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A Nobel Poet Who Didn't Know It

October 07, 1995|From Associated Press

STOCKHOLM — The connection was bad, the boss was out, but the caller had a question that simply had to be answered: Did he win a Nobel Prize?

In a word, yes.

Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who won this year's Nobel Prize for literature Thursday, called the Swedish Academy late Friday afternoon from Greece to see if news reports he had heard were true.

Sture Allen, the secretary of the body that awards the prize, said that Heaney had talked to his secretary, Monica Holmgren.

"The telephone connection was extremely bad, and it was difficult to understand what he tried to say," Allen said.

"Apparently he wanted the academy to confirm that he had won the prize. The word happy came through, and then he said he'll call again once he's back in Dublin," Allen said.

Heaney, 56, and his wife, Marie, are believed to be hiking in the Greek mountains in a vacation that ends Tuesday.

Later Friday, Heaney issued a statement through his publisher, Faber & Faber, in London. "I am honored to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature," Heaney said. "It is a great personal joy and deep satisfaction. It is also, I am sure, a recognition by the Swedish Academy of the extraordinary achievements by Irish poets over the past three decades."

Heaney, a Roman Catholic, emerged from a school of Catholic and Protestant Northern Ireland poets who sought an identity for the British-ruled province beyond sectarianism.

"I am proud to have been part of that action and of the whole endeavor by Irish writers and artists, north and south," he said.

Heaney will receive his award--worth more than $1 million--at a ceremony Dec. 10 in Stockholm.

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