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The story of Nobel prizes

The story of Nobel prizes
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Recently, Mukunda Rama Rao, the well-known Telugu poet, had written a book on poets who won the Nobel Prize since 1901. Alfred Nobel, a Swedish...

When asked why Maxim Gorky had not been awarded the prize, one of judges remarked: ‘Ah, he died too soon. His name came up several times; he would have got the prize eventually’

Recently, Mukunda Rama Rao, the well-known Telugu poet, had written a book on poets who won the Nobel Prize since 1901. Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, founded this prestigious prize. It is a dream of every litterateur all over the world to win this highly prestigious international award. Nobel instituted this prize in 1895. A polyglot, a poet, researcher, and scientist who invented dynamite extensively used in war, causing widespread destruction, and he became a multi-millionaire. As he did not have any legal heir, he allotted almost all his earnings for awarding prizes in his name in disciplines like Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Peace from 1901. In 1969 Economics was added to the list. According to his will, 94% of his wealth, i.e., 3, 10, 00,000 Swedish Kroner (equal to $18, 60, and 00,000) was donated to Swedish Academy. In Indian currency, it is equal to Rs. 930 crores.

Out of the interest received from this huge amount, Nobel Prizes are awarded to five eminent persons for service to mankind in their respective fields. Those who worked in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and whose inventions greatly contributed to the overall welfare of people were given these prizes. Writers and poets whose writings were instrumental in refining human feelings and influencing them to become better human beings are also eligible. The last category was International Peace. Eminent statesmen who worked for international peace also get the Nobel Prize. The money value of this prize changes from year to year. As of now, it is worth $13, 56,610 or Rs 6, 78, 30,500.

Mukunda Rama Rao did lot of research to write this book titled “1901 Nundi Nobel Kawitwam” (Nobel poetry since 1901.) Though Nobel Prize for literature is awarded to any writer, be a poet, a novelist, an essayist, or a biographer. But Rama Rao has selected only poets.

The first Nobel Prize (1901) for Literature was awarded to French poet Sally Prudhomme. Rama Rao has given biographical details along with those of Prudhomme’s poems, and also Telugu translation of poetry. Rama Rao has introduced 37 poets who were Noble laureates. The most popular among them are Rudyard Kipling, WB Yates, TS Eliot, Boris Pasternak, Pablo Neruda, Wole Soyinka, Joseph Brodsky, Octovia Paz, and Derek Walcott. Rabindranath Tagore was the only Indian who received this coveted prize in 1913.

The Swedish Academy selects the Nobel Prize winner every year. Its members, winners of the Nobel Prizes and Sahitya Academies in different countries can nominate writers and scientists, statesmen who, according to them deserve the Nobel Prize. Every year, nearly 200 nominations are received for the consideration; out of 18 members of Swedish Academy, five are appointed members of the Jury for each category and they select the Nobel laureate for the year.

As far as literature is concerned, a particular work or the overall contribution of a writer is considered. Nobel prizes are announced in October every year, and the Prize is presented in Stockholm.

Even though great care is taken by Swedish Academy, it is not out of controversy. Many times, the Swedish Academy has faced a lot of criticism and charge of bias in favour of Europeans. It doesn’t take the contributions of Asian writers, especially Indian writers. Sometimes, many trivial things which are not related to merit of a writer or a scientist are given too much importance. American novelist Irving Wallace has written an interesting book ‘The Writing of One Novel’ and he seems to have done a lot of research to write the novel, ‘The Prize’, on how Nobel Prizes are decided. Highly deserving writers like Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, James Joyce, Somerset Maugham, HG Wells were ignored by the Swedish Academy for trivial reasons. When asked why Maxim Gorky had not been awarded the prize, one of judges remarked: ‘Ah, he died too soon.

His name came up several times; he would have got the prize eventually.’ When asked about HG Wells, the answer was ‘too minor and journalistic’ and when enquired about Somerset Maugham, the answer was ‘too popular and undistinguished’. On James Joyce, the reply was ‘who is he?’

Great writers like Henrik Ibsen, Strindberg and Tolstoy were also ignored for silly reasons. Andre Gide of France was not considered for many years as he was known as a homosexual (ultimately he was awarded the prize).

Jean Paul Sartre, the French writer and philosopher, was offered the Nobel Prize for literature in 1964 but he rejected it saying that he always declined official honors and that a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution. He was the only notable writer who refused to receive this coveted award.

www.ampashayyanaveen.com

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