Plus: Fascinating history of Nobel, including literature prize for Zambian telephone directory
Chennai, Oct 12: With all but the Nobel prize for literature declared for 2016, there is an understandable buzz among the writing community. And the odds on favourite to walk away with this year’s literature prize, according to the betting company Ladbrokes, is “yet another obscure writer from deep interior Africa”.
“Else, he or she could be from the trouble-ravaged Syria or Egypt, too,” Ladbrokes felt.
According to information tracked here, the literary prize, like every year, is expected to go to that writer who has the enviable quality of being totally unheard of and unread by anyone other than the Nobel prize committee. In other words, the author of Fifty Shades Of Grey has no chance of ever landing the prize. Not that the book deserved to in terms of writing style or structure. But the thing is it would basically be dropped on grounds of having been read by actual people.
“The winner’s language has the rare flexibility and finesse that reveal themselves to the committee only”. This is citation that probably writes itself for all the Nobel winners every year.
Meanwhile, as ever, the Nobel prizes for Physics and Chemistry have gone this year to the amazing scientific stuff that nobody really understands anything about or gives a s*** about.
“We honour weird research that doesn’t make sense to people outside of that research” is the Nobel’s motto when it comes to science. This year — upping the ante —- the awards have gone to researchers whose spellings of their respective names are also difficult to comprehend. Kosterlitz, Thouless, for example.
In this season of Nobel, here are some interesting tidbits from its rich and hallowed history:
# The Nobel prizes are being awarded since 1901 and right from then the award for Physics and Chemistry have been dubbed as the “Oscars of the Scientific Community”. This was impressive considering the fact that the real Oscars were given only from 1929. “But that is a reflection of the fact that scientific research at that time was very advanced,” is how one historian put it.
# All the Nobel prizes are awarded in Sweden, except the peace one, which is conferred at Oslo. “Norway won the right to give the Nobel peace prize after a protracted war with Sweden”.
# Staying with the peace prize, Palestine’s Yasser Arafat was the only man who was in the running for the prize even after winning it once. “That is because his contribution to the mid-east peace process has been enormous and enduring. Almost every year he used to sign peace accords that brought ever-lasting peace to the area for at least two or three hours”, a Nobel committee communique had said.
# There was a minor controversy of sorts in the year 1938 when the Nobel Prize for literature was conferred on the Zambian Adebowale Bukuruchi as his “contributions brings the Zambian community together on the same page like never before and his work has the rare equanimity even while charting out the ‘A-to-Z’ divisions among the people.” Bukuruchi turned out to be the compiler of telephone directory in Zambia.
# There is no Nobel prize for mathematics. But in the inaugural year there was one, and the first ever award went to the Icelander Bárður Sigursteinsson for his unmatched ability to “recite the 17th multiplication table” till up to 15. But the Nobel committee also came to the conclusion that the bar has been set pretty high as no normal human being can ever remember the 17th multiplication-table. With that they dropped giving the award.
# The Nobel for Literature in 1943 went to Estonian writer Faris Razin Ganim for his heart-warming and moving story of a lover couple, a German guy and a French girl, caught in the crossfire of the World War, spending their prime youth days in complete hiding. The book, titled Invisible Days, had just the title and all the pages were blank. “I left them intentionally blank in a whitish show of protest against the horrors of war. The love story of the couple will remain buried under the unwritten pages of history,” was his defiant speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony.
# The Nobel Prize for Economics Sciences in 1953 went to the Israeli Yavin Ben-Shahar for his seminal study on recursive expenditure of what all can an economist buy with the Nobel prize money.
# The 1967 Nobel Prize for Medicine went to the French physician Franck Pueyrredón for his rule book for the medical community which makes stockings mandatory for nurses. The stockings were so hideous that male patients were compelled to address young women nurses as sisters. “It was a master stroke,” the Nobel Committee said with typical soul for brevity.