Thursday, October 7, 2010


First off, there is the Nobel Prize for Literature. It must have been Latin America's turn as Mario Vargas Llosa won it. Although the Washington Post is a bit sniffy about the man, he is, in fact, extremely well known. Whether either he or the impeccably left-wing Gabriel Garcia Marquez are widely read remains questionable but that is not quite why literature prizes are awarded. (Come to think of it, nobody quite knows why they are awarded.)

The surprising thing about Vargas Llosa is that he is well known to be a liberal (in the real sense of the word) in politics and economics. In other words, he is the precise opposite of the sort of person who usually gets the non-scientific prizes though there have been break-throughs here and there.

As the BBC reports
The Swedish Academy hailed "his cartography of structures of power" and "trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat."
Looks like none of them have read his novels either. I did try once but got nowhere but then I did not like Marquez either. There is, I note, very little mention of Mr Vargas Llosa's political stance.

Reason Magazine is far more informative:
The author of over 30 books - and very nearly the president of Peru - Vargas Llosa is one of the preeminent public intellectuals of the post-war era and one of the great libertarian heroes of the age at least since his highly public criticism of the Castro regime starting in the early 1970s. An outspoken critic of authoritarian regimes on the right and the left, who else but Vargas Llosa would have called for the legalization of drugs while addressing the American Enterprise Institute's annual dinner a few years back? He has been a consistent voice against repression wherever he finds it and an eloquent champion of freedom in all its manifestations. His insistence that all aspects of liberty - political, economic, and cultural - are inextricably linked is as powerful as it is rare among writers of his stature.
Certainly not Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose views on Castro's Cuba are very different from those of Mario Vargas Llosa.

Meanwhile, a scandal is brewing about one of the scientific Nobel Prizes. The Physics Prize was awarded to two Russian-born scientists, now at the University of Manchester, Andre Geim, who has also won the IgNobel Prize in the past and Konstantin Novoselov. Incidentally, it ought to be pointed out that if the Cleggeron Coalition's plans to cap the only kind of immigration they can deal with, people like Novoselov will not be allowed into this country. Geim seems to be a Dutch national now. (Others have noticed this strange anomaly as well.)

However, there is a most absurd scandal brewing as another Russian scientist who is in Moscow has announced that the wrong people got the prize. He, Victor Petrik, should have been awarded and not these johnny-come-latelies. This could be fun.

Enough of all this. The really interesting prize was awarded yesterday in London at the Frontline Club. The Anna Politkovskaya prize, created in honour of the fearless Russian journalist, murdered four years ago, whose friend Natalya Estemirova, also a recipient, was subsequently murdered, was awarded to Halima Bashir, a Sudanese doctor who had written about atrocities committed in Darfur by the Sudanese militias in her book Tears of the Desert.

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