Friday, October 8, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa wins Nobel literature prize

NEW YORKMario Vargas Llosa, the newest winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, has never found much honor in boundaries.

"Literature shouldn't be secluded, provincial or regional," the Peruvian author said in New York after Thursday's announcement in Sweden. "It should be universal, even if it has deep roots in one place."

The 74-year-old author and political activist, a charter member of the Latin American literary boom of the 1960s, has for decades been regarded as one of the world's greatest and most adventurous writers, an unpredictable and provocative mixer of literature and social consciousness in both his work and his life.

Artists are born dissenters — often, but not always, of the left. Like such recent Nobelists as Herta Mueller and Doris Lessing, Vargas Llosa is a dissenter from communism, a former party member who ran for president of Peru in 1990 as an advocate of privatization and remains a critic of leftist leaders such as Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

The author of more than 30 novels, plays and works of nonfiction, he is known for his expansive language, his alertness to the profound and the profane, and his fierce and dark disdain for tyranny. His books are not without magical touches, but he is more grounded, more a "realist" than fellow Nobel laureate and South American Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

"Vargas Llosa's style is a kind of baroque style — long sentences, complicated sentences. The writer in English closest to his style is William Faulkner, who influenced so many of the Latin American writers," says Edith Grossman, the English-language translator for novels by Vargas Llosa and Garcia Marquez.

"He has a great range of styles and a great range of subjects, from comedies of manners to really profound political analysis. He is thought of as very political, but 'The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto' ('Los Cuadernos de Don Rigoberto') is immensely funny and I don't think there's a political word in it."

In 1995, Vargas Llosa won the Cervantes Prize, the most distinguished literary honor in Spanish. He is the first South American winner of the $1.5 million Nobel Prize in literature since Colombia's Garcia Marquez in 1982, and the first Spanish-language writer to win since Mexico's Octavio Paz in 1990.

His best-known works include "Conversation in the Cathedral" and "The Green House."

Vargas Llosa's work covers personal and historical territory, especially political violence and oppression. "The War of the End of the World" dramatizes "The War of Canudos," the 19th-century standoff between the Brazilian military and rebellious settlers. He satirized the Peruvian armed forces in "Captain Pantoja and the Special Service" and took on Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in "Feast of the Goat."

The Swedish Academy said it honored Vargas Llosa for mapping the "structures of power" and for his "trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat." Its permanent secretary, Peter Englund, called him "a divinely gifted storyteller."

"His books are often very complex in composition, having different perspectives, different voices and different time places," Englund said. "He is also doing it in a new way. He has helped evolve the art of the narration."

Vargas Llosa's work has been translated into more than 30 languages. Unlike the works of the vast majority of foreign-language writers, his books are widely available in English.

The publisher Picador announced that new printings are planned for 10 of his books. A new novel, "El Sueno del Celta" ("The Celt's Dream"), comes out in Spanish next month and is scheduled for an English-language release in 2012.

Filmgoers may know his name through "Tune in Tomorrow," an English-language adaptation of Vargas Llosa's "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter" that starred Peter Falk, Keanu Reeves and Barbara Hershey.

His writing is celebrated throughout Latin America, but his shift right estranged him from much of the hemisphere's intellectual elite. He reportedly has not spoken in decades with Garcia Marquez, a former friend who remains close to Castro. He irritated his centrist friend Octavio Paz, the late Mexican Nobel literature laureate, by playfully referring to Mexico's political system — dominated at the time by a single party — as "the perfect dictatorship."

Vargas Llosa, still politically combative, recently helped win support for building a museum to the memory of the nearly 70,000 people killed in Peru's 1980-2000 war with Shining Path insurgents. When President Alan Garcia's government, presented with a $2.2 million donation from Germany, resisted the idea, Vargas Llosa lashed out, accusing the government of "a deep-rooted intolerance and lack of culture."

A frequent traveler who often lives abroad, Vargas Llosa has lectured and taught at universities in the U.S., South America and Europe, and is spending this semester at Princeton University.

