Mo Yan: how the world has reacted to the honour

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2012, 1:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 October, 2012, 8:47pm

Who is Mo Yan?

rebel and a comformist with something of a Dickens feel, and to summarise Party and state-controlled media's sudden shift from emnity to love for the Nobel Prize in Literature, viewed from the right angle, he's also the first Chinese citizen ever to win a Nobel distinction.

He's the author of works with titles like Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, Frogs, Big Breasts and Wide Hips, and Sandalwood Death which comes out in English next year but can be sampled right now courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

He's also "possibly the most translated living Chinese author," according to Michel Hockx, a Chinese professor in the School of Oriental and African Studies with the University of London.

Howard Goldblatt is Mo's main translator into English, and shares his insight into the author here and here; John Updike, you might be surprised to know, was also a fan of Mo and explored his work as early as 2005. Mo, who it turns out likes his films - and not just those based on his works - also opened up to Time over lunch in 2010, sharing a bit more colour.

More of Mo is revealed by another of his translators, Eric Abrahamsen, and more still by his peer Julia Lovell, who several years ago even wrote a book on China's quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Why Mo? The honours go to Xinhua:

His more recent work "Frog" more directly criticized China's one-child family policy, which helped control the country's population explosion but also brought tragedies to rural residents in the past 60 years.

"I think the reason why I could win the prize is because my works present lives with unique Chinese characteristics, and they also tell stories from a viewpoint of common human beings, which transcends differences of nations and races," Mo said on Thursday evening to Chinese journalists.

Mo also said many folk arts originated from his hometown, such as clay sculpture, paper cuts, traditional new year paintings, have inspired and influenced his novels.

Mo's prize may give powerful encouragement to the country's writers as the more reflective of Chinese lives their works are, the more possible they arise as a world literature.


"Colm Tóibín on Chinese Nobel winner Mo Yan" Video by Hedy Bok