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Nobel prize winners

I PICKED up an interesting book on Monday (literally: it was on a colleague's desk).

It's called The 1000 Wisest Things Ever Said, and is a compendium of quotations from people ranging from Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill to Saul Bellow and Boris Pasternak. What links them is that they're among the 768 people who have won a Nobel prize of one sort or another since 1901.

Lots of the quotations were new to me, such as John Boyd Orr's: "What is called 'communism' in developing countries in hunger becoming articulate." Orr (who attended Kilmarnock Academy) won the peace prize in 1949 for his campaign to eradicate world hunger.

There's a great quote from Andre Gide: "It is unthinkable for a Frenchman to arrive at middle age without having syphilis and the Cross of the Legion of Honour."

Bertrand Russell once said: "The state is primarily an organisation for killing foreigners." Ernest Hemingway: "If two people love each other, there can be no happy end to it." William Faulkner: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." And Yasser Arafat, whose remains have just been exhumed and re-buried: "Choose your friends carefully. Your enemies will choose you."

I also liked this evocative one, from Konrad Lorenz, winner of the medicine prize in 1973: "When it comes to reading galley proofs, I always feel reminded of an awful sight once seen in a prisoner-of-war camp: a man slowly and deliberately eating his own vomit."

A quote by Albert Camus might still seem apposite: "Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators."

Likewise Shimon Peres: "Television has made dictatorship impossible but democracy unbearable."

By coincidence, yesterday morning we heard of the death, at the age of 93, of Dr Joseph E Murray, who performed the world's first successful kidney transplant and won a Nobel prize for his pioneering work.

I went back to the book just now, and sure enough, there he is, with a solitary quote, on page 156: "My advice to anybody wanting to be a physician," he said in 1990, "is to love people and like taking care of them."

The Wisest Things Ever Said: Wisdom of the Nobel Prize Winners, David Pratt, The Robson Press.

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