He debuted as an author in 1959 with the story collection "Los Jefes" ("The Cubs and Other Stories") and four years later rose to leadership of the "boom," or "new wave," of Latin American writers with his groundbreaking novel, "The Time of the Hero" ("La Ciudad de los Perros"), which builds on his experiences at the Peruvian military academy Leoncio Prado.

A thousand copies of the novel were later burned by military authorities, with some generals calling the book false and Vargas Llosa a communist.

At 15, he was a night-owl crime reporter. While still in his teens, he joined a communist cell and eloped with 33-year-old Julia Urquidi, the Bolivian sister-in-law of his uncle. Their nine-year marriage helped inspire the comic best seller "Aunt Julia and the Script Writer" ("La Tia Julia y el Escribidor").

After they divorced, Vargas Llosa in 1965 married his first cousin, Patricia Llosa, 10 years his junior, and together they had three children.

In the 1970s, he denounced Castro's Cuba and slowly warmed to free-market capitalism, although he does not consider himself a conservative.

In 1990, he ran for the presidency in Peru but lost to Alberto Fujimori. Disheartened by the broad public approval for Fujimori's harsh rule, Vargas Llosa took Spanish citizenship, living in Madrid and London. He maintained a penthouse apartment in the Peruvian capital of Lima overlooking its Pacific coast, but tended to keep a low profile during visits home long after Fujimori fled to Japan in 2000, toppled by vast corruption in his government — a twist worthy of a Vargas Llosa novel.

"I have never cut my relationship with my country. I have always been spending a few months a year in Peru. I go there every year and I follow very closely what happens in Peru," the author said Thursday. "But I feel myself a citizen of the world. And this, I think, has enriched very much my vision of the world, and also my idea of what literature should be."

Associated Press writers Karl Ritter, Malin Rising and Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm; Daniel Woolls in Madrid; Carla Salazar in Lima, Peru; Frank Bajak in Bogota, Colombia; and Verena Dobnik and Ana Elena Azpurua in New York contributed to this report.

