Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mo Yan: Chinese Writer & Chinese Loyalist

Nobel Laureate in Literature

Mo Yan says: "China has gone through such tremendous change over the past decades that most 
of us consider ourselves victims. Few people ask themselves, though: 'Have I also hurt others?' "
Is this 
not a valid question? Mo Yan is the nom-de-plume of Guan Moye, and roughly translates
 in Chinese 
as "don't speak."
Photo Credit: AP 

An article in Spiegel Online tries to sort out the apparent contradiction of Mo Yan, the very private Chinese writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012.
Mo Yan, 58, has been a member of the Communist Party (CP) since 1979. He had a career in the army and is today the deputy chairman of the party-aligned China Writer's Association. His readers have long been puzzled by the disconnect between his unequivocal criticism of the state in his work and the conformity of his appearances. Reactions to his Nobel Prize were also correspondingly divided. Chinese dissidents, like author Liao Yiwu were "stunned," whereas German author Martin Walser said he didn't have "any kind of misgivings."
Mo Yan did very little to explain himself. He rejected interview requests that flooded in from around the world. At the press conference before the ceremony in Stockholm, Mo sparked another scandal when he described censorship in China as a "necessary evil," angering commentators around the world.
Earlier this week, Mo Yan's book "Frog" was published in German for the first time. Last Wednesday, five days before its publication, Mo suddenly agreed to what he described before the meeting as a "very short" interview with SPIEGEL. He chose a Beijing tea house as the meeting point. "Very short" ultimately turned into two hours.
When you read the interview you will quickly determine that Mo Yan is a pragmatic man who wants his literary work speak for him in ways that he personally cannot; this is not surprising. Some dissidents like to make a big noise, while others like to work quietly within existing political structures. It's true that Mo Yan defends Marxism, but such is not surprisng in a nation that generally sees Marxism as a virtue. It might also be true that he might not feel that he has the latitude, or freedom, to speak politically. What will be interesting is what his next literary effort will say.


You can read the interview at [Spiegel]


  1. Leftists, rightists, westerners, easterners--nobody will understand that the cruelty of Marxist regimes comes from the words of Marx. Marx hoped for a world where the state could wither away because there would be no more disagreement. What could possibly be worse than a world without debate and exploration?

    The great Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi (spelled Po Chü-i in the Wade Giles system of transcription), who lived from 772 to 846, wrote a poem about a cockatoo that was as gifted as any bird in literature. Here is the poem, translated by Arthur Waley:

    Sent as a present from Annam—
    A red cockatoo.
    Colour’d like the peach-tree blossom,
    Speaking with the speech of men.
    And they did to it what is always done
    To the learned and eloquent.
    They took a cage with stout bars
    And shut it up inside.

    Bai Juyi’s cockatoo is as relevant today as it was when the poem was written 12 centuries ago.


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