Fellow laureate excoriates Nobel literature winner

Updated 26 November 2012
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Fellow laureate excoriates Nobel literature winner

A past winner of the Nobel Prize in literature has called this year’s choice for the award, China’s Mo Yan, a “catastrophe” and accused him of “celebrating censorship,” a Swedish newspaper said Saturday.
Herta Mueller, who won the prize in 2009, told the daily Dagens Nyheter that she wanted to cry when she heard Mo Yan had been given the prestigious award.
“The Chinese themselves say that Mo Yan is an official of the same rung as a (government) minister,” the Romanian-born writer said.
“He celebrates censorship. It’s extremely upsetting.”
She noted that the laureate had copied by hand a speech by late Communist ruler Mao Zedong for a commemorative book this year. In the speech Mao says art and culture should support the Communist Party.
Mueller, 59, added that handing the prize to the vice-chairman of the government-backed China Writers’ Association, while 2010 peace laureate Liu Xiaobo remains in jail, was “a slap in the face for all those working for democracy and human rights.”
Liu is serving an 11-year prison term for subversion after he called for democratic reforms to China’s one-party system.
The day after his prize was announced, Mo Yan told reporters that he hoped Liu could be released from prison “as soon as possible.”
“He should have said that four years ago, or at least two weeks before receiving the prize,” Mueller said.
Mueller was persecuted by Romania’s Communist-era secret police for refusing to become an informant, and her work was censored at home. She emigrated to Germany in 1987.
Her novels, notably “The Appointment” and “The Land of Green Plums,” describe the terror and humiliation she said she suffered under Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime.


What We Are Reading Today: American Default by Sebastian Edwards

Updated 24 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: American Default by Sebastian Edwards

  • In 1933, when in a bid to pull the US out of depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt depreciated the US dollar in relation to gold, effectively annulling all debt contracts
  • Revaluing the dollar imposed a hefty loss on investors and savers, many of them middle-class American families

JEDDAH: The American economy is strong in large part because nobody believes that America would ever default on its debt. Yet in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt did just that, when in a bid to pull the country out of depression, he depreciated the US dollar in relation to gold, effectively annulling all debt contracts. American Default is the story of this forgotten chapter in America’s history.

Sebastian Edwards provides a compelling account of the economic and legal drama that embroiled a nation already reeling from global financial collapse.

It began on April 5, 1933, when FDR ordered Americans to sell all their gold holdings to the government. This was followed by the abandonment of the gold standard, the unilateral and retroactive rewriting of contracts, and the devaluation of the dollar.

Anyone who held public and private debt suddenly saw its value reduced by nearly half, and debtors — including the US government — suddenly owed their creditors far less.

Revaluing the dollar imposed a hefty loss on investors and savers, many of them middle-class American families. The banks fought back, and a bitter battle for gold ensued. In early 1935, the case went to the Supreme Court. 

Edwards describes FDR’s rancorous clashes with conservative Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, a confrontation that threatened to finish the New Deal for good— and that led to FDR’s attempt to pack the court in 1937.

At a time when several major economies never approached the brink of default or devaluing or recalling currencies, American Default is a timely account of a little-known yet drastic experiment with these policies, the inevitable backlash, and the ultimate result.