[Online Event] Cables, Novels and Nobels: The Journey of Diplomacy and Literature 

09 July 2024

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Join us at Diplo’s first in the series of Diplomats as Writers online events, on July 9th 17.00 to 18.30 CEST for a lively discussion by two leading diplomats on both shores of the Mediterranean, North and South.

Italian Amb. Paolo Trichilo will introduce his recent book Diplomacy and Literature: The Eight Diplomats Who Won the Nobel Prize in Literature (2023) and Egyptian Amb. Mohamed Tawfik will speak about his creative writings of three novels published in Arabic.

The discussion will be moderated by Amb. Amr Aljowaily Strategic Advisor to the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Amb. Stefano Baldi Permanent Representative of Italy to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, editors of Diplomats as Writers

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The eight diplomats who won the Nobel Prize in literature | Timeline

Note: This excerpt is from Jovan Kurbalija’s research on diplomats as writers, which he started in 2000s by focusing on Ivo Andric and other diplomats, Nobel prize winners for literature. He never completed a manuscript on three aspects of diplomats as writers: personal life, literature, and diplomatic career. Now, with the help of AI, centred around KaiZen’s publishing approach, Kurbalija will finalise this book as an example of combining human and artificial intelligence. If you are interested to follow this ‘in vivo’ experiment on how to deal with the text, a central tool of diplomacy, in the AI era, please subscribe via ai@diplomacy.edu.

1. Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957)
YEAREVENT
1889  Born in Vicuña, Chile
1904 Published some early poems, such as Ensoñaciones (“Dreams”), Carta Íntima (“Intimate Letter”) and Junto al Mar (“By the Sea”), in the local newspaper El Coquimbo
1910Obtained her coveted teaching certification
1906-1912Taught, successively, in three schools near La Serena, then in Barrancas, then Traiguén
1912Moved to work in a liceo, or high school, in Los Andes, where she stayed for six years and often visited Santiago
1914Her poem Sonetos de la muerte won first prize in a national literary contest Juegos Florales
1918Pedro Aguirre Cerda appointed her as the director of liceo in Punta Arenas.
1922– Accepted an invitation to work in Mexico, with that country’s Minister of Education, José Vasconcelos. – Published Desolación (Despair)
1923Published Lecturas para Mujeres (Readings for Women),
1924Published Ternura (Tenderness)
1925Represented Latin America in the newly formed Institute for Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations
1926-1932-Lived primarily in France and Italy – Worked for the League for Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations, attending conferences of women and educators throughout Europe and occasionally in the Americas
1930-1931Held a visiting professorship at Barnard College of Columbia University
1931Worked briefly at Middlebury College and Vassar College
1932-1933Gave conferences or wrote in University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras
1932Served as a consul from 1932 until her death, working in Naples, Madrid, Lisbon, Nice, Petrópolis, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Veracruz, Rapallo, and New York
1945Became the first Latin American, and fifth woman, to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
1957Died of pancreatic cancer in Hempstead Hospital in New York City
2. Alexis Leger, aka Saint-John Perse (1887-1975)
YEAREVENT
1887Born in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe
1899His family returned to metropolitan France and settled in Pau
1910Began studying law at the University of Bordeaux
1911Published his first book of poetry, Éloges
1914– Joined the French diplomatic service, and spent some of his first years in Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom – Served as a press corps attaché for the government during WWI
1916-1921Served as a secretary to the French Embassy in Peking
1921– Took part in a world disarmament conference in Washington –  Recruited by by Aristide Briand, the then-Prime Minister of France as his assistant
1924Wrote Anabase
1933-1940Served as General Secretary of the French Foreign Office (Quai d’Orsay), with the rank of ambassador.
1938Accompanied the French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier at the Munich Conference in 1938, where the cession of Czechoslovakia to Germany was agreed to
1940Dismissed from his post right after the fall of France in May 1940, because he was a known anti-Nazi.
1940Left France for the United States in 1940 and was deprived of his citizenship and possessions by the Vichy regime
1941-1945Served as a literary adviser to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
1942Published Exil (Exile)
1943Published Poème l’Etrangère (Poem to a Foreign Lady) and Pluies (Rains)
1944Published Neiges (Snows)
1946Published Vents (Winds)
1950Retired officially with the title of Ambassadeur de France
1957Published Amers (Seamarks)
1960-Published Chronique (Chronicle) – Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature
Till 1967Made the U.S his permanent residence
1975Died in  Presqu’île-de-Giens, France
3. Ivo Andrić (1892-1975)
YEAREVENT
1892Born in in the village of Dolac, near Travnik in Austrian-occupied Bosnia
1909Studied philosophy at the Universities of Zagreb, Vienna, and Cracow
1911Elected the first president of the Serbo-Croat Progressive Movement (Serbo-Croatian: Srpsko-Hrvatska Napredna Organizacija; SHNO), a Sarajevo-based secret society that promoted unity and friendship between Serb and Croat youth and opposed the Austro-Hungarian occupation
1914Served as one of the contributors to Hrvatska mlada lirika (Young Croatian Lyrics)
1919-Published a books of lyrical prose entitled Nemiri (Anxieties) – Appointed with a secretarial position at the Ministry of Religion
1920– Published his first novella, Put Alije Djerzeleza (The Trip of Alija Djerzelez) – Assigned to the Foreign Ministry’s mission at the Vatican
1921– Took part in a world disarmament conference in Washington –  Recruited by by Aristide Briand, the then-Prime Minister of France as his assistant
1923Received a doctorate in letters from the University of Graz
1924Entered the Yugoslav diplomatic service. The last diplomatic post he held was that of Yugoslav minister in Berlin
1930Sent to Switzerland as part of Yugoslavia’s permanent delegation to the League of Nations in Geneva
1931Named deputy delegate
1933Decorated with the Legion of Honour by France
1935Named head of the political department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1924, 1931 1936Published three books of short stories under the same title, Pripovetke (Stories) during the period between the two world wars
1937Became the assistant to Milan Stojadinović, Yugoslavia’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
1941Returned to Belgrade and lived there in seclusion throughout the Second World War when Germany invaded Yugoslavia
1945Published Na Drini cuprija (The Bridge on the Drina), Travnicka hronika (Bosnian Story), and Gospodjica (The Woman from Sarajevo).
1948Published Nove pripovetke (New Stories)
1952Decorated by the Presidium of the National Assembly for his services to the Yugoslav people
1954Published Prokleta avilija (Devil’s Yard)
1960Published another collection of stories, Lica (Faces)
1961-Published Zapisi o Goji, (Notes on Goya) – Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
1962Received the Order of the Republic in 1962, as well as the 27 July Award of Bosnia-Herzegovina
1972Received  Order of the Hero of Socialist Labour 
1975Died in Belgrade 
4. George Seferis (1900-1971)
YEAREVENT
1900Born in Urla near Smyrna in Asia Minor, Ottoman Empire (now İzmir, Turkey)
1914Moved to Athens with his family, where Seferis completed his secondary school education
1918-1925Continued his studies in Paris, studying law at the Sorbonne.
1925Returned to Athens
1926Admitted to the Royal Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1931Published first poem of Strophe (Turning Point)
1932Published E Sterna (The Cistern)
1931-1934Held posts in England
1936-1938Held posts in Albania
1937Accompanied the Free Greek Government in exile to Crete, Egypt, South Africa, and Italy during WWII
1942Published Tetradio Gymnasmaton (Book of Exercises) and Emerologio Katastromatos (Logbook I)
1944-Returned to liberated Athens – Published Emerologio Katastromatos B (Logbook II)
1947Published Kihle (Thrush)
1948-1950Continued to serve in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and held diplomatic posts in Ankara, Turkey
