Mo Yan wins Nobel Prize

Chinese author Mo Yan wins Nobel literature prize

Chinese writer Mo Yan has been named the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. The Swedish Academy, which selects the winners of the prestigious award, on Thursday praised Mo’s hallucinatory realism, saying it “merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.”

Among the works highlighted by the Nobel judges were “Red Sorghum, (1993), “The Garlic Ballads” (1995), “Big Breasts & Wide Hips (2004).

Peter Englund, the Academy secretary, said: “He’s written 11 novels and let’s say a hundred short stories. If you want to start off to get a sense of how he is writing and also get a sense of the moral core in what he is writing I would recommend ‘The Garlic Ballads.’”

AP gave this background information:

Born Guan Moye in 1955 to a farming family in eastern Shandong province, Mo chose his penname while writing his first novel. Garrulous by nature, Mo has said the name, meaning “don’t speak,” was intended to remind him to hold his tongue lest he get himself into trouble and to mask his identity since he began writing while serving in the army.

His breakthrough came with novel ‘Red Sorghum’ published in 1987. Set in a small village, like much of his fiction, ‘Red Sorghum’ is an earthy tale of love and peasant struggles set against the backdrop of the anti-Japanese war. It was turned into a film that won the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1988, marked the directing debut of Zhang Yimou and boosted Mo’s popularity.

Mo writes of visceral pleasures and existential quandaries and tends to create vivid, mouthy characters. While his early work stuck to a straight-forward narrative structure enlivened by vivid descriptions and raunchy humor, Mo has become more experimental, toying with different narrators and embracing a free-wheeling style often described as ‘Chinese magical realism.’

“His writing appeals to all your senses,” Englund said.

I thought it was interesting that Mo Yan, who was listed as a distant outside chance for the award, won the prize. The Swedish Academy has been criticized for ignoring most of the world and concentrating on European authors and might have been shifted to the Chinese author for political reasons. It wouldn’t surprise me and I’m not sure it is so nefarious:  after all, most of the judges probably have the European authors constantly visible in their daily lives, on television, in bookstores, wherever; but taking a good look at a Chinese author might have required the gentle nudge of global politics.

Even I went back to my original post on The Nobel Prize in Literature to see Mo Yan’s name.

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