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No black-tie dinner with the Swedish king for this year's Nobel Prize winners

Abdulrazak Gurnah, a Tanzanian-born novelist and academic who lives in the U.K., poses with his 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature medal after being presented it at the Swedish ambassador's residence in London.
Matt Dunham
/
AP
Abdulrazak Gurnah, a Tanzanian-born novelist and academic who lives in the U.K., poses with his 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature medal after being presented it at the Swedish ambassador's residence in London.

Nobel Prize winners usually attend a royal banquet inside the glittering Stockholm City Hall, where they accept their awards from the king and rub shoulders with other dignitaries and laureates.

But most of this year's awards are being given out in scaled-down ceremonies this week in the laureates' home countries. For the second year running, the pandemic has disrupted the festivities.

On Monday, the author Abdulrazak Gurnah was the first to receive his award, the Nobel Prize in Literature, in a ceremony at the Swedish ambassador's residence in London.

"Customarily you would receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty, the king of Sweden," Ambassador Mikaela Kumlin Granitshe told Gurnah, according to the Associated Press. "However, this year you will be celebrated with a distance forced upon us because of the pandemic."

The award comes with a gold medal, a diploma and more than $1 million in prize money.

Gurnah, born in 1948 in Zanzibar, arrived in Britain at the end of the 1960s as an 18-year-old refugee. He is the first Black African author to win the award in three decades.

Grunah told NPR and WBUR's Here & Now that he originally thought the call from the Swedish Academy was a prank.

"This man says, 'Congratulations, you won the Nobel Prize'

"Are you making a joke?" he recalled on the show.

In total, Gurnah has written 10 novels, including his 1994 novel Paradise, shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Also Monday, physics laureate Syukuro Manabe, chemistry laureate David W.C. MacMillan and economic sciences laureate Joshua D. Angrist were receiving their awards in a ceremony live streamed from the National Academy of Sciences in Washington. And Giorgio Parisi, another winner of the physics prize, got his diploma and medal in Rome.

A banquet will be held in Stockholm on Friday with King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia and hundreds of other guests, but not including the laureates themselves.

And on the same day, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is scheduled to take place in Oslo. The winners - Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov - have been invited, though it's not clear if both will be allowed to travel by their governments.

The Nobel Prize lectures given by the laureates will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday and livestreamed.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.