Mo Yan

Nobel Prize brings with it great pressure, laureate Mo Yan says

Though delighted by his Nobel Prize, the writer dislikes the pressure that it brings

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 10:28am

Mo Yan says the demands and expectations of being the first Chinese national to win the Nobel Prize for literature is dampening the joy he feels about receiving the award.

In an interview with China Central Television's One On One, the Nobel laureate declined to say whether he was "happy" about receiving the international honour last week, which many have taken as a validation of modern Chinese writing.

"I have never thought about this question," Mo Yan said on the Sunday night programme. "I'm now under great pressure and have a lot to worry about. So how can I be happy?"

The 57-year-old writer acknowledged that some people may not understand his apprehension about winning such a coveted award. But he said he feared his new status would cause people to find fault with him or try to embarrass him.

"I was overjoyed for the unexpected prize and terrified," he said. "But if I say, 'I'm not happy', [people] would say that's too pretentious - because how can I not be happy after winning the Nobel [Prize]?"

Mo Yan said his notion of happiness required "letting go of everything. For me, happiness is being free from worry, having good health and suffering no pressure."

The writer said he did not believe that his Nobel Prize would have a lasting impact on the development of Chinese literature. He said the public's enthusiasm for his work and the rest of the genre would soon fade.

Mo Yan said he continued to carry the physical and emotional baggage of growing up hungry in rural Gaomi , in Shandong province, an experience that has inspired many of his works.

He was four years old when famine hit China in the late 1950s amid Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward and his family was forced to pick through thorns for wild herbs to eat.

"The earliest memory of my childhood is of fighting for food with my elder sister," he said.

Mo Yan said such experiences made him appreciate his eventual promotion to a junior cadre in the People's Liberation Army.

"I was so excited at that time, even more than wining a Nobel Prize," he said. "Because being an army official meant that you didn't need to return to the villages any more."