his name was actually submitted until I read in a recent New Yorker article by a member of the Nobel board that he had to no avail regularly recommended Malamud.
I suspect that the winning of the award by Saul Bellow - also a Jewish American writer - could have weakened Bern's chances at least for awhile. I was disappointed since the only Bellow's writing I like was the short novel Seize the Day. Politics - at least lobbying - could have had an effect upon the discussion that year. My older son Peter was doing graduate work at the University of Chicago, where Bellow taught and was assumed to be a candidate for the Nobel Prize. Peter was astonished by how agog the campus became with agitated faculty yearning for Bellow's winning for the reputation of the university.