Are the Nobels becoming relevant?

In the natural sciences, the Nobel Prize committees have been awarded to people who have done meaningful work that changed the study of science; however, in literature and the “peace” categories, they have shown themselves totally irrelevant.

This year marks a change:
First, with the Nobel in Literature,
Vargas Llosa and the Value of Literature
His work is a rebuttal to those who believe that fiction exists on the periphery of history and politics.

As Mr. Vargas Llosa wrote in his 2001 essay about literature, “Nothing better protects a human being against the stupidity of prejudice, racism, religious or political sectarianism, and exclusivist nationalism than this truth that invariably appears in great literature: that men and women of all nations and places are essentially equal.”

Vikram Seth:

This year’s citation for Vargas Llosa says that he got the prize for “his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.” This points to a focus on individual rights which is central both to simple humanitarianism and also — though European Leftists would disagree — market-led neoliberalism.

In making this choice, for this reason, the Academy seems to have done just what is expected of it, which is not to go by rumours and prejudices, but to look at the work itself. And as an example of why Vargas Llosa is fascinating, there is not just all his considerable body of work over the years, but also his most recent book, published this year, which has not been translated from Spanish, but whose subject matter signals its exceptional interest.

The selection of Liu Xiabo for Peace Prize is even more striking:
China is furious, making this onerous statement,

In recent years, relations between China and Norway have maintained favorable development, which is in the basic interests of the two countries and their people. The Nobel committee’s award to Liu Xiaobo is completely contrary to the objective of the Nobel Peace Prize, and will bring harm to the China-Norway relationship.

The Chinese government has also forced Liu Xiabo’s wife out of her home in Beijing, and blanked Nobel Prize searches:

Text-messaging on mobile phones is not immune from censors, either. A Shanghai-based netizen, @littley, tweeted his unfortunate experience: “My SIM card just got de-activated, turning my iPhone to an iPod touch after I texted my dad about Liu Xiaobo winning the Nobel Peace Prize.”

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