South African writer John Maxwell Coetzee has won the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature. Mr. Coetzee is the second South African to receive the award.

The Swedish Academy, which awarded the literature prize, said Mr. Coetzee's novels are characterized by what it called their well-crafted composition and analytical brilliance.

The 63-year-old writer has long been mentioned as a contender for the prize. The only other South African to receive the award was Nadine Gordimer, who won in 1991.

The academy noted that Mr. Coetzee's stories often criticize, what it described as, the cruel rationalism and cosmetic morality of western civilization. But it praised him for his intellectual honesty and for capturing what it called man's divine spark in moments of defeat and weakness.

Mr. Coetzee has won Britain's Booker prize on two occasions, but the publicity-shy author never picked up those awards.

The literature prize is the first of the Nobels to be announced. In the days ahead, prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry and economics are to be awarded. The Nobel Peace prize winner will be named in Norway on October 10th.