Mo Yan's Nobel speech splits public opinion | South China Morning Post
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  • Mar 3, 2015
  • Updated: 5:06pm

Mo Yan

Mo Yan, born on February 17, 1955, is a renowned Chinese author. He is the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012. Mo is best known in the West for two of his novels which were the basis of the film Red Sorghum. He was appointed a deputy chairman of the quasi-official Chinese Writers' Association in November 2011. 


Mo Yan's Nobel speech splits public opinion

While some see his oration as honest, critics slam him for failing to speak out in support of peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, jailed for 11 years

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 7:08am

Author Mo Yan's speech at the Nobel awards banquet in Sweden has stirred mixed reactions from the public. Some deemed it honest, while others denounced his silence on the issue of mainland censorship.

In a five-minute televised speech at the Stockholm concert hall on Monday night, the 57-year-old Nobel literature prize winner stressed his humble upbringing in Gaomi city, Shandong, and described his win as "a fairy tale".

My experiences in the months since the announcement have made me aware of the enormous impact of the Nobel Prize and the unquestionable respect it enjoys

"My experiences in the months since the announcement have made me aware of the enormous impact of the Nobel Prize and the unquestionable respect it enjoys," he said.

"It has been a golden opportunity for me to learn about the world and even more so … for me to learn about myself."

He thanked his translators, family and friends, as well as the Swedish Academy, which chooses the laureates.

However, he stopped short of mentioning the controversy surrounding his selection, announced on October 10, primarily triggered by his refusal to speak out against the jailing of Nobel Peace Prize winner and dissident writer Liu Xiaobo.

Detractors also pointed to Mo's being a senior member of the state-backed Chinese Writers' Association.

On awards night, Germany-based Chinese artist Meng Huang staged a nude protest outside the concert hall to highlight the plight of Liu, who is serving an 11-year prison term for subversion.

Meng told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that he was urging Mo to "help bring the empty chair back to China", referring to the vacant seat reserved for the jailed Liu who was unable to collect his Nobel award in 2010.

Not long after his selection for the prize was announced, Mo said he hoped for Liu's release, but since then has refused to discuss the matter, saying that he had already said what he had to say. He also said the prize was about literature, not politics.

One Chinese blogger said Mo's refusal to discuss "state affairs" meant he did not have the qualities to be a real literary master.

Mainland critics also circulated partial transcripts of a Deutsche Welle interview with Perry Link, a professor of East Asian studies at Princeton University, who said politics overshadowed literature in China.

Perry was quoted as saying Mo's style indicated censorship or self-censorship was at play.

"Perry thought Mo Yan's style of stimulating readers' senses through his writings by exclusively focusing on violence, sex and basic human needs was an apparent result of censorship or self-censorship," said one blogger.

However, others in the online community said Mo should not be forced to make a political stand. One blogger said Mo was being honest, unlike mainland officials prone to "empty talk".

In a commentary yesterday, the Global Times, a tabloid affiliated to party mouthpiece People's Daily, criticised the Western media for pressuring Mo on the issue of freedom of expression in China in order to embarrass the government.


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