Chinese Novelist Wins Literature Nobel

Dissident Chinese writer Gao Xingjian, who fled his native country after a play was banned, won the Nobel Prize in literature today for writings about the struggle of the individual that have opened new paths for Chinese literature.

The Swedish Academy cited Gao, 60, for his “bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity.”

Gao, who left his home in eastern China in 1987 and settled in Paris the following year as a political refugee, was the first Chinese writer to receive the prestigious literature prize.

‘Literature Is Born Anew’

“In the writing of Gao Xingjian literature is born anew from the struggle of the individual to survive the history of the masses,” the academy said in its citation. “He is a perspicacious skeptic who makes no claim to be able to explain the world. He asserts that he has found freedom only in writing.”

None of his plays have been performed in China since 1986, when his work The Other Shore was banned. He left China in 1987 and settled in Paris the following year as a political refugee.

The prize this year is worth 9 million kronor (US$915,000).

Guenter Grass won last year’s prize as one of the most prominent authors to emerge from a group of young intellectuals who set out to revive German literature after the Nazi era.

The literature award — usually the first — was the fifth and last Nobel prize unveiled in Stockholm this week. The Nobel Peace Prize winner will be named Friday in Oslo, Norway.

Week of Nobel Winners

Two Americans won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics on Wednesday for developing theories on how people work and live, contributing greatly to employment training programs and transportation and communication systems.

James J. Heckman, 56, of the University of Chicago, and Daniel L. McFadden, 63, of the University of California at Berkeley, were cited for methods of analyzing statistics that have had wide-ranging practical applications, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The physics prize was shared by American Jack Kilby, 76, who invented the integrated circuit at Texas Instruments in 1958, Herbert Kroemer, 72, of the University of California-Santa Barbara, and Zhores Alferov, 70, of the A.F. Ioffe Physico-Technico Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia.

This year’s chemistry prize went to Alan Heeger, 64, of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Alan MacDiarmid, 73, of the University of Pennsylvania and Hideki Shirakawa, 64, of the University of Tsukuba in Japan, for their discovery that plastic could be modified to conduct electricity.

The medicine prize recognized Arvid Carlsson, 77, a professor emiritus of the University of Goteborg in Sweden, Paul Greengard, 74, of Rockefeller University in New York, and Eric Kandel, 70, an Austrian-born U.S. citizen with Columbia University in New York, for discoveries about how messages are transmitted between brain cells, leading to treatments of Parkinson’s disease and depression.

The Nobel Prizes are funded by a trust set up in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. Nobel said the literature prize should recognize an author whose work moves in an “ideal direction” without specifying exactly what he meant.

Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf will present the prizes as always on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.

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