The world learnt of the long-awaited award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Seamus Heaney yesterday - with the exception of the Irish poet himself, who was walking in Greece.
His publishers, Faber and Faber, said through a harassed spokeswoman: "It's a case of him happening to call us, because we don't know where he is. I suppose he might only find out about the prize from the newspapers."
Heaney, 56, was chosen as winner of the award, worth about pounds 635,000, by the Swedish Academy, which praised his "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past".
It is an honour that has been predicted for the past six years as the Catholic poet - who retired last year as Oxford Professor of Poetry - has inexorably grown in stature.
He will receive the cheque at a ceremony in Stockholm on 10 December, along with the laureates for the other prizes - Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Peace.
The son of a cattle-dealer, Heaney is regarded as the most important Irish poet since WB Yeats, who was also awarded literature's most prestigious prize in 1923. He is Ireland's fourth winner this century, following Shaw, Yeats and Beckett.
Mary Robinson, the Irish President, said Heaney had brought "great honour to Ireland". Matthew Evans, the chairman of Faber, said: "We are absolutely delighted and very moved by this recognition."
The 1992 Nobel winner, Derek Walcott, said: "As the guardian of Irish poetry, Seamus Heaney has, like his predecessor Yeats, received his just recognition." But Heaney's brother Hugh remained as down-to-earth as the poet is expected to be. "This award won't change him," he said.
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