Mo Yan

Newspapers divided in their enthusiasm over Nobel for Mo Yan

Award is front-page news in some publications, while others bury it inside the culture section

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 5:27am

When Mo Yan was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature on Thursday, China Central Television broke into its usually well choreographed main 7pm news bulletin to report the announcement.

But becoming the first Chinese national to win the prestigious prize was not impressive enough to warrant front-page treatment in some of the more reserved state-controlled newspapers, despite sweeping coverage by more commercial tabloids.

The Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily did not report the announcement in its first four pages - reserved for "important news".

Its half-page coverage of Mo Yan's award only appeared on the 15th page, the culture section. It included an old interview with the author about Chinese writing and online literature, a short congratulatory letter to Mo from the Chinese Writers' Association, and a commentary.

In contrast, Mo Yan's win was celebrated with an explosion of pride by most metropolitan newspapers, with some devoting as many as five pages to the news.

The coverage dug deep into Mo Yan's past, detailing his co-operation with noted film director Zhang Yimou, who turned Red Sorghum: A Novel of China into a movie in 1987.

The nationalist tabloid Global Times praised Mo Yan's award as a sign of Western acceptance of mainstream Chinese culture. As one of China's most popular writers, Mo Yan represented a rising China in both the economic and cultural spheres, the paper said in an editorial. "The Chinese mainstream cannot be refused by the West for long," it said.

Mo Yan's win was also widely reported in Taiwan. The island's culture minister, Lung Ying-tai, reportedly laughed when she heard the news and said: "Mo Yan has won, that is so great!"

Lung, who got to know Mo Yan on a trip to Beijing about two decades ago, described him as "a chubby man of humour", Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

The noted essayist said awarding Mo Yan the prize showed that "those come from the earth can win hearts all over the world" - Mo Yan's works often feature rural life in his hometown. "Every time I read his works, I feel sorry that I can't write as well as him."

Lung said she hoped Mo Yan's win would teach the mainland authorities to be tolerant of diverse political attitudes. She said the prize may help Chinese "open up their minds and hearts" and engage the world through literature.

Additional reporting by Associated Press