This year has been a historic for the awarding of the Nobel Prizes. The Peace prize was awarded to Juan Manuel Santos, the President of Columbia, “for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long-civil war to an end.” His country voted down the peace treaty. In 1973, the Nobel Peace Price was awarded to Henry Kissinger of the United States and Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam for negotiating the end of the Vietnam War. Kissinger went to Stockholm to pick up his. Tho declined to accept his because peace had not been achieved. The war did not end for another two years.
Cordell Hull was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his role in creating the United Nations. In 1939, the SS St. Louis was carrying nearly 1,000 Jews aboard who were attempting to emigrate to the United States to escape the holocaust. Hull was adamant that the ship not be permitted to dock in the US and the ship was returned to Europe and the Jewish passengers on board were returned into the custody of Nazi authorities in Germany. Many were tortured or sent to their deaths in concentration camps. In 1994, the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat, along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and its Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for attempting to negotiate a Palestinian peace. The negotiations broke down and Yasser Arafat remained what many called “ an unrepentant terrorist with a long legacy of promoting violence.” Kaare Kristiansen of the Nobel Committee resigned in protest over Arafat’s award.
In probably the most bizarre award, the 1949 Peace Prize was bestowed upon Dr. Egas Moniz for perfecting and promulgating the frontal lobotomy because it was felt to be such a boon in the treatment of mental illness!
Sigmund Freud was nominated 12 times for his pioneering work in developing the field of psychoanalysis. An expert reported to the nominating committee concluded that Freud’s work did not deserve an award because his work on psychoanalysis was not scientifically validated. In 1936, Freud was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature instead but it was never awarded to this giant in the field of psychiatry and psychology.
This year the Nobel Committee awarded the 2016 Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan. Some have said that it’s travesty given that there are so many deserving authors of poetry, novels, plays, and non-fiction. On the other hand, awarding the Prize to the iconic Dylan re-defines the notion of literature with Dylan becoming the first musician to win the Prize. If ever there was anyone who could define a new genre it would be Dylan. Personally, if I had to vote for a Poet Laureate of my generation, I would pick Bob Dylan. My thanks to the Committee: you got it right.