Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mo Yan Of China: Nobel In Literature

Hallucinatory Realism in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Chinese writer Mo Yan, the Swedish Academy says, “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.”  Mo Yan (which means "don't speak" in Chinese), is a pen name; his given name is Guan Moye. The Guardian writes of the 57-year-old writer, who has thus far managed to escape Chinese censors, perhaps aided by his position of vice-chairman of the Chinese Writers Association:
Mo Yan has published novels, short stories and essays on various topics, and despite his social criticism is seen in his homeland as one of the foremost contemporary authors, the Nobel committee noted.The 57-year-old, whose real name is Guan Moye, is perhaps best-known abroad for his 1987 novella "Red Sorghum", a tale of the brutal violence that plagued the eastern China countryside—where he grew up—during the 1920s and 30s. The story was later made into an acclaimed film by leading Chinese director Zhang Yimou.
In a style that has been compared to the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mo Yan authored other acclaimed works including "Big Breasts and Wide Hips", "Republic of Wine" and "Life and Death are Wearing Me Out". His latest novel, 2009's "Frog", is considered his most daring yet, due to its searing depiction of China's "one child" population control policy and the local officials who ruthlessly implement it with forced abortions and sterilisations.
The choice of Mo might be an odd one, and not the perfect choice to represent China, his critics point out, given his membership in the Communist Party. Or perhaps Mo is representative of China, pragmatic in his approach: "A writer should express criticism and indignation at the dark side of society and the ugliness of human nature, but we should not use one uniform expression," Mo said in a speech at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair, the China Daily said. "Some may want to shout on the street, but we should tolerate those who hide in their rooms and use literature to voice their opinions."

More controversial, however, is his praise of the Communist Revolution and Mao, Reuters writes:
A number of rights activists and other writers had said Mo was unworthy of the prize and denounced him for commemorating a speech by Chairman Mao Zedong. Mo, together with other Chinese writers, copied out sections of Mao's speech for a special book to mark the 70th anniversary of the speech. It had said writers who did not integrate their work with the Communist revolution would be punished.
So it is.


  1. I am unfamiliar with Mo's work. However, I believe the greatest living author is Philip Roth. Nobel Prizes in literature no longer go to white Americans or to Jews, although they once did. John Updike, a white American, should have won the prize but didn't. Only in the sciences does the Nobel committee escape from prejudice.

    1. I agree with you regarding Philip Roth; he's a great author, but it's unlikely he'll ever receive the Nobel In Literature, as deserving as he is.

  2. I am always in danger of confusing Mo Yan's "Big Breasts & Wide Hips":


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