Mo Yan

Mo Yan picks up literature award

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 7:19am

Mo Yan was given the Nobel Prize for Literature Award and a cheque for 8 million Swedish krona (HK$9.25 million) in a televised ceremony at Stockholm Concert Hall last night.

In a presentation speech, Per Wastberg, chairman of the Nobel Committee, described Mo as a poet who "tears down stereotypical propaganda posters".

"Using ridicule and sarcasm Mo Yan attacks history and its falsifications as well as deprivation and political hypocrisy," he said.

Wastberg cited Mo's novel Republic of Wine as an example.

"The irony is directed at China's family policy, because of which female foetuses are aborted on an astronomic scale: girls aren't even good enough to eat."

He also cited another novel, Big Breasts and Wide Hips, as an example of how Mo Yan had attacked official accounts of the Great Leap Forward and the Great Famine of 1960. "Instead of communism's poster-happy history, Mo Yan describes a past that, with his exaggerations, parodies and derivations from myths and folk tales, is a convincing and scathing revision of fifty years of propaganda."

Mo Yan appeared to be in damage-control mode on Sunday when he said that he resented any form of censorship. He had earlier been criticised for likening censorship to airport security checks.

During a panel discussion in a packed Stockholm University auditorium, Mo Yan said he had never praised censorship and instead said he disliked censorship in the same way he disliked all sorts of checks, even though they were everywhere.

"Of course, I hope all countries will abolish press censorship in the future, people can then write whatever they want," he said. "But does what I […] say count? No!"

The 57-year-old said he had refrained from talking about politics for fear of misleading his readers, but his writings were rich in politics. "But literature is more beautiful than politics because it teaches people how to fall in love while politics teaches how to fight and scheme against each other."

Mo Yan is the first Chinese national to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Chinese-born Gao Xingjian, who later took French nationality, won in 2000.

When announcing the prize in October, the Swedish Academy praised Mo Yan's works for their "hallucinatory realism", which merged folk tales, history and the contemporary.

As a member of the Communist Party and a vice-chairman of the government-backed Chinese Writers' Association, Mo Yan has often been criticised for his close ties with the establishment and his reluctance to speak out against the repressive regime and heavy-handed censorship.

He stoked a new controversy after arriving in Stockholm on Thursday when he said censorship was akin to safety checks at an airport. He also suggested he would not sign an appeal calling for the release of the jailed 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, dissident writer Liu Xiaobo .

During a later speech he dismissed the controversies as having nothing to do with him, saying he had said what he should say in his writings.