Mo Yan wins Nobel literature prize
AUTHOR MO Yan has become the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel prize for literature, a decision that sparked rejoicing but some criticism in his homeland.
State media celebrated Mo’s win and the Nobel website rapidly filled with comments from Chinese users expressing pride at his triumph.
The Swedish Academy, which decides on the award, said the novelist’s “hallucinatory realism” merged folk tales, history and the contemporary, and created a world reminiscent of those forged by William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez.
“He writes about the peasantry, about life in the countryside, about people struggling to survive, struggling for their dignity, sometimes winning but most of the time losing,” said the academy’s secretary, Peter Englund.
Mo could not be reached for comment, but he told the judges he was “overjoyed and scared”, Mr Englund said.
The 57-year-old author’s real name is Guan Moye, but he took his pen name, which translates as “don’t speak”, to remind him of the dangers of saying too much.
“His work is always unique . . . Since Red Sorghum, he has for the past 30 years consistently been at a peak of creativity. That is not easy. Many writers have ups and downs, but he keeps himself at his writing peak,” Yan Lianke, another highly regarded novelist, said.
He added that the award was a recognition of Chinese literature. This was a widespread feeling among Chinese writers, according to Beijing-based literary translator Brendan O’Kane, that Chinese literature is not comprehensible to the rest of the world. “This will be a huge confidence boost,” he said.
The only other Chinese Nobel winner was Gao Xingjian, who took the 2000 prize, but he lives in exile as a French citizen and his works are banned on the mainland. The Chinese foreign ministry complained at the time that the prize had “been used for ulterior political motives” – though Mo praised Gao’s “enormous contribution” to Chinese literature.
This time, the national broadcaster broke into the evening news to announce the decision and news sites ran Mo’s photograph on their front pages. While many saw Mo’s triumph as epitomising the country’s advance, others complained he had been too cosy with the authorities.
When Nobel judges gave the peace prize to another writer – jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo – two years ago, Mo said he did not know much about the case and did not want to discuss it. He also withdrew from the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2009 because dissident writers were attending.Most recently, he was one of 100 Chinese literary figures who copied by hand landmark speeches by Mao Zedong on how art should serve communism, prompting accusations that they had sold their souls.
Ai Weiwei, the outspoken artist detained last year, said Mo might have literary achievements, but noted: “As an intellectual, I think he’s not a conscious one. He has been very clearly pursuing the party’s line and in several cases he has shown no respect for the independence of intellectuals.”
– (Guardian service)