When one of the best writers in the country flees, is asked not to come back and then wins a Nobel prize in literature while in exile, would it be a bit disingenuous to accuse the Swedish Academy of bias against awarding Nobel prizes to mainland Chinese? Perhaps not, judging from Sina.com [zh] bloggers—those who have heard of him—in response to Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk's Nobel win this month:
How far [zh], asks Sina.com blogger From Water (从水), is China from getting a Nobel prize?
The 2006 Nobel prizes have already been announced one after another, and among them what caught people's eyes is that this time the Nobel science prizes once again without exception fell into American pockets. When I read this news, I really felt the Americans should be congratulated, but after applauding for other people, there's always a bit of a feeling of loss. After all, the honors went to others. As far as I know, except for six overseas Chinese scientists, through-and-through China-born and raised scientists have still never received this award. For a country with such a long history and population of 1.3 billion, not only is this a pity, but it hurts too.
Zhang Shumei (张蜀梅):
The Nobel prizes are awarded once every year, and there are quite a few categories, like medicine, physics, economics, peace, etc. But, in our eyes, why is the Nobel prize in literature so mysterious, desired by so many people? Because, none of our writers have won it, that's why it's an eternal pain. Most importantly, the only ethnic Chinese to ever win this award was actually an overseas Chinese, and not one of us. Very uncool.
Actually, in my view, the reason our writers place so much importance on this award, why they take it so hard, is because the amount of award money is so high. And yet we can't get it. I remember on October 12, 2000, the Swedish Academy announced that that year's Nobel literature award would be bestowed upon exiled Chinese writer Gao Xingjian
. That day I happened to be in Shanghai on a business trip. At seven pm that night, a newspaper leader phoned me, wanted me to interview a few mainland Chinese writers, have them discuss their views on the first time an ethnic Chinese had won a Nobel literature award. The paper prepared several pages. Then like my life depended on it, I made phone calls to writers in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing
Before the interviews, to tell the truth, I wasn't too clear who Gao Xingjian
was. I did an internet search but there was almost no information about him on the internet [in Chinese]. I quickly called my old history of modern and contemporary literature professor from Fudan University Chen Sihe. He said he'd give me an article, which turned out to be a refresher course in modern and contemporary literature. Aside from that, I called up literary critic Wang Gan
to interview him, and at the time he just happened to be sitting with Li Zehou
, so I got to interview Mr. Li as well. He was actually quite willing to talk. But, I remember that interviewing mainland Chinese writers that day didn't go so smoothly. I made many phone calls and it wasn't that they weren't willing to comment, but they spoke very sourly. And some of them said, ‘who is he? How could I have never heard of him before?’ They said that if we're going to get this award, it should go to Lu Xun
or Shen Congwen
. Or someone still alive, it would be Mo Yan
or Yu Hua
, or so-and-so, so-and-so have the best chances.
I talked and talked, made many phone calls, busted and ended up writing a lot. But, around 11 pm, a newspaper leader phoned back and said the piece wouldn't run, that I should forget about those I hadn't yet interviewed because the higher-ups had sent down a notice: everyone would have to use the Xinhua
version. The next day I went back to Guangzhou
. I saw the piece, on the front page, just 200 words.
I don't think it's that our country lacks writers of that level, it's that we're too closed, and foreigners don't see our works, too few are translated. If people can't even see your book, how can they nominate it? Besides, is it so big a deal if we win this award or not? You write what you can write and should pay no heed to what the critics or some award's judges say. Pay them no attention. What business is it of theirs? If you don't worry about the fame, the benefits, the American dollars, would that still be so bad?
Truth Only Valuable When Sought (求真才可贵):
The whole of this year's Nobel prizes in the natural sciences and economics have been taken by the foundation research-focused Uncle Sam. I believe that this is connected to their precise and diligent work as well as their good research environment. And the prize for literature was taken by a Turkish writer (I saw it on QQ
, but I still haven't seen the news on Google and Baidu
). China's native scientists still have no way to get their hands on these awards; they haven't even been nominated. I've always wondered why such a big country with such an massive number of researchers still has no way get close to a Nobel prize, which represents the highest honors in both the scientific and cultural worlds.
Each time we fail to get one of the prizes, I see some extremely strange opinions. Some, for example, say the Nobel judging committee discriminates against Chinese, that there's something fishy with the selections of the Nobel prize awards. Some even say that since China's development has seen huge results but hasn't won a Nobel prize, someone must be manipulating the Nobel prizes and that everyone should protest the Nobel prize selections. And recently the news says that some Swedish MP has nominated the ‘East Turkistan terrorists
‘ for a Nobel prize, giving these viewpoints direct proof.
