Literary prizes, wrote Kingsley Amis, are “all right if you win them.” China’s political establishment takes a far less relaxed view of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Since the country reintegrated into the global community after the death of Mao, its government has long craved a literary Nobel for a Chinese citizen living, working and thriving in China as proof that the People’s Republic has arrived as a modern world power. China’s longstanding Nobel envy has turned the prize into a symbol of collective achievement, rather than of individual creativity.
In theory, the awarding on Thursday of the prize to Mo Yan — Communist Party member and vice chairman of the government’s official Writers’ Association — should have put an end to China’s Nobel complex. An elated People’s Daily, the national organ of the Communist Party, and Li Changchun, the country’s propaganda supremo, hastened to congratulate Mo. China Central Television’s news broadcast interrupted its regular programming with a special report.