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Mo Yan pens Nobel success story

[ 2012-10-12 11:04] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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Writer Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday. The Swedish Academy, which gives out the annual prizes, described Mo's works as "hallucinatory realism" merging "folk tales, history and the contemporary."

"Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel Garca Marquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition," according to the citation for the award.

Mo, 57, whose real name is Guan Moye, is the first Chinese writer to win the honor, which also comes with a financial award of 8 million Swedish krona, or $1.2 million.

"I grew up in an environment immersed with folk culture, which inevitably come into my novels when I pick up a pen to write. This has definitely affected - even decided - my works' artistic style," Mo told a group of reporters at a hotel in his hometown of Gaomi, in Shandong province, shortly after he won the award.

"Mo Yan deserves the prize simply for being a great writer," said Eric Abrahamsen, a seasoned critic and founder of Paper Republic, an English-language website on Chinese literature.

"Throughout his career he has done much to develop the language and style of contemporary Chinese literature, and he has also tackled many of the 'big' historical and social themes of contemporary China."

The buzz on Chinese media about Mo possibly winning the prize started about a month ago, when some betting agencies started placing Mo as a contender.

In early October, British bookmakers Ladbrokes put Mo next to Japanese writer Haruki Murakami as the leading bets but Murakami had odds of 3 to 1, while Mo lagged behind at 8 to1.

Although China boasts a tradition of literature and scholarship, few writers have won international acclaim and recognition. And for that reason, the Nobel Prize for Literature has always been an aspiration for Chinese writers. Mo's win will shift the focus to more previously unknown Chinese works.

Although he has allowed few media interviews, Mo is well known.

In contrast with his appearance, his works are anything but down home and country. They are dramatic, with "a unique style, sharp language, wild imagination and magnificent narration," according to Ye Kai, a senior editor who has edited Mo's works.

Mo's family was categorized as rich middle-class peasants, which meant he was close to being labeled "class enemy." He dropped out of school and became a cowherd. At 20, he left his hometown and joined the army.

Many got to know of Mo when director Zhang Yimou adapted the film Red Sorghum from his 1986 novella of the same name, bringing to life a visual landscape characterized by red sorghum fields and a fiery setting sun.

Set in Gaomi, the story is the tale of a sedan carrier who saves the bride he is carrying from bandits, and later marries her. The wild, audacious man urinates in the local winery's precious barrels, but also later dies fighting against Japanese troops during World War II.

Editor Ye Kai has high praises for this work, calling it an ode to the power of life.

Mo left the army in 1997 and gradually developed a writing style all his own. History, family sagas, blood and violence are frequent elements in his most famous works, such as Big Breasts and Wide Hips and Sandalwood Penalty.

Howard Goldblatt, who translated many of his works and is an acclaimed scholar of modern and contemporary Chinese literature, finds Mo's novels reminiscent of Charles Dickens' writings -big, bold works with florid, imagistic, powerful writing and a strong moral core.

Not all were convinced that Mo deserved to win. Some writers and critics attacked Mo on his perspectives rather than talent, and cast doubts that he could be objective and independent enough when discussing serious social issues in his works. They believed his winning of the Nobel Prize was in direct conflict with his position as vice-chairman of the official Chinese Writers Association.

Paper Republic's Abrahamsen appreciates Mo's poise between literary and analytic aspirations best.

"Chinese literature can often go to one extreme or the other," he says. "Either it's an exposition of a writer's opinions about a social issue, sacrificing literary value, or else it's a work that retreats from reality and plays games with imagination. I think Mo Yan has kept the balance."


1. Who won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year?

2. Who gives out the award?

3. What writers has he been compared to?


1. Chinese writer Mo Yan.

2. The Swedish Academy.

3. William Faulkner and Gabriel Garca Marquez.

(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Mo Yan pens Nobel success story

About the broadcaster:

Mo Yan pens Nobel success story

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.