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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Coetzee wins Nobel literature prize
JM Coetzee
JM Coetzee has won the Booker prize twice

South African writer John Maxwell Coetzee has been awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Nobel Academy's head, Horace Engdahl, said Coetzee "in innumerable guises portrays the surprise involvement of the outsider".

The 18 lifetime members of the 217-year-old Swedish Academy made the annual selection in deep secrecy at one of their weekly meetings.

He is a scrupulous doubter, ruthless in his criticism of the cruel rationalism and cosmetic morality of western civilisation
Nobel Academy on Coeztee
The prize includes a cheque for more than 10 million kronor ($1.3m), but it can also bestow increased sales, celebrity and admiration.

In a statement, Coetzee said: "I received the news in a phone call from Stockholm at 6am. It came as a complete surprise - I was not even aware that the announcement was pending."


Coetzee becomes the fourth African writer since 1980 to win the prestigious award.

In its citation, the academy said his novels were characterised by their well-craft composition, pregnant dialogue and analytical brilliance.

2003 JM Coetzee
2002 Imre Kertesz
2001 VS Naipaul
2000 Gao Xingjian
1999 Guenter Grass
1998 Jose Saramago
1997 Dario Fo
1996 Wislawa Szymborska
1995 Seamus Heaney
1994 Kenzaburo Oe
"But at the same time, he is a scrupulous doubter, ruthless in his criticism of the cruel rationalism and cosmetic morality of western civilisation," it said.

Coetzee's editor in Britain, Geoff Mulligan, said that while the South African "was delighted, very delighted" to have won the prize, he would not give interviews himself.

"It's exciting news, he really deserves it," Mulligan said.

Coetzee was born in February 1940 and is currently on sabbatical from his role as professor of general literature at the University of Cape Town.

He was the first writer to win the Booker prize twice, carrying off the prize in 1983 with The Life & Times of Michael K and scooping it again in 1999 with Disgrace.

He also won the 2000 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Disgrace.

'Outstanding work'

A week of Nobel Prizes starts on Monday with the medicine award, followed Tuesday by physics and Wednesday by chemistry and economics.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner will be named on 10 October in Oslo, Norway, the only Nobel not awarded in Sweden.

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish industrialist and the inventor of dynamite.

He gave only vague guidance about the literature prize, saying that it should go to those who "shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind" and "who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction".

The prizes always are presented on 10 December, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896.

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