Chinese author Mo Yan wins Nobel Prize in Literature

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Chinese writer Mo Yan won the 2012 Nobel Prize for literature on Thursday for works which combine "hallucinatory realism" with folk tales, history and contemporary life grounded in his native land.

The prize, awarded by the Swedish Academy, is worth 8 million crowns (about 929,000 euro).

Mo, who grew up in Gaomi in Shandong province in the northeast of the country and whose parents were farmers, sets his works mainly in China.

"He has such a damn unique way of writing. If you read half a page of Mo Yan you immediately recognize it as him," said Peter Englund, head of the Academy.


“It’s a big deal for China,” said one Chinese journalist living in the Netherlands who doesn’t want to be named. “On the Chinese internet, people have been talking about it. They wanted this for a long time and on several occasions in the past century they missed it, so they feel honored.”

Mo Yan is a pen name that means "Don't speak". His real name is Guan Moye.

"He was at home with his dad. He said he was overjoyed and terrified," Englund told Swedish television.

The award citation said: “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 García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition.”

Mo is best known in the West for "Red Sorghum", which portrayed the hardships endured by farmers in the early years of communist rule. His titles also include "Big Breasts and Wide Hips" and "The Republic of Wine".

Subversive or party liner?

On the Nobel website it says some of Mo’s works “have been judged subversive because of their sharp criticism of contemporary Chinese society.”

But the Chinese journalist says on the contrary, there’s much twittering from Chinese liberals who are unhappy he won the prize because they say Mo’s supported government censorship.

“He shied away from political subjects in China and follows the official line,” Chinese writer Tao Yue told RNW. “I’m a little bit surprised he won because Nobel prizes are always quite political and he himself is not a very political writer. Some dissident writers are not very fond of Mo Yan.”

The Chinese expatriate journalist said all eyes now are on the official announcement from Chinese officials.

“There was a Chinese French writer, Gao Xingjian, who was a political dissident who won the prize a few years ago,” he says. “So people are waiting to see the official discourse, how the government will frame it. Will they say ‘the first Chinese’ to win? So far they’re saying he’s the ‘first Chinese national’ to win the literature prize.”

The Nobel prizes were established in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and awarded for the first time in 1901.

The writer was one of the favorites to win the award this year, according to bookmakers, along with Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

(with Reuters)