Jin Wei (靳玮):
“Every October, China's writers will be in pain.” Such a well-worded phrase unfortunately didn't come from me, the patent is Zhu Li's. October never used to be anything special, but it's the month in which the Nobel prizes are handed out. Us Chinese's writers once again find themselves among those shamed, so naturally they are especially sensitive to this event. Actually, placing the blame for Chinese's not being awarded with a Nobel prize on Chinese's ability and wisdom is an obvious loss of justice. There are over a billion Chinese and writers number in the thousands. To find a writer among them who can get a Nobel prize shouldn't be a problem. Chinese history is so long, its culture so deep and rich, and we're all products of our environment here, so fostering and raising a Nobel prize winner here in China is also not a problem. As proof of that, the 2000 Nobel prize for literature went to Gao Xingjian, an exiled Chinese writer. He was raised on Chinese breastmilk, there is Chinese blood coursing through his veins; his award was also a victory for Chinese language literature. There's also Bei Dao
, nominated for a Nobel prize several years in a row. Their existence already proves well Chinese's intelligence. So why do Chinese writers still so take winning a Nobel prize to heart? The year that Gao Xingjian won his award, there was a new report that seems to have found where Chinese writers’ heartache lies. Here's the report:
Local time (2000) October 12, 13.00 (Beijing Time Oct. 12th, 19.00), the Royal Swedish Academy annouced that the year's Nobel prize for literature will be awarded to exiled Chinese writer Gao Xingjian. The Royal Swedish Academy decided thus “for an œuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama.” Yet, this world-travelling writer, is also a stranger to readers of modern Chinese language literature. When news of his award made the rounds of the internet, netizens asked: who in the world is he?
So who in the world is Gao Xingjian? This pioneer in Chinese experimental theater, with his plays performed around the world, won a large literature award from the French government and resides in France at present.
The first to fulfill one hundred years of Chinese writers’ dreams of Nobel prizes, yet his ID says he's French; we're familiar with his earlier plays, but those were experiments in Western modernism. Later he went on to write a book about his past in China, which few of his [Chinese] countrymen read……
Gao Xingjian once wrote a play called The Other Shore
. This name seems like a metaphor for his winning of an award today…
The point I'm trying to make is in Gao Xingjian's citizenship. And no wonder; a country full of convervatives wouldn't simply cast Gao Xingjian's award as something one of their own won. After all, “everyone's already French!” Similarly, Bei Dao has also been settled in Switzerland for many years. His nominations also don't count as pride for Chinese. That's why our relentless countrymen are furious. Why can't the Nobel prize be awarded to a Chinese? There's no justice! Why do Chinese only get awards, get nominations, when they go abroad? Even physicists are this way. It's too unfair. Do you Swedes look down on such a great race as us Chinese? What's wrong with a vast country like this? We have over five thousand years of history, vast territory with plentiful resources, a land full of outstanding spirits. Why do we receive this treatment at home, but as soon as we leave the country we're raised up like gods? If you say political factors, that's also prejudice. China's been opening up and reforming for over twenty years; China's been an important trade partner with western countries for a long time now. And cultural blending increases by the day. Our achievements in translations and Chinese studies scholars efficiency in dealing with others has been increasing every year. So why is it that China's literature has never been able to enter the field of vision of mainstream western cultural circles? This is the most basic question. Gao Xingjian and Bei Dao's growing acceptance by foreigners has nothing to do with their foreign citizenship. If it were that simple, then most Chinese writers would off be taking the TOEFL
Conservative countries will always have no way entering a larger circle. Opening up is not only in economics; the most important is the opening up of the system, of the whole country's thinking and consciousness. I think that when the day comes that China is fully, truly open, Chinese will no longer need to doubt the intelligence of Chinese writers, and Chinese writers will no longer fret over questions like citizenship, will stay open and worldly forever.
Chen Xiaoming (陈晓明):
The Nobel awards have actually never depended on the voices of Chinese critics; the most important role still lies with Chinese studies scholars as well as the internation book market's translations of Chinese literature. Many have been seen in recent years; first it was Bei Dao, then it changed to Li Rui
and now recently, Yang Lian
. If Yang Lian wins a Nobel, then a lot of Chinese poets will get angry
; at least two people will get pissed off, so let's not talk about that. According to Kenzaburo Oe
, Mo Yan should have received a Nobel literature prize long ago.
Actually, as I see it, the only writer on par with Mo Yan is Jia Pingwa
. Jia Pingwa is a master writer, with distinctly vivid Chinese characteristics, a match to Mo Yan. If you want to talk about representative local or Chinese characteristics, Jia is second to none. But Jia Pingwa's reputation abroad is not as big as Mo Yan's. Jia Pingwa's novels have extremely good details and plot treatment, both subtle and brilliant. Jia Pingwa's novels appear normal, refined and charming, but if you translate them into English, all flavor might be gone. Jia's stories turned into foreignese would seem pretty dull. If they lose the support from the language, the stories told in Jia's novels might just not captivate foreigners. On top of that, the structure to Jia's novels come off as quite finicky, exceedingly infatuated with China's ancient literary culture and obsessed with aesthetics. Sometimes to the point of cheating others, but also self-misleading. Jia should have a more unique and deeper style, and there needs to be more conflict in his novels.