The choice of Mo Yan by the Nobel Committee for Literature as prize-winner this year has left many Chinese speechless (since “mo yan” sounds like the ironical homophone of “do not speak”). A member of the Chinese Communist Party and vice-chairman of the state-sponsored Chinese Writers’ Association, Mo sparked controversy earlier this year by leading other writers in a commemorative project to reproduce a long speech made by Chairman Mao in 1942—a sacred political creed that calls for united obedience by all writers, artists and musicians to the will of the Party. It is no surprise that the Swedish received warm acclaim from Beijing this time rather than curses. Like a tourist with a pack of peanuts in front of a monkey hill in a zoo, the board members of the Nobel Prize have been accused of political and cultural bias—they throw peanuts at some happy monkeys on the left all the time, while ignoring a few angry ones on the right who have been screeching in protest. Why always the Dalai Lama, Liu Xiaobo or the anti-communist Gao Xinjian? It seems the committee has learned the wisdom of multiculturalism, and cleared itself of accusations of favoritism and prejudice, by eventually throwing a few peanuts at the other corner to make it quiet, and watching how Beijing grins after grabbing the trophy and hopping away with joy. It is a political art for the committee, while aiming those peanuts accurately, to struggle hard not to taint the 100-year-old brand with shame. There is a difference between awarding a writer who has a record of copying Mein Kampf as piously as a monk copying Buddhist scripts with a Nobel Prize in Literature, and Oxford admitting the prince of a banana republic because of a big donation. But the silvered-haired, wrinkled and inscrutable referees in Stockholm may not be that stupid. Go through a few pages of Mo’s works and you will get the real message. The China depicted in the works is a dark wasteland of barbarism. Mo is an expert at using allegories and brutal ironies to depict his country and his people. For example, a landlord executed by Mao’s army manages to get himself re-incarnated into a pig and witness in comfort the failure of the people’s communes. It fits into Italian intellectual Umberto Eco’s interpretation of ugliness—an alternative method of voyeurism via the grotesque and repulsive. My favorite Mo Yan paragraph is one in which the ancient Chinese torture method “death by a thousand cuts” is depicted in graphic detail. The left nipple of a man is cut off by the executioner, who “swings his wrist, with a silver flash of the blade; the tiny piece of flesh hanging at the tip of the knife rockets at full-tilt up high, then lands on the black face of a soldier like a heavy piece of bird shit. He yelled as if a brick had broken his head.” Go grab a copy and have a good time. Chip Tsao is a best-selling author, columnist and a former producer for the BBC. His columns have also appeared in Apple Daily, Next Magazine and CUP Magazine, among others.