Saturday, December 11, 2010

Something noble at the Nobels

Given the ideological predilections of the Nobel committees, the Nobel prizes in other disciplines besides the strictly scientific are often less than inspiring. This year, however, a couple of the events were notable. First, that the Nobel committee, which despite persistent leftism has generally recognized communism as oppressive, gave the Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who is in prison in China and naturally wasn't allowed to travel to Stockholm for the presentation. So the committee put an empty chair on the stage and had actress/director Liv Ullmann read Liu's statement upon being sent to prison, which is here. Inspiring.

Second, Mario Vargas Llosa, the great Peruvian novelist/playwright, who has deserved a Nobel (if any body does) in literature for about 20 years but has offensive and retrograde (i.e., verging on pure libertarian) politics. His Nobel lecture on the importance of literature as a civilizing tool is inspirational all the way through. Here's his banquet toast. A brief taste of the lecture:

"Without fictions we would be less aware of the importance of freedom for life to be livable, the hell it turns into when it is trampled underfoot by a tyrant, an ideology, or a religion. Let those who doubt that literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression, ask themselves why all regimes determined to control the behavior of citizens from cradle to grave fear it so much they establish systems of censorship to repress it and keep so wary an eye on independent writers."

Read them both and see if you don't come away with a tiny bit more optimism about the human race.

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