The Nobel committee has named prolific Chinese novelist Guan Moye winner of the 2012 Nobel Price for Literature. The author writes under the pen name Mo Yan, which translates as “Don’t speak.”
Guan Moye (simplified Chinese: 管谟业; traditional Chinese: 管謨業; pinyin: Guǎn Móyè), known by the pen name Mo Yan (Chinese: 莫言; pinyin: Mò Yán) (born 17 February 1955) is a Chinese author, described by Donald Morrison in U.S. news magazine TIME as “one of the most famous, oft-banned and widely pirated of all Chinese writers“. He has been referred to[by whom?] as the Chinese answer to Franz Kafka or Joseph Heller.
Before 2012, he was known to western readers primarily for two novels which formed the basis of the film Red Sorghum. That year he was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature for his work as a writer “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”.
Mo Yan was born in the northeast Gaomi township in Shandong province to a family of farmers. He left school during the Cultural Revolution to work in a factory that produced oil. He joined the People’s Liberation Army at age twenty, and began writing while he was still a soldier, in 1981. Three years later, he was given a teaching position at the Department of Literature in the Army’s Cultural Academy. In 1991, he got the Master degree in Literature from Beijing Normal University.
“Mo Yan”—meaning “don’t speak” in Chinese—is a pen name. In a public speech delivered at the Open University of Hong Kong, he said that the name was chosen when he wrote his first novel. Because he was well known to be frank in his speech, which was not welcomed in mainland China, he chose the name to remind himself not to speak too much.
The Chinese writer Ma Jian has deplored the lack of solidarity and commitment of Mo Yan vis-a-vis other Chinese writers and intellectuals who were punished and/or detained despite the freedom of expression recognized by the Constitution.
Mo Yan’s works are predominantly social commentary, and he is strongly influenced by the political critique of Lu Xun and the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez. Using dazzling, complex, and often graphically violent images, Mo Yan draws readers into the disturbing yet beautiful, kaleidoscopic universes of his stories. He sets many of his stories near his hometown, Northeast Gaomi Township in Shandong province.
Extremely prolific, Mo Yan wrote his latest novel, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out in only 43 days. He composed the more than 500,000 characters contained in the original manuscript on traditional Chinese paper using only ink and a writing brush.
List of works
Mo Yan has published dozens of short stories and novels in Chinese. His first novel was Falling Rain on a Spring Night, published in 1981. Several of his novels have been translated into English by Howard Goldblatt, professor of East Asian languages and literatures at the University of Notre Dame.
- Red Sorghum (first published in 1987 in Chinese; in 1993 in English)
- The Garlic Ballads (first published in English in 1995)
- Explosions and Other Stories, a collection of short stories
- The Republic of Wine: A Novel (first published in 1992 in Chinese; 2000 in English)
- Shifu: You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh, a collection of short stories (first published in 2002 in English)
- Big Breasts & Wide Hips (first published in 1996 in Chinese; 2005 in English)
- Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out (published in English in 2008)
Other published works include White Dog Swing, Man and Beast, Soaring, Iron Child, The Cure, Love Story, Shen Garden and Abandoned Child.
Awards and honours
- 1998: Neustadt International Prize for Literature, candidate
- 2005: Kiriyama Prize, Notable Books, Big Breasts and Wide Hips
- 2006: Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize XVII
- 2007: Man Asian Literary Prize, nominee, Big Breasts and Wide Hips
- 2009: Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, winner, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out
- 2010: Honorary Fellow, Modern Language Association
- 2011: Mao Dun Literature Prize, winner, Frog
- 2012: Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature, 2012
On 11 October 2012, the Swedish Academy announced that Mo Yan had received the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work “with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”. Aged 57 at the time of the announcement, he was the 109th recipient of the award and the first ever resident of mainland China resident to receive it—Chinese-born Gao Xingjian, a citizen of France, having been named the 2000 laureate. According to Swedish Academy head Peter Englund, Mo Yan was “overjoyed and terrified” to hear the news and had been at home with his father when he heard the news. Englund also said, “He has such a damn unique way of writing. If you read half a page of Mo Yan you immediately recognise it as him”.
Several of Mo Yan’s works have been adapted for film:
- Red Sorghum (1987) (directed by Zhang Yimou)
- Happy Times (2000) (directed by Zhang Yimou, adaptation of Shifu: You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh)
- Nuan (2003) (directed by Huo Jianqi, adaptation of White Dog Swing)
- A Subversive Voice in China: The Fictional World of Mo Yan. Shelley W. Chan. (Cambria Press, 2011).
- Chinese Writers on Writing featuring Mo Yan. Ed. Arthur Sze. (Trinity University Press, 2010).
- ^ Morrison, Donald (14 February 2005). “Holding Up Half The Sky”. TIME. Retrieved 14 February 2005.
- ^ “Mo Yan får Nobelpriset i litteratur 2012”. DN. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
- ^ “The Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 Mo Yan”. Nobelprize.org. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
- ^ Ahlander, Johan (11 October 2012). “China’s Mo Yan wins Nobel for “hallucinatory realism””. Reuters. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
- ^ “From cowherd to Nobel, it was a long lonely journey: Mo Yan”. Business Standard. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
- ^ Zhou, Raymond (9 October 2012). “Is Mo Yan man enough for the Nobel?”. China Daily. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
- ^ “Chinese author Mo Yan wins Nobel Prize for Literature”. BBC News. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
- ^ “Chinese writer Mo Yan wins 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature”. Xinhua. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
- ^ “Chinese writer Mo Yan wins Nobel prize”. The Irish Times. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
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