Chinese exiled dissident wins Nobel Prize

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The Independent Online

A dissident Chinese writer who fled his country after one of his works was banned has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Gao Xingjian, 60, took the £621,000 award for his "bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity" and "opening new paths" for Chinese literature.

A dissident Chinese writer who fled his country after one of his works was banned has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Gao Xingjian, 60, took the £621,000 award for his "bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity" and "opening new paths" for Chinese literature.

"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 sceptic who makes no claim to be able to explain the world. He says he has found freedom only in writing."

Gao, who left eastern China in 1987 and settled in Paris as a political refugee, was the first Chinese writer to receive the literature prize. None of his plays has been performed in China since 1986, when his work The Other Shore was banned. One of his best-known is Soul Mountain, a search for roots, inner peace and liberty in an odyssey in time and space.

The Swedish Academy refused to be drawn on the political ramifications of awarding the world's most prestigious literary prize to someone persona non grata in his homeland. "We have no geographical or political concerns," Horace Engdahl, the academy's permanent secretary, said. "It is only the quality of the writing that counts. Soul Mountain is one of the most remarkable creations of modern literature, not only Chinese.

"He is a great writer of novel and drama and a renewer of both genres in the Chinese context, a writer who has a universal knowledge to offer readers all over the world."

Gao, now a French citizen, grew up in the aftermath of the Japanese invasion of China. He took a degree in French and in China's Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 he was sent to a re-education camp and burnt a suitcase of manuscripts.

Many of his plays, produced in Peking, were popular but condemned by the Communist Party. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre he left the party. The regime declared him persona non grata and his works were banned after he wrote Fugitives, set against the massacre.

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