The Glittering Prizes

The Nobel season is upon us.  I’ve often thought it curious that the award is presented in the form of a medal usually reserved for battlefield valour. 
The physics prize has been awarded for studies on graphene – a miraculously simple concept accessible to all – which I suspect, like lasers, will find multitudes of applications worldwide.
Some of the others are more ambiguous.
The Prize for literature is invariably viewed through a political lens, particularly in Latin America, where writers often play prominent roles as high-profile intellectuals, almost apprentice politicians. As news of Mario Vargas Llosa’s 2010 win spread, it seemed that many lit-lovers in Latin America felt that he deserved the prize for his long trajectory and much-loved novels. Mario Vargas Llosa belongs to a group of writers who brought Latin American fiction out of the regionalist doldrums of the nineteenth century to the attention of the world. This group includes Jorge Luis Borges, my personal favourite Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortazar, and Carlos Fuentes. Vargas Llosa, sometimes referred to as the national conscience of Peru, has made a career out of adapting personal and historical events, without bothering too much about accuracy, to the novel. He uses sophisticated techniques of non-linearity and multiple viewpoint, which the film industry in recent years has begun to exploit.
His first novel, “The Time of the Hero” made use of his own experience at the Leoncio Prado Military Academy. It was so accurate in its portraiture of the academy that the authorities burned a thousand copies. This guaranteed the book’s sales but its content made it perhaps the greatest Latin American novel of adolescence: It is the story of young Peruvian males in their transition to manhood, a theme so successfully explored in a quite different context by Salinger in “The Catcher in the Rye”. As an almost orthodox liberal, the author supports same-sex marriage and the decriminalisation of drug use. Yet he reserves his most venomous criticism for hard-line leftist leaders in Latin America, including Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Castro in Cuba. Vargas Llosa considers himself, above all else, an opponent of dictatorships of all flavours. As am I. I think I’d have gone to the mattresses or even the gulags a long time ago had I had to live under the thumb of either of them. 
It takes courage to protest and it’s ironic that the Prize Committee has awarded the Peace Prize to someone who has effectively been silenced. In December 2009, Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned for subversive activity against the State. He wrote 
China’s political reform […] should be gradual, peaceful, orderly and controllable and should be interactive, from above to below and from below to above. This way causes the least cost and leads to the most effective result. I know the basic principles of political change, that orderly and controllable social change is better than one which is chaotic and out of control. The order of a bad government is better than the chaos of anarchy. So I oppose systems of government that are dictatorships or monopolies.”
In a disgraceful and reprehensible act of censorship, the Chinese authorities have deployed considerable technical and human resources to prevent the Chinese public from learning that the jailed dissident intellectual had been awarded the Prize, Thirty years ago, he would have been shot so some small progress has been made.
The Nobel Committee has an unenviable task. This year, they may have chosen worthy winners as the human race continues to try to emerge from a carapace of mistrust, ignorance and prejudice into a time of greater political, social and spiritual clarity. We live in hope.

9 thoughts on “The Glittering Prizes

  1. O, how would we manage if you were not there, “Vagabond” to volunteer to educate on us what the Nobel prizes are and how grapheme will find multitude of applications?

    Thanks for saving u the trouble of “Googling”


  2. No, no. Trouble is not an individual being averse to being lectured. Trouble is public place being misused by somebody for his feeling good and showing off at others’ cost. It is also with a pseudo taking some unsuspecting reader for a ride.

    And it is more serious than deserving of a “Tee hee” response.

    By the way, do you realize, your “why bother visiting?” response is one used by such ordinary people you strictly want to show you are different from. Beware, “Vagabond”, you are failing in your efforts.




  3. I want to be called..Counter Anonymous who said…
    I don't really see what Anon is getting at. This is Vagabond's space to do with as he pleases.
    A musician who is good at his craft could be accused by some of showing off – flaunting his craft and talent – but to others it is something to be enjoyed and savoured. I enjoy Vagabond's musings – I like someone else connecting the dots in a way that I may not…


  4. Yikes! Having piqued my curiousity with your query, I bestirred myself to see what was up. You know who I am – if I post, you'll know it.

    Vargas Llosa is deserving of this recognition, as is Liu Xiaobo – this year's crop of winners restores at least a little of the credability of the Nobel committee after the fiasco of Obama's “Peace” prize. That still rankles.

    Not being science minded, and completely hopeless with physics (except in spelling) I shall take the time to look up graphene since you didn't include an explanation in your excellent editorial.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.