Making a difference

There are two controversial writers who had made a difference in this world, but were hardly appreciated by authorities in their own homelands.

In China , the government reacted with fury after its most popular dissident writer Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Liu, 54, the first Chinese citizen to win the award, was a strike leader during the 10989 Tiananmen protests and was jailed last year for campaigning for political freedom.

The Norwegian Noble committee’ decision was immediately tagged as  a blatant affront to the Chinese government, which had already warned that giving the dissident the award would sour ties between Norway and Beijing. The Chinese leadership even noted that the decision “blasphemed” the Nobel Prize.

Yet despite the virtual blackout in the national media, the news spread and had Liu’s supporters in China cheering the award as a “triumph of justice over oppression.”

It won’t be surprising that Liu was the last one to find out in his country that he has been lauded for his relentless championing of human rights for over 20 years. His wife Liu Xia could only tell her husband of the award when she made her monthly visit to the Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning to see him over the weekend.

Previously incarcerated for his key role in the 1989 Tiananmen protests, he is serving an 11-year jail sentence. It came after the essayist co-wrote the Charter ’08, a manifesto calling for the Chinese Communist Party to accept human rights and demanding judicial independence and political reforms. The petition collected 10,000 signatures before it was quickly removed from the internet in the late 2008.

“(But) I want to tell the whole world: Liu Xiaobo is innocent and I am proud of him,” his wife told the Hong Kong-based Cable TV over the phone from her home in western Beijing , which was heavily guarded by plainclothes police.

Like Liu,  Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, who helped put Latin American literature on the world stage in the 1960s, was surprised when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature at age 74, although he had longed been tipped to win the award.

“I didn’t even think I was one of the candidates,” the writer told RCN radio from New York .  Vargas Llosa is the first South American winner of the prestigious prize for literature since it was awarded to Columbian journalist Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1982. In the previous years, the academy rewarded five Europeans and one Turk, sparking criticisms that t was too euro-centric.

Vargas Llosa dazzled readers with a string of international bestsellers, but was unsuccessful when he ran for president of Peru in 1990 when he was still a political columnist.

His international breakthrough came with the 1960 novel, The Time of the Hero, which builds on his experience s from the Peruvian military academy Leoncio Prado. The book was considered controversial in his homeland and a thousand copies were burned publicly by offices from the academy. Since then he had written more than 30 novels, plays and essays, including The Conversation and The Green House.

The Nobel awards, which were established by Swedish Industrialist Alfred Nobel and are always handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of his death in 1986. Joel Paredes


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