Dissident wins Nobel Peace Prize, enraging China

Liu Xiaobo AP – ** ALTERNATE CROP OF XAW801 ** In this photo taken in November, 2007 and released by Liu Xiaobo's friend …
BEIJING – Imprisoned Chinese democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo on Friday won the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that drew furious condemnation from the authoritarian government and calls from world leaders including President Barack Obama for Liu's quick release.
Chinese state media blacked out the news and Chinese government censors blocked Nobel Prize reports, which highlighted Liu's calls for peaceful political change, from Internet websites. China declared the decision would harm its relations with Norway and promptly summoned Oslo's ambassador to Beijing to make a formal protest.
In Oslo, China's ambassador to Norway met with a state secretary at Norway's Foreign Ministry, ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild Imerslund said.
The Norwegian officials explained that the peace prize committee is independent of the government and that Norway wants to maintain good relations with China, Imerslund said.
This year's peace prize followed a long tradition of honoring dissidents around the world and was the first Nobel for China's dissident community since it resurfaced after the Communists launched economic but not political reforms three decades ago.
Liu, 54, was sentenced last year to 11 years in prison for subversion. The Nobel committee said he was the first to be honored while still in prison, although other Nobel winners have been under house arrest, or imprisoned before the prize.
Other dissidents to win the peace prize include German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in 1935, Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov in 1975, Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa in 1983 and Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991.
The Nobel committee praised Liu's pacifist approach, ignoring threats by Chinese diplomats even before the announcement that such a decision would result in strained ties with Norway. Liu has been an ardent advocate of peaceful, gradual political change.
The Nobel committee cited Liu's participation in the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989 and the Charter 08 document he recently co-authored, which called for greater freedom in China and an end to the Communist Party's political dominance.
Obama said in a statement that Liu "has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs" and is "an eloquent and courageous spokesman for the advance of universal values through peaceful and nonviolent means."
"We call on the Chinese government to release Mr. Liu as soon as possible," Obama said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the award, calling Liu "a brave man." Her spokesman Steffen Seibert said Merkel hoped Liu would be released from prison to accept the peace prize in person.
Chinese authorities would not allow access to Liu on Friday, and it was not clear if he had been told about the award.
His wife, however, expressed joy at the news. Surrounded by police at their Beijing apartment, Liu Xia was not allowed out to meet reporters.
But she issued a statement through Freedom Now, a Washington-based rights group, saying she was grateful to the Nobel committee.
"It is a true honor for him and one for which I know he would say he is not worthy," she said, thanking former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel and two former Nobel Peace Prize winners — Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and South African Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu — for nominating her husband.
"I hope that the international community will take this opportunity to call on the Chinese government to press for my husband's release," she said.
Liu Xia planned to go Saturday to deliver the news to Liu at his prison, 300 miles (500 kilometers) from Beijing.
China's Foreign Ministry quickly criticized the Nobel decision, saying the award should been used instead to promote international friendship and disarmament.
"Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law," spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement. Honoring him "runs completely counter to the principle of the prize and also desecrates the peace prize."
The ministry said the decision would damage relations between China and Norway.
Ma's statement was later read on the state television channel intended for broadcast overseas.
In China, broadcasts of the announcement by CNN were blacked out. Popular Internet sites removed coverage of the Nobel prizes, placed prominently in recent days for the science awards. Messages about "Xiaobo" to Sina Microblog, a Twitter-like service run by Internet portal, were quickly deleted. Attempts to send mobile text messages with the Chinese characters for Liu Xiaobo failed.
The Nobel committee said China, as a growing economic and political power, needed to take more responsibility for protecting the rights of its citizens.
"China has become a big power in economic terms as well as political terms, and it is normal that big powers should be under criticism," prize committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said, calling Liu Xiaobo (LEE-o SHAo-boh) a symbol for the fight for human rights in China.
More than a dozen friends and supporters of Liu gathered near the entrance to Ditan Park in central Beijing, holding up placards congratulating him. They shouted "Long Live Freedom of Speech, Long Live Democracy" and wore yellow ribbons on their clothes to signify, they said, their wish that he be freed.
The small group of demonstrators was later taken away by police. Liu is almost unknown in China except among political activists.
Ru Shengtao, 38, a migrant worker with several large bags of cement strapped on his motorbike, stopped to see what the group was shouting about. He said he'd never heard of Liu and didn't believe anyone jailed for a crime in China should be receiving an international award for peace.
"If the person who won got it because he opposed the government, then I don't think it's good," he said. "People who defy the Chinese government should not get this prize and if they do, it's because people overseas are trying to split China."
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told national broadcaster NRK he saw no grounds for China to punish Norway as a country for the award.
"I think that would be negative for China's reputation in the world, if they chose to do that," Gahr Stoere said.
Several previous peace laureates have been unable to accept the prize in person because of restrictions imposed by their governments, including Sakharov and Walesa.
Suu Kyi, who was awarded the 1991 prize and has been detained 15 of the past 21 years, is due to be released from house arrest Nov. 13, a week after Myanmar's first elections in two decades. Suu Kyi's political party won the last elections in 1990 but the ruling junta never allowed it to take power.
President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, which this year carries a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor (about $1.5 million).
The Charter 08 document that Liu co-authored was an intentional echo of Charter 77, the famous call for human rights in then-Czechoslovakia that led to the 1989 Velvet Revolution that swept away Communist rule.
"The democratization of Chinese politics can be put off no longer," Charter 08 says.
Havel, who helped draft Charter 77, said "Liu Xiaobo is exactly the kind of a committed citizen who deserves such an award and that is the reason why I, together with my friends, nominated him."
In an e-mailed statement, Havel praised the Nobel committee "for not bowing to Chinese threats."
Thousands of Chinese signed Charter 08, and the Communist Party took the document as a direct challenge.
Police arrested Liu hours before Charter 08 was due to be released in December 2008. Given a brief trial last Christmas Day, Liu was convicted of subversion for writing Charter 08 and other political tracts and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
"Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China," the award citation said.
In a year with a record 237 nominations for the peace prize, Liu had been considered a favorite, with open support from Tutu, the Dalai Lama and others.
When the Tibet-born Dalai Lama won the peace prize in 1989, both the Chinese government and some of the public were angry — the exiled Buddhist leader was endlessly vilified in official propaganda as a traitor for his calls for more autonomy for Tibet.
The Dalai Lama on Friday issued his congratulations to Liu.
"I would like to take this opportunity to renew my call to the government of China to release Liu Xiaobo and other prisoners of conscience who have been imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression" the spiritual leader said.
The son of a soldier, Liu joined China's first wave of university students in the mid-1970s after the chaotic decade of the Cultural Revolution.
Liu's writing first took a political turn in 1988, when he became a visiting scholar in Oslo — his first time outside China.
Liu cut short a visiting scholar stint at Columbia University months later to join the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989. He and three other older activists famously persuaded students to peacefully leave the square hours before the deadly June 4 crackdown.
Liu went to prison after the crackdown and was released in early 1991 because he had repented and "performed major meritorious services," state media said at the time, without elaborating.
Still, five years later Liu was sent to a re-education camp for three years for co-writing an open letter that demanded the impeachment of then-President Jiang Zemin.
The 2010 Nobel announcements started Monday with the medicine award going to British professor Robert Edwards for fertility research that led to the first test tube baby.
Russian-born scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the physics prize for groundbreaking experiments with graphene, the strongest and thinnest material known to mankind.
Japanese researchers Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki and American Richard Heck shared the chemistry award for designing techniques to bind together carbon atoms.
The literature prize went to Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. The last of the 2010 awards — the economics prize — will be announced Monday.
Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the awards in his 1895 will. He left only vague instructions, dedicating the peace prize to people who have worked for "fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
Ritter reported from Oslo, Norway. Associated Press writers Bjoern H. Amland in Oslo and Cara Anna and Alexa Olesen in Beijing contributed to this report.

