Over at the Atlantic, Nick Frisch discusses the outrage that ensued when Mo Yan, “Communist Party member, People’s Liberation Army veteran, Vice-Chairman of the state-run China Writers’ Association” won the Nobel Prize for Literature last October.
The paper quoted Gao Xingjian, the 2000 literature laureate whose dissident stature and French citizenship made him ineligible for recognition as a “Chinese” winner back home: writers need “‘total independence’ to create […] ‘eternal'” literature. “What is the relation between officials and literature?” Gao asks. “Nothing… They have nothing to do with literature, especially with literature […] Where can officials and literature be connected? Nowhere. … And if they are, then it’s merely official literature, and that’s a really laughable thing. So literature shouldn’t be organized by officials.”
Just don’t tell that to Tang dynasty wordsmiths Li Bai and Du Fu, or the historian Sima Qian, painter-poet-calligraphers Su Dongpo and Ouyang Xiu, 11th-century public-interest crusader Bao Zheng, or prominent 2nd-century BC anti-corruption activist Qu Yuan. And definitely don’t tell noted itinerant philosopher Confucius.