Nobel Prize Season Arrives Amid War 09/30 06:07
(AP) -- This year's Nobel Prize season approaches as Russia's invasion of
Ukraine has shattered decades of almost uninterrupted peace in Europe and
raised the risks of a nuclear disaster.
The secretive Nobel committees never hint who will win the prizes in
medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, economics or peace. It's anyone's
guess who might win the awards being announced starting Monday.
Yet there's no lack of urgent causes deserving the attention that comes with
winning the world's most prestigious prize: Wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia,
disruptions to supplies of energy and food, rising inequality, the climate
crisis, the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The science prizes reward complex achievements beyond the understanding of
most. But the recipients of the prizes in peace and literature are often known
by a global audience and the choices -- or perceived omissions -- have
sometimes stirred emotional reactions.
Members of the European Parliament have called for Ukrainian President
Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine to be recognized this year by the
Nobel Peace Prize committee for their resistance to the Russian invasion.
While that desire is understandable, that choice is unlikely because the
Nobel committee has a history of honoring figures who end conflicts, not
wartime leaders, said Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace
Smith believes more likely peace prize candidates would be groups or
individuals fighting climate change or the International Atomic Energy Agency,
a past recipient.
Honoring the IAEA again would recognize its efforts to prevent a radioactive
catastrophe at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant at the
heart of fighting in Ukraine, and its work in fighting nuclear proliferation,
"This is really difficult period in world history and there is not a lot of
peace being made," he said.
Promoting peace isn't always rewarded with a Nobel. India's Mohandas Gandhi,
a prominent symbol of non-violence in the 20th century, was never so honored.
But former President Barack Obama was in 2009, sparking criticism from those
who said he had not been president long enough to have an impact worthy of the
In some cases, the winners have not lived out the values enshrined in the
Just this week the Vatican acknowledged imposing disciplinary sanctions on
Nobel Peace Prize-winning Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo following allegations he
sexually abused boys in East Timor in the 1990s.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won in 2019 for making peace with
neighboring Eritrea. A year later a largely ethnic conflict erupted in the
country's Tigray region. Some accuse Abiy of stoking the tensions, which have
resulted in widespread atrocities. Critics have called for his Nobel to be
revoked and the Nobel committee has issued a rare admonition to him.
The Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi won the peace prize in 1991 while
being under house arrest for her opposition to military rule. Decades later,
she was seen as failing in a leadership role to stop atrocities committed by
the military against the country's mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
The Nobel committee has sometimes not awarded a peace prize at all. It
paused them during World War I, except to honor the International Committee of
the Red Cross in 1917. It didn't hand out any from 1939 to 1943 due to World
War II. In 1948, the year Gandhi died, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made no
award, citing a lack of a suitable living candidate.
The peace prize also does not always confer protection.
Last year journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of
Russia were awarded "for their courageous fight for freedom of expression" in
the face of authoritarian governments.
Following the invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has cracked down even harder
on independent media, including Muratov's Novaya Gazeta, Russia's most renowned
independent newspaper. Muratov himself was attacked on a Russian train by an
assailant who poured red paint over him, injuring his eyes.
The Philippines government this year ordered the shutdown of Ressa's news
The literature prize, meanwhile, has been notoriously unpredictable.
Few had bet on last year's winner, Zanzibar-born, U.K.-based writer
Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose books explore the personal and societal impacts of
colonialism and migration.
Gurnah was only the sixth Nobel literature laureate born in Africa, and the
prize has long faced criticism that it is too focused on European and North
American writers. It is also male-dominated, with just 16 women among its 118
The list of possible winners includes literary giants from around the world:
Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Japan's Haruki Murakami, Norway's Jon Fosse,
Antigua-born Jamaica Kincaid and France's Annie Ernaux.
A clear contender is Salman Rushdie, the India-born writer and free-speech
advocate who spent years in hiding after Iran's clerical rulers called for his
death over his 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses." Rushdie, 75, was stabbed and
seriously injured at a festival in New York state on Aug. 12.
The prizes to Gurnah in 2021 and U.S. poet Louise Glck in 2020 have helped
the literature prize move on from years of controversy and scandal.
In 2018, the award was postponed after sex abuse allegations rocked the
Swedish Academy, which names the Nobel literature committee, and sparked an
exodus of members. The academy revamped itself but faced more criticism for
giving the 2019 literature award to Austria's Peter Handke, who has been called
an apologist for Serbian war crimes.
Some scientists hope the award for physiology or medicine honors colleagues
instrumental in the development of the mRNA technology that went into COVID-19
vaccines, which saved millions of lives across the world.
"When we think of Nobel prizes, we think of things that are paradigm
shifting, and in a way I see mRNA vaccines and their success with COVID-19 as a
turning point for us," said Deborah Fuller, a microbiology professor at the
University of Washington.
The Nobel Prize announcements this year kick off Monday with the prize in
physiology or medicine, followed by physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday
and literature Thursday. The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Oct. 7
and the economics award on Oct. 10.
The prizes carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor ($880,000) and
will be handed out on Dec. 10.