Mo Yan

Nobel laureate Mo Yan rejects criticism over 'party ties'

Nobel Prize winner answers critics who say he has close ties to authorities and tells of his hope that jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo will be set free

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 8:56am

Mo Yan, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, hit back yesterday at criticism of his perceived close ties to the authorities.

And, speaking to media who flocked to his hometown of Gaomi , in Shandong , the day after he won the prize, he also spoke of his wish to see the release of jailed dissident writer Liu Xiaobo , who won the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago.

"I hope he can achieve his freedom as soon as possible," Mo Yan said, adding, without elaboration, that Liu should be able to continue research on "politics and the social system".

His comments marked a major departure from his earlier silence on Liu's plight, which saw him criticised by some for condoning a repressive regime.

Mo Yan also defended his decision to join 100 writers and artists who commemorated Mao Zedong's 1942 Yanan Talks - a set of doctrines that shaped literature under early Communist Party rule - by hand-copying the transcript.

Despite criticism, he said he was not ashamed of his involvement in the commemoration, even though the document was not totally relevant now.

"The award is a victory for literature instead of political correctness because my writings transcended politics … I am writing in a China under Communist Party leaders. However, my works cannot be restricted by political parties."

He said his critics failed to take account of the pressure he faced while writing.

Qiao Mu, an associate professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said Mo Yan's participation in some controversial activities were natural for a party member and a writer working under a semi-government system because he was required to show his allegiance. "He is a writer, not a moral role model," Qiao said. "A writer should be judged by what he's achieved in writing unless he has done something outrageously wrong."

Communist Party propaganda chief Li Changchun congratulated Mo Yan, saying: "Chinese writers will focus on the country's people in their writing and create more excellent works that will stand the test of history."

The author, whose name is Guan Moye - Mo Yan is a pen name meaning "don't speak" - drew much of the inspiration for his works of the past 25 years from his rural upbringing.

He said he would never follow dissident writer Gao Xingjian - who won the 2000 Nobel Prize for literature as a French citizen - and leave China for another country for greater freedom of expression, even though censorship could be felt on the mainland from time to time.

Still, he added: "You'd be surprised by how loose censorship is in China if you compare books published nowadays with those from the '50s and '60s."

Sylvia Li-chun Lin, an associate professor of Chinese at the University of Notre Dame in the US, said it would be foolish not to think about possible consequences when writing in China.

"I believe most writers practise self-censorship, unless one is naïve enough to believe that life in exile is favourable," Lin said.