By VANESSA GERA Associated Press
This year’s Nobel Prize season draws near as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shattered decades of near-uninterrupted peace in Europe and raised the risks of nuclear disaster.
Secret Nobel committees never hint at who will win prizes in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, economics, or peace. Anyone can guess who could win the prizes that will be announced from Monday.
However, there is no shortage of urgent causes that deserve the attention that comes with winning the world’s most prestigious award: the wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia, disruptions to energy and food supplies, rising inequality, the climate crisis, the consequences continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. .
Science awards reward complex achievements beyond the understanding of most. But peace and literature prize winners are often known to a worldwide audience and the choices, or perceived omissions, have sometimes provoked emotional reactions.
Political cartoons about world leaders
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 International Research Institute for Peace of Stockholm.
Smith believes the most likely candidates for the peace prize would be groups or individuals fighting climate change or the International Atomic Energy Agency, a previous winner.
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 the fighting in Ukraine, and its work in combating nuclear proliferation, Smith said.
“This is a really difficult period in world history and not much peace is being achieved,” he said.
Promoting peace is not always rewarded with a Nobel. India’s Mohandas Gandhi, a leading symbol of non-violence in the 20th century, has never been more honored.
But former President Barack Obama was president in 2009, prompting criticism from those who said he hadn’t been president long enough to have a Nobel-worthy impact.
In some cases, the winners have not lived up to the values enshrined in the peace prize.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won in 2019 for making peace with neighboring Eritrea. A year later, a mainly ethnic conflict broke out in the Tigray region of the country. Some accuse Abiy of stoking tensions, which have resulted in widespread atrocities. Critics have called for his Nobel Prize to be revoked.
Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi won the peace prize in 1991 while under house arrest for her opposition to military rule. Decades later, she was seen as not fulfilling her leadership role in stopping atrocities committed by the military against the country’s largely Muslim Rohingya minority.
The Nobel committee has sometimes not awarded any peace prize. He held them during World War I, except to honor the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1917. He did not deliver any from 1939 to 1943 due to World War II. In 1948, the year Gandhi died, the Norwegian Nobel Committee did not award a prize, citing the lack of a suitable living candidate.
The peace prize also does not always confer protection.
Last year journalists Maria Ressa from the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov from Russia were honored “for their courageous fight for freedom of expression” against 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 on him, injuring his eyes.
The Philippine government earlier this year ordered the closure of Ressa’s news organization, Rappler.
The literature prize, meanwhile, has been notoriously hit or miss.
Few had bet on last year’s winner, Zanzibar-born, UK-based writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose books explore the personal and social impacts of colonialism and migration.
Gurnah was only the sixth African-born Nobel laureate in literature, and the prize has long faced criticism that it is too focused on European and North American writers. It is also dominated by men, with only 16 women among its 118 laureates.
The list of potential winners includes literary giants from around the world: Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Japan’s Haruki Murakami, Norway’s Jon Fosse, Antiguan-born Jamaican Kincaid and France’s Annie Ernaux.
One clear contender is Salman Rushdie, the Indian-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 upstate New York on August 12.
Awards to Gurnah in 2021 and to American Poet Louise Glück in 2020 have helped the literature prize overcome years of controversy and scandal.
In 2018, the prize was postponed after allegations of sexual abuse rocked the Swedish Academy, which appoints the Nobel literature committee, and prompted an exodus of members. The academy was revamped but faced further criticism for awarding the 2019 literature prize to Austrian Peter Handke, who has been called an apologist for Serbian war crimes.
Some scientists hope the physiology or medicine award will honor colleagues who were instrumental in developing the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines, saving millions of lives around the world.
“When we think of Nobel Prizes, we think of things that are a paradigm shift, and in a way I see mRNA vaccines and their success with COVID-19 as a turning point for us,” said Deborah Fuller, professor of microbiology at the University. from washington
This year’s Nobel Prize announcements begin on Monday with the award in physiology or medicine, followed by physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday and probably, although the date has not been confirmed, literature on Thursday. The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on October 7 and the Economics Prize on October 10.
Prizes include a cash prize of 10 million Swedish kronor ($880,000) and will be awarded on December 10.
Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, Jill Lawless in London, and Laura Ungar in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed.
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