President Obama’s 18-minute Inaugural Address on Tuesday was generally lauded by Americans for its candor and conviction. But the Chinese Communist Party apparently thought the new American president’s gilded words were a little too direct.That same day, Edward Albee, Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, and many other writers from around the world signed a letter calling for the release of Liu Xiaobo, a "prominent dissident writer, former President and current Board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, who has been detained since December 8, 2008 for signing Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reforms and human rights. Liu Xiaobo is being held under Residential Surveillance, a form of pre-trial detention, at an undisclosed location in Beijing, and no charges against him have been made known."
China Central Television, or CCTV, the main state-run network, broadcast the address live until the moment Mr. Obama mentioned “communism” in a line about the defeat of ideologies considered anathema to Americans. After the translator said “communism” in Chinese, the audio faded out even as Mr. Obama’s lips continued to move.
Meanwhile, Amitava Kumar shares a less serious letter (pictured right; click image to enlarge), this one written by a very young Fidel Castro to FDR: "President of the United States, If you like, give me a ten dollar bill green American..." Also see the latest issue of Politics and Culture, made up of letters to Obama from academics, and Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids' Letters to President Obama, published by McSweeney's and 826 National (excerpts here).
And lastly, many thanks to the National Book Critics Circle, which has awarded PEN American Center the Ivan Sandrof Life Achievement Award. (They also just announced the finalists for the 2008 NBCC Awards, a group that includes recent PEN America contributors Aleksandar Hemon and Marilynne Robinson.)