1951-1953Served in London
1953Appointed as the Minister to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq
1955Published Emerologio Katastromatos C (Logbook III)
1957Appointed as Royal Greek Ambassador to the United Kingdom from
1962Published a book of essays, Dokimes (Essays)
1963Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature
1966Published Tria Krypha Poiemata (Three Secret Poems)
1969Made a statement on the BBC World Service against the repressive nationalist, right-wing Regime of the Colonels who ruled with widespread censorship, political detentions and torture
1971Died in Athens
5. Miguel Ángel Asturias (1899-1974)
YEAREVENT
1899Born in Guatemala
1920Participated in the uprising against the dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera
1922Founded the Popular University, a community project whereby “the middle class was encouraged to contribute to the general welfare by teaching free courses to the underprivileged” with other students  
1923-Obtained his law degree at the University of San Carlos and received the Gálvez Prize for his thesis on Indian problems -Left for Europe
1924-Studied ethnology at the Sorbonne (University of Paris) -Served as correspondent for several important Latin American newspapers, he travelled in all the Western European countries, in the Middle East, in Greece, and in Egypt.
1928Returned for a short time to Guatemala, where he lectured at the Popular University. These lecture were collected in a volume entitled La arquitectura de la vida nueva (Architecture of the New Life),
1930Published Leyendas de Guatemala (Legends of Guatemala) in Paris
1936Published his first volume of poems Sonetos (Sonnets),
1944Appointed as cultural attaché to the Guatemalan Embassy in Mexico by president Professor Juan José Arévalo
1946Published El señor presidente (The President).
1947Went to Argentina as cultural attaché to the Guatemalan Embassy
1949-Published In Hombres de maíz (Men of Maize) – Obtained a ministerial post at the Guatemalan Embassy
1950Published Viento fuerte ( The Cyclone),
1954-Published El papa verde (The Green Pope) – Expelled from the country by Carlos Castillo Armas because of his support for Árbenz – Stripped of his Guatemalan citizenship and went to live in Buenos Aires and Chile
1960Published Los ojos de los enterrados (The Eyes of the Interred).
1963Published Mulata de tal (Mulata).
1966Given back his Guatemalan citizenship by democratically elected President Julio César Méndez Montenegro
1966-1970Served as ambassador to France
1967Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature
1974Died in Madrid, Spain
6. Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)
YEAREVENT
1904Born in the town of Parral in Chile.
1906Moved to the town of Temuco with his family, where he spent his childhood and youth
1917-Began to contribute some articles to the daily “La Mañana” – Published his first poem Entusiasmo y Perseverancia ((Enthusiasm and Perseverance)
1920Became a contributor to the literary journal “Selva Austral” under the pen name of Pablo Neruda
1921Moved to Santiago to study French at the Universidad de Chile
1923Published his first book Crepusculario
1924Published Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair)
1927-1935Put in charge of a number of honorary consulships, which took him to Burma, Ceylon, Java, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Madrid.
1937Published his collection of poems España en el Corazón (Spain in Our Hearts)
1939-Rewrote Canto General de Chile, transforming it into an epic poem about the whole South American continent – Appointed consul for the Spanish emigration, residing in  Paris.
1942Appointed Consul General in Mexico
1943Returned to Chile, also joining the Communist Party of Chile
1947Had to live underground in his own country for two years due to his protests against President González Videla’s repressive policy against striking miners
1949Left for Europe
1945Elected senator of the Republic
1950– Published Canto General in Mexico – Awarded the International Peace Prize
1952Returned to Chile
1953Awarded Lenin Peace Prize
1970-Nominated as a candidate for the Chilean presidency, but ended up giving his support to Salvador Allende -Nominated as the Chilean ambassador to France, serve till 1972
1971Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature
1973Died in Santiago, Chile
7. Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004)
YEAREVENT
1911Born in Seteiniai, Lithuania
1930Published Kompozycja / Composition and Podróż / Voyage in the 9th issue of Alma Mater Vilnensis.
1934-Received his law degree from Stefan Batory University – Published his first volum of poems Trzy zimy (Three Winters)
1945served as cultural attaché of the newly formed People’s Republic of Poland in Paris and Washington, D.C.
1951-Attacked and censored in Poland – Obtained political asylum in France
1953Published Zniewolony umysł (The Captive Mind);
1960Emigrated to the United States
1961Began a professorship in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley
1970Became a U.S citizen
1980Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature
2004Died in Kraków, Poland
8. Octavio Paz (1914-1998)
YEAREVENT
1914Born in Mexico City
1931Published his first poems, including “Cabellera
1932Founded his first literary review, Barandal
1933Published Luna Silvestre (“Wild Moon”), a collection of poems.
1937– Abandoned his law studies and left Mexico City for Yucatán to work at a school in Mérida, set up for the sons of peasants and workers -Travelled to Valencia, Spain, to participate in the Second International Congress of Anti-Fascist Writers
1938Return to Mexico to found the journal, Taller (Workshop), a magazine which signaled the emergence of a new generation of writers in Mexico as well as a new literary sensibility.
1943Travelled to the USA on a Guggenheim Fellowship where he became immersed in Anglo-American Modernist poetry.
1945-Wrote his fundamental study of Mexican identity, The Labyrinth of Solitude – Entered the Mexican diplomatic service, and was assigned for a time to New York City later Paris  
1952Travelled to India as the Mexican ambassador later to Tokyo, as chargé d’affaires
1953Assigned to Geneva, Switzerland.
1954Return to Mexico
1957Published “Piedra de sol” (Sunstone) and Libertad bajo palabra (Liberty under Oath), a compilation of his poetry 
1959Sent to Paris
1962Named Mexico’s ambassador to India where he completed several works, including El mono gramático (The Monkey Grammarian) and Ladera este (Eastern Slope)
1968Resigned from the diplomatic service in protest of the Mexican government’s massacre of student demonstrators in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco
1970Founded magazine Plural (1970–1976) with a group of liberal Mexican and Latin American writers.
1970-1974Lectured at Harvard University
1977 Won the Jerusalem Prize for literature on the theme of individual freedom. 
1990Awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature
1998Died in Mexico City