Obama: Jones departing as security adviser

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is announcing the resignation of retired Gen. James Jones as his national security adviser, the second high-level staff change at the White House in as many weeks.
Obama says deputy national security adviser Tom Donilon will take over.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said he has relied every day on Jones' advice and counsel.
Last Friday, also in the Rose Garden, Obama announced the departure of his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — National security adviser Gen. James Jones is stepping down, two senior administration officials said Friday, amid a series of key White House personnel changes as President Barack Obama approaches the midpoint of his term.
Obama will announce in a Rose Garden ceremony later Friday that Jones will be replaced by his top deputy, Tom Donilon. Jones' resignation will take effect in two weeks.
The move, though expected, is the latest high-profile departure among Obama's leadership team. Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel left just last week, and the president is expected to see more change at the top as Obama's tenure nears the two-year mark and the grinding pace of the White House takes a toll.
Jones, who retired from active duty in February 2007 after more than 40 years of uniformed service, had planned all along to leave the national security adviser's post within two years, said one official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the president had not yet announced the decisions.
Donilon's promotion has a significant spillover effect on the rest of the White House. He had emerged as a top candidate to replace Emanuel as the permanent chief of staff. Now that job appears even more likely to go to Pete Rouse, the newly installed interim chief of staff and a longtime adviser to Obama.
Donilon has played a leading role in the policymaking process that tees up the national security decisions for the president. He has overseen the coordination among deputy chiefs from across the security apparatus and is known for bringing an understanding of domestic policy and politics to the job.
Meanwhile, Jones, who is 66, has largely kept a low public profile and is not known for keeping the intense schedule that Donilon has.
White House aides say Jones put his stamp on Obama's major foreign policy decisions over the last 20 months, including a larger troop presence in Afghanistan, a winding down of the war in Iraq and a retooled relationship with Russia.
Jones retained clout and contacts across the military after a career as a highly-decorated Marine. He retired as a four-star general, the highest grade currently in use. Jones' military career also gave him good access to foreign leaders, military chiefs and U.S. lawmakers.
His role was sometimes described in business terms, as the closer. In essence, others might do a lot of legwork to get something the United States wanted, but Jones could pick up a telephone, call the right person, and bring the deal home.
Jones served as the 32nd Marine Corps Commandant from July 1999 to January 2003. After leaving the post, he became the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and Commander of the United States European Command, holding the positions until December 2006. Besides his combat experience in Vietnam, Jones served tours of duty during Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq and Turkey as well as during operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia.
Administration officials said they expect him to go into a semi-retirement in which he will likely serve on boards and offer counsel to the White House.
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Anne Gearan contributed to this story.