Friday, December 21, 2012

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2012, Mo Yan

Mo Yan, the pen name of Guan Moye, means 'Do Not Speak'. This was an instruction by his father for surviving the turbulent Maoist period. Mo Yan hails from Shandong, where most of his novels are based. He has been a farmer, cotton factory worker and a PLA solider, etc. before he turned to writing. Literary influences range from Lu Xun, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, William Faulkner to Goethe among others. He is a social commentator, who has reinterpreted Chinese political and sexual history in his works. He is also a vice-president of the state-sponsored Chinese Writers Association. Unlike many creative writers whose independent ethics and norms force them into social controversies or into friction with the State, Mo Yan, has consciously stayed on the right side of the law and steered away from controversies. Instead of wailing and wasting energy in protest at the lack of full-blown freedom of  expression in China, he seems to have decided to make good, creative use of the the limited freedom which was available. He has shown that deep and effective comments can be made on life and society even when the boundaries of expression are limited. (Gao Xingjian had got the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000, but that was as a French citizen. Incidentally Gao Xingjian is criticized by Chinese authors not for being anti-Chinese but for being a mediocre writer!!)
His unique style can be sampled in some short pieces below:
In the People’s Liberation Army - by Mo Yan

Bull - by Mo Yan

An English translation (pdf) of his humble and mesmerising Noble Prize winning speech can be accessed (click here).

Chinese writer Mo Yan says that there are many writers who deserve the Nobel Prize ahead of him! He says that literature is useless compared with science !! One finds that his noble mother was a big moral influence on him.

Some good reviews of Mo Yan and his works can be accessed below:
John Updike reviews Mo Yan

John Updike on Mo Yan - an article

Great art behind an iron curtain: Are all Chinese novelists 'state writers'  by Guo Xiaolu in THE INDEPENDENT

Mo Yan and the Rise of Male-Oriented Chinese Literature by Mei Fong in The Atlantic

After Fury Over 2010 Peace Prize, China Embraces Nobel Selection in New York Times

A Chinese Laureate's Tale of Free Speech - NY Times

Is Mo Yan courageous, or is he a patsy? By Hector Tobar in Los Angeles Times

Does This Writer Deserve the Prize? by Perry Link

Is Mo Yan a Stooge for the Chinese Government?  by Brendan O'Kane
Brendan concludes No! Mo Yan is a serious and courageous writer.

A New Normal for Chinese Literature? by Sheila Melvin

The Diseased Language of Mo Yan Anna Sun in The Kenyon Review

What Mo Yan’s Detractors Get Wrong Charles Laughlin in

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