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.


West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

Updated 20 June 2018
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West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

  • The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle.”
  • The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.

LONDON: London theatergoers used to spectating in comfort are in for a rude awakening after the authors of a play swapped the traditional plush velvet seating for wooden benches and covered the floor with soil to simulate the feel of a migrant camp.
The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle,” whose authors hope their play will stoke debate about migration.
“People often hold strong opinions about this subject because it doesn’t seem to have any immediate answer,” said Joe Murphy, 27, who co-wrote the play.
“Discussion is the only think that is going to get us forward ... and hopefully this play can provide some of that space for debate,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Co-author Joe Robertson said the pair had “tried to depict both the terrible conditions that existed in the Jungle camp, but also the hope that existed in that place.”
Up to 10,000 people seeking ways to reach Britain used to live in the giant slum before it was cleared by authorities in late 2016.
Immigration remains a major political issue across Europe, as well as in the United States, where the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border has caused an international outcry.
Several European leaders including those of France, Germany, Italy and Austria are to hold talks on Sunday to explore how to stop people from moving around the European Union after claiming asylum in one of the Mediterranean states of arrival.
Murphy and Robertson, 28, based the script on their experience as volunteers in Calais, where they ran a temporary theater within the camp.
The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.
“There were 25 different nationalities of people all forced to live side by side often on top of each other and the phenomenal story about that place was people did make an effort to come together,” said Robertson.
Theatre-goers are invited to seat at the tables of the camp’s makeshift Afghan café, where the action unfolds.
“The closer you are to the audience the better the message is delivered,” said actor Ammar Hajj Ahmad, who plays one of the leading characters.
Ahmad, from Syria, is one of many actors from a refugee background featured in the play. Several asylum-seekers the authors met in Calais are also part of the cast.
“I am proud of this, I love telling stories ... about the many people who lived in Calais,” said cast-member Mohamed Sarrar, a musician from Sudan who arrived in Britain two years ago.
The play, which premiered at another London theater The Young Vic, last year, runs from July 5 to November.