Belfast Telegraph

Irish author believed he had won Nobel Prize for Literature following hoax call

John Banville was the victim of a hoax
John Banville was the victim of a hoax

By Robin Schiller

An Irish author has been targeted in a cruel hoax in which he was told he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

John Banville received a phone call on Thursday, just half an hour before the ceremony in Stockholm, informing him that he was one of two winners.

Mr Banville said he believed the caller but just 45 minutes later, after the actual winners had been announced, a voicemail was left informing him that there was a mistake.

The man, who claimed to be Swedish Academy secretary Mats Malm, claimed there were internal issues which resulted in the award being withdrawn from Banville.

The Swedish Academy has denied any involvement and is now looking into the seemingly elaborate hoax in which a number purporting to be from its studios was used.

Mr Banville said he was disappointed at the incident, describing himself as "collateral damage", and believes the matter should be investigated.

"I believed it. The call came from Stockholm, why would I not believe it?" he told the Irish Times.

"I was disappointed of course. When you are phoned up and told you got the Nobel Prize you are not thinking straight."

"I think the Academy should investigate it because I don't think the hoax was aimed at me, I think it was aimed at damaging the Academy or one or two members of the Academy. I think I am collateral damage."

Mr Banville, originally from Co Wexford, is a widely regarded author whose best known work includes 'Doctor Copernicus' and 'The Newton Letter'.

At the awards ceremony on Thursday, the Nobel Prize was awarded to Austrian Peter Handke and Polish author Olga Tokarczuk.

The decision to award the prize to Mr Handke sparked outrage in a number of countries in the Balkans where he was regarded as being an admirer of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

At the funeral of Milosevic in 2006, Mr Handke made a speech in front of thousands of mourners.

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