Joining a cohort of events disrupted by the coronavirus, the steadfast Nobels in turn saw their organization turned upside down on Tuesday for the first time in more than 60 years, even if the prestigious prizes will be awarded in October.
The award ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death, are also being held. But they will take place "in new forms," said the Nobel Foundation, which manages the prizes created by the Swedish inventor, in a statement sent to AFP.
"This is a very special year when everyone has to make sacrifices and adapt to new circumstances," said Lars Heikensten, director of the Foundation.
This is the first time since 1956 that the banquet will not take place. It usually brings together in the large hall of Stockholm city hall 1,300 people around the winners and the Swedish royal family, a spokesperson told AFP. This long, refined dinner with very strict codes traditionally gives rise to speeches by the laureates.
"The Nobel Foundation plans to be able to maintain the award ceremonies in Oslo and Stockholm in new forms that will take into account restrictions related to social distancing and the fact that only a few or none of the laureates will be able to participate on site. ", explains Mr. Heikensten, quoted in the press release.
- Draft in 1920 -
If need be, the organizers look for "a way to present their medals and diplomas to the winners in their country of origin", possibly in the embassies.
The announcement of the prizes themselves (Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace, then the Economic Prize not provided for in Alfred Nobel's will) is maintained on the dates scheduled between October 5 and 12, specifies the Foundation.
An immutable institution organized in a country that has not been at war for two centuries, the Nobel has, however, already undergone the upheavals of history. The banquet was notably already canceled during the two world wars - and therefore during the Spanish flu pandemic (1918-1919) - as well as in 1907, 1924 and 1956. The prizes continued to be awarded during the First World War , but not during the second.
In 1920, a sort of "draft" was organized and the prizes of laureates from previous years had been redistributed, according to historian Gustav Källstrand, an expert on the Nobel Prize.
The last cancellation of the banquet in 1956 was aimed at not inviting the Soviet ambassador due to the suppression of the Budapest uprising, the Foundation spokeswoman told AFP. "An unofficial dinner was still organized, without the ambassador, in another room," she explained.
The Nobel Prizes were born from the will of the Swedish scientist and industrialist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), inventor of dynamite, to bequeath a large part of his fortune to personalities working for "a better world", according to his will established in Paris in 1895, a year before his death.
The international prestige of the Nobels is largely due to the generous amounts with which they are endowed, currently nine million Swedish kronor (approximately 830,000 euros), which the laureates share if they are several.
© 2020 AFP