Chinese writer Mo Yan wins Nobel prize

Thu, Oct 11, 2012, 01:00

Chinese author Mo Yan has been awarded this year’s Nobel prize for literature.

The Swedish Academy said the 57-year-old had been awarded the prize for works which merged qualities of "hallucinatory realism" with folk tales, history and the contemporary.

"He has such a damn unique way of writing. If you read half a page of Mo Yan you immediately recognise it as him," said Peter Englund, head of the academy. He said Mo had been told of the award.

Mo Yan, whose pen name translates to "don't speak" in Chinese, (his real name is Guan Moye) is the son of a coal miner and grew up in a poor family in Gaomi township in Shandong, a locale he draws on for material in many of his novels.

He is the second Chinese author to win the prize since Gao Xingjian, who took French citizenship several years before, won in 2000.

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

The award citation said Mo used a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives to create a world which was reminiscent of the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. At the same time, he found a "departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition", the academy said.

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.

Mo Yan left school at age 10 in order to work, and after the cultural revolution ended in 1976 he became a writer for the People's Liberation Army, finally leaving in 1997, said Howard Goldblatt, who has translated many of his books into English.

Goldblatt describes him as "voracious reader and autodidact," and a "born story teller." He says Mo Yan's work would appeal to fans of both Francois Rabelais and Edgar Allen Poe.

Last year's Nobel literature prize went to Swedish poet and psychologist Tomas Tranströmer.

Winners in the last decade have included Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa in 2010, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk in 2006 and John M Coetzee of South Africa in 2003.

The 8 million-krona (€900,000) Nobel literature prize was created in the will of Alfred Nobel and first awarded in 